The Profile of the In-Demand Supply Chain Executive in 2021

In speaking with hundreds of supply chain companies over the years, I (and we at Suuchi) know to recognize patterns across these companies – not only for common problems but also to understand the winning executive profiles best equipped to tackle their organization’s problems. Especially as we enter 2021, value chains have taken on top-seat-importance across organizations. Survival comes down to hiring and retaining the right profile of managers and executives.

If you are looking to staff your team with senior hires or simply want to reinvent and re-habituate yourself towards staying relevant and “in-demand” in the fast-evolving and competitive world of supply chain leadership, here are some pointers:

A superb, high-performance supply chain manager or executive: 

  1. Is less a supply chain operator, and more a technology and data geek

Boards and CEOs prefer profiles from outside the typical supply chain world, someone that can bring in a “fresh pair” of change-agent eyes by weaponizing his/her background in technology and technology companies. But if you already have years in supply chain, does that outmode you? No, quite the opposite. Operating backgrounds armed with a heightened hunger and focus on being a data and technology savant can be a lethal combination towards making that promotion.

2. Runs a data and technology machine and less a supply chain department 

 “In-demand” supply chain leaders build and run data organizations, not supply chain organizations. The flow of physical goods is the by-product of the effective flow and aggregation of data versus the other way around. You cannot change what you cannot measure – these leaders deploy data to deliver smart insights and deliver the change a company hired to create.

3. Spends 80% of his/her time optimizing the tech stack and teams

It is not just about making software investments; it is as much about rationalizing the technology stack. Organizations lose more by maintaining older systems with negligible impact and systems built on closed architectures that do not pipe into other systems to provide a unified data view. The one thing that impacts organizations even more than outdated tech stacks is a homogenous team composition. Just like it is essential to bring in a razor-sharp focus on technology and data at the leadership level, the teams must be a mix of the best in technology and operational expertise. The successful supply chain leader optimizes both a brilliant blend of technology investments and a brilliant blend of team members.

4. Invests in analytics and predictive solutions

The right software mix is the start, but architecting the BI and predictive layer of the supply chain organization is paramount to ensure success for any supply chain executive’s 5-year plan. The “build versus buy/partner with” question will come up. In almost all cases, the smart executive knows the right answer is to buy and partner with companies that build analytics solutions for a living versus transforming their company into becoming one. Instead, they would repurpose the time towards quickly implementing the right solutions and detonating competitors with her company’s superior predictive data insights.

5. Spends as much time outward-facing as inward optimizing 

As important as technology and team optimization is the time spent building his/her outside network. The star 2021 supply chain executive is well connected in technology and software circles and stays in touch with technology companies, fast-growing startups, and executives at these organizations. Not all these connections have to be live business partnerships but regularly conversing with the right people on the outside arms the executive with unparalleled information to make the right decisions at the right time.

6. Thrives on and promotes a growth mindset 

Perhaps the most critical profile attribute of the in-demand supply chain executive is that they are a thought leader within his/her organization and innovator that is hungry to change the culture and willing to take risks. They promote speed of action, are willing to fail on some of these risks, and are very clear that if they had to pick one path to success, it is being at the vanguard of technology and data adoption.

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Written by Suuchi Ramesh


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