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GUEST COMMENT The time is now: Achieving quick wins in supply chain management

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Retail and ecommerce businesses are under increasing pressure to deliver results faster than ever. Initially supercharged by Covid-19, worldwide ecommerce sales have continued to grow exponentially, with projections to reach $8bn in 2027. In parallel, legacy “big bang” ERP implementations that take years to complete are increasingly incompatible with that dynamic pace of change.

Will Lovatt, general manager and vice president, Deposco Europe

In today’s market, companies demand tangible ROI within the lifetime of a project, with expectations of reduced timeframes. With this in mind, Will Lovatt, general manager and vice president, Deposco Europe asks how can retailers attain quicker wins in supply chain management?

The move towards composable commerce
As consumer demands have risen for retailers, they can’t afford to let opportunities elude them, tie up capital non-productively or deploy a system that takes so long to deploy that it becomes obsolete by the time the live date rolls around. In that context, ERP focused solutions are rapidly falling out of favour.

The simplicity and allure of enterprise-wide visibility brought about through common data standards that ERP promises is strong.  The reality however is that they often require large, disruptive implementations that take a long time to deliver value, which fails to fit the current demand for timely ROI.

The dynamic nature of the ecommerce market also plays against the notion that a single monolithic solution might be able to provide a lasting solution to all of the business’ needs.  Once deployed, businesses risk being locked into the single large system for many years, which reduces flexibility and ability to adapt to changing supply chain needs.

Finally, the sweeping scope is often business-wide, rather than targeted at specific issues, so it may not address the most pressing priorities or objectives of a particularly exciting emerging opportunity. If business needs change post-implementation, it’s difficult and costly to adapt the system to suit.

But retailers don’t have to wade into a full waterfall-focused business-wide project to achieve optimum impact. Rather than attempt to design a perfect system in the long-term, a composable approach is the key to dynamic, adaptable and non-disruptive innovation.

Modular convenience
Core to composable commerce is the integration of a modular approach. These modules allow retailers to plug in specific components to address particular business needs or areas straight away, rather than undertaking large, disruptive wide scope change. This provides a quick fix to supply chain challenges such as enhancing warehouse operations or addressing pain points with order fulfilment, for example. The modular approach offers greater value in a much faster, more targeted way through smaller, bite-sized projects.

Flexibility is a major benefit provided by modular solutions. Gone are the projects which are going to take years to deliver. If a significant investment is made, it needs to deliver ROI now. Modular approaches allow retailers to adapt or even replace solutions after relatively short periods if required, rather than being locked into a single large system for a decade or more. These shorter timeframes are conducive to the current trend of timely value delivery that provides a return within a budget cycle.

Additional routes to quicker wins
In addition to a modular approach to ensure time-to-value success, quicker wins can also be attained with the use of highly scalable web-based analytics and machine learning. AI has the ability to revolutionise supply chain execution, including positively impacting the delivery of items to consumers. Retailers can deploy this intelligence to optimise the real time decision making required to provide great personalised customer service, including considering factors well beyond traditional rule-based decision making.

Perhaps perversely the modular approach can actually enhance the ERP success, and longevity, relieving the burden of areas for which the ERP is structurally unsuited.

Adapting in a fast-moving environment
Consumer demands for speed, efficiency and adaptability are shaping the retail and ecommerce landscape. The era of prolonged, monolithic ERP implementations is giving way to a more agile, flexible approach known as composable commerce. This strategy emphasises modular, targeted solutions that can be quickly implemented and adapted as business needs change, offering a significant advantage to ambitious and innovative retailers.

By leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning, retailers can further enhance their supply chain efficiency and customer service, making real-time, data-driven decisions that meet the dynamic needs of the market. Ultimately, the shift towards composable commerce and the integration of cutting-edge technologies both represent a strategic response to the urgent need for quick wins and tangible ROI, allowing retailers to adapt to a fast-moving landscape.

Will Lovatt, general manager and vice president, Deposco Europe

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