From the CEO’s Desk: Moving Beyond The New Normal to New Opportunities

people at gartner supply chain symposium

After a hiatus of close to two years, it was really exciting to be a part of the Gartner® Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo™ that took place in Orlando this month. I was quite thrilled to have some face time with industry leaders, solution providers, researchers and experts in the supply chain industry.

Over three action-packed days, I was fortunate to have picked up the pulse on where we stand as an industry, and where we would like it to head. Here are some of my impressions:

The new normal is that there is no normal

Remember those early days of the pandemic back in early 2020? Everyone was still grappling with the realities of how to stay safe, and how lockdowns would affect daily life and commerce. Supply chains, stretched over several continents, inevitably became fragmented.

We also saw the Suez Canal blockage and port congestion across the globe, not to mention the disruptions seen this year. Collectively, there was an intense desire for clarity on the future. But right from the get-go, everyone was figuring out ways to make things work in this ‘new normal’.

From the initial panic of those early days, we have now settled into a calm stoicism: focusing on what is in our circle of control, and hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. A talk around offset strategy, presented by Ken Chadwick, VP Analyst, Gartner on Day 1, deserves a mention. He said, “By applying offset strategies – changing competitive positioning by applying unconventional or untried approaches to leverage your strengths – you can accelerate successes that deliver a competitive advantage you deserve.”

Taking the example of cyber-security, he said, “You cannot control if you get hit by a cyber-attack. But you can control the business decisions that dictate investments resulting in protection against cyberattacks if you see the attack coming, or how long you are down after an attack.”

Chief Supply Chain Officers get their due

Aside from these disruptions, I feel that executives and decision-makers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of supply chain excellence for growth. I believe that more than ever before, Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) now have a seat at the table: Their inputs, and the functioning of supply chains as a whole, now have a key role to play in the organizations’ growth stories.

However, I also believe they also have high hopes from CSCOs. There were some incredibly interesting facts presented on Day 2 in a session titled “Keynote: Unlocking the Potential of the Supply Chain: Lessons from Top 25 Leaders”, presented by Pia Orup Lund, Director Analyst, Gartner®, and Chris Poole, Practice VP, Gartner®. These included:

  1. 42% of CSCOs are under pressure to maintain current margins and profitability and achieve targets for sustainability, speed, and innovation.
  2. 60% of CSCOs are expected to make faster, more accurate decisions, in real-time.
  3. 67% of organizations have defined environmental and social sustainability KPIs they expect SC leaders to be accountable for.

On the upside, they are also being provided the resources to do so. As mentioned in an insightful talk on Day 3 by Michael Dominy, VP Analyst, Gartner®, “Sixty percent of CEOs are increasing investments in their supply chains and 82% are increasing in digital capabilities. This presents a key opportunity for CSCOs to drive improved capabilities into their physical and digital supply chain operations.”

I agree with Michael. I believe that this is the right time to make bold moves: CSCOs should aggressively carry out the automation, digitization and synchronization of the various facets of their supply chains to enhance decision-making capabilities, bring new efficiencies, and generate profitability.

Sustainability in the logistics industry should no more be an afterthought

I believe that leading enterprises across the world and across industries now have ambitious sustainability agendas in place, and CSCOs are also under pressure to meet these targets as well. But before rolling up our sleeves, I feel the time has now come to change how we see sustainability and sustainable business practices in the first place!

There were many notable talks around sustainability, but I would like to single out one by Susan  Boylan, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner on Day 1. She said, “Climate action is critical and must accelerate, but supply chain leaders also need to recognize sustainable logistics is about more than climate change. Logistics can play an active role in many sustainable initiatives across ESG streams.” She also went on to add, “Logistics sustainability is not the responsibility of logistics alone, but requires input from  all stakeholders – internal and external.”

I strongly believe that the scope of sustainability initiatives should extend beyond just meeting Corporate Social Responsibility targets. The talk inspired me to think deeply about how to build a genuine sustainability roadmap, how its scope can be widened beyond just logistics, and the impact that it can have if done right.

The growth of the e-commerce market does not guarantee growth for companies

In the past two years, there was a strong uptick in the number of people shopping from the comfort and safety of their homes. Given that we have been closely following the last-mile space for the past seven years, we realized that this does not automatically guarantee growth.

In fact, with increasing congestion in urban areas, steep customer demands, and strong competition, growth is as elusive as ever before. While it seems to be an uphill battle, there are ways to deliver growth in a sustainable way, and a data-driven approach to last-mile excellence is crucial for this. I, along with Dan Vanden Brink, Locus’ Global Vice President of Customer Success, talked about ‘Fueling Growth: Make Last Mile Your Differentiator’ on June 8.

You can view the top five insights from the discussion here.

By the end of the symposium, I was glad to have received some really essential takeaways from customers, industry experts and other important stakeholders. I was also happy to note that we as an industry have managed to focus on what is important: Sustainability, and leveraging data and automation to mitigate disruptions with the help of technology. I felt validated about Locus being on the right track in its pursuit of last-mile excellence, and look forward to next year’s symposium with eager anticipation.

Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo Americas: Day 1 Highlights”, June 6, 2022.

Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo Americas: Day 2 Highlights”, June 7, 2022.

Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo Americas: Day 3 Highlights”, June 8, 2022.

Gartner and Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo are registered trademarks and service marks of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and are used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

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