Platforms and lightweight product suites are the future for supply chain tech stacks

If you are in the business of manufacturing and/or distributing physical products, your company has invested in systems for digital commerce, CRM, and HR. You have also invested in supply chain systems to manage and monitor the flow of goods – in fact, the average mid-size and enterprise company has four supply chain system investments each!

Design & PLM, materials management, sourcing management, manufacturing process management, warehouse management, distribution & logistics, accounting, merchandising management, and supply chain analytics and forecasting (Phew!) are purchased separately from different companies or from one company that has many products to manage some or all these functions under the umbrella of ERP. Even when purchased from the same company, these products tend to be heavy, layered, and often with dissimilar and legacy technology architectures. They are expensive to buy, expensive to maintain, and gawky when integrating with other applications. Adding to the cost, it often takes a big team to manage the beast.

The tragedy with the landscape of supply chain systems is that next-generation applications are neither envisioned nor created for the most part. The choice set for most buyers at mid-size and enterprise companies is a small number of behemoths, and these behemoths sell built-for-past-world products, not lightweight product suites or platforms.

A product suite is as it reads – a set of products or modules all in one box. While large ERP providers can be product suites, they tend to be closed suites. A platform is inherently open, built to connect and integrate with other systems, team members, and data. Since supply chains are gargantuan and complex, they need to run on a coral reef or an ecosystem upon which other systems can reside and communicate.  

The advantages for you as a buyer to lean into open product suites and platforms:

  1. The different products and modules within a suite work well together effortlessly.
  2. These systems are not built on legacy architectures. They have modern, scalable, and nimble backends.
  3. They integrate with e-commerce, CRM, HR systems, and other systems required to run your operations.
  4. Platforms are a new concept, especially in the supply chain, and are likely developed by relatively younger software firms. This new perspective means such systems have accessible and clean UI and UX.
  5. Because of the inherent participatory philosophy behind platform builds, more people across your supply chain can access these systems with lower barriers to entry.
  6. As platforms mature, 3rd party developers create applications to run just on these platforms, thereby providing you a gateway into the latest and most innovative supply chain systems.
  7. Product suites and platforms create the digital foundation for supply chains that are constantly changing and growing.

Success for your supply chain and company depends on making this transition. Your supply chain is as good or bad as your digital system choices.

Read the New Voices in Supply Chain blogs here

Written by Suuchi Ramesh


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