4 Steps to Make Your Supply Chain Visibility Project Successful

Never has the need for supply chain visibility been more apparent than in the past few years.

“Huge waves of disruption have come into our industry and forced all of us to run supply chains in new ways,” says Adam Compain, SVP of Product Marketing here at project44. “From volatility needing to be embraced in black swans, to needing to manage costs in a way that we’ve never had to before, and even keeping up with Amazon-like delivery expectations of customers.”

Companies have had to react accordingly — but now many are struggling to maintain the systems and solutions they put in place. They end up disappointed in their IT investments and have low confidence in their ability to sustain the changes they need to succeed.

That leads many to turn to software to improve the resilience and flexibility of their supply chains. But to see the payoff they’re hoping for, companies need to prepare for and invest in the process accordingly.

What does this involve? In our recent webinar, we connected with several project44 experts to get their insights on the four things companies should do to ensure their own visibility projects are successful.

1. Select the right visibility partner

Finding the right visibility solution isn’t about finding the right software — it’s about finding the right partner. That means finding a solution that:

  • Meets the unique requirements of your business

  • Has a diverse set of service offerings to help you implement the solution

  • Delivers the business outcomes and value that you’re looking for

  • Helps you in your current state and also has a long-term vision that aligns with your goals

“It’s important to go beyond just the technology and the product and to do a holistic assessment to make sure that you’re also investing in a company that aligns with your needs,” explains David Deutsch, VP of Solutions Engineering and project44.

But how do you find that? Deutsch mentions that an important first step is to go beyond a boilerplate set of requirements toand understand what your business and supply chain really need.

“I think it’s really important to make sure that the requirements that you’re providing to your vendor are unique to your own business,” says Deutsch. “It’s important that your vendor knows about that so that they’re telling you how their solution aligns with that uniqueness.”

Generating this list of requirements should involve plenty of time and collaboration — including interviewing stakeholders across your organization. “They’re going to have their own unique processes, problems, and things that they’re trying to solve with visibility,” Deutsch adds.

When you know exactly what you need, you of course want to validate that the product actually works accordingly. However, Deutsch cautions that it can be tough to do so in a reasonable timeframe because visibility is so complex.

Fortunately, talking to other people — other customers, third-party analysts, and people in your network like carriers, technology partners, and solution integrators — can be a more efficient way to validate a solution. “All of these parties likely have experience working with the vendors that you’re evaluating and can provide valuable insights into how vendors compare with one another and perhaps who the best match is,” Deutsch says.

2. Form a clear plan and execution team

While you need to be equipped with your list of requirements, you should also have documentation of use cases, success criteria, and key performance indicators (KPIs). “All stakeholders should agree in advance and be ready to communicate this information clearly to a vendor,” says Laurie Diekman, Regional VP of Sales at project44.

When it comes to actually getting buy-in and then implementing the visibility solution you’ve landed on, Laurie also recommends:

  • Allowing the vendor to access stakeholders so they can understand those trigger points and individual preferences.

  • Allow the vendor to access the executive level. “The vendor can become your best advocate,” Laurie explains. “Executives are often focused on different concerns than the day-to-day stakeholders. You don’t want to get to the end of the process and find out your executives have concerns that no one uncovered early.”

  • Understand your internal processes and share them with the vendor. “Often, a project like this includes IT, logistics, security, and procurement,” Laurie says. Engage them early and find out what their processes are and what they need to move the project forward.

“The process before the purchase and after will be much more successful if all parties have skin in the game and there’s a strong partnership from the beginning,” Laurie adds.

3. Set and maintain realistic expectations when onboarding

“When we engage with customers, as well as their network partners, we often run into the misaligned expectation that onboarding is going to be just some flip of a switch, click of a button,” says Andrew Mintz, VP of Customer Success at project44.

In reality, getting up and running with a visibility solution requires more of a long-term commitment.

One thing that Andrew mentions is that your implementation and onboarding can’t be done in a vacuum. It should involve your procurement, operations, and technology organization — along with any other teams or stakeholders that are impacted by the change.

And while internal communication matters, external communication does too. Andrew explains that you need a clear communication strategy outward with your carrier base, along with expectations for them to execute against.

“Without setting expectations, onboarding from a technical perspective can be a quick plug and play. But in terms of actually seeing high-quality data, high-fidelity data, that can be a bit of a laggard if carriers aren’t fully onboard and aligned with the critical KPIs and measures of success,” he says.

4. Understand that visibility is a journey

While the pandemic highlighted the need for supply chain visibility, it also led to more vendor competition. That’s good news for customers who benefit from more options and features. However, it’s also led to overmarketing — meaning companies promising that simply implementing their solution unlocks immediate success.

“It’s the magic eight ball or silver bullet and, once you’re implemented, it’s done,” says Brynne Jones, former VP of Value Services at project44. “It just works for itself and it continues to go and there’s no ongoing investment after that.”

However, true visibility isn’t an overnight success story — it’s an ongoing change management and investment. To commit for the long haul, companies need to:

  • Integrate their supply chain platform and visibility into all aspects of IT and systems

  • Share it outside of the company’s four walls — with carriers, suppliers, customers, and partners — to ensure supply chain visibility works with their entire ecosystem

  • Actively manage their carrier network not just through initial onboarding, but continuously to collect insights and analytics

  • Use resources available through their visibility partner as they’re the experts

Reap the benefits of visibility

Today, visibility into your supply chain isn’t optional — it’s a necessity. But simply implementing a visibility solution isn’t always enough.

Reaping the benefits of your visibility project requires preparation, investment, and commitment. Use the above expert-backed tips to make that happen and ensure your visibility project generates the results you need.

Want to learn more about how to make your visibility project successful? Watch the full webinar.