How to outperform the competition with supply chain visibility

In today’s competitive landscape, companies need to respond to changes quickly and accurately in the market. Supply chain visibility provides companies not only the knowledge of where products are and when they will arrive, but ideally also provide the insights necessary to make more informed decisions about production, inventory, and transportation. In a recent IDC report: Next-Generation B2B Integration Enables a Digital-First, Resilient Supply Chain, we asked companies a series of digital maturity questions. This blog takes a closer look at their responses pertaining to supply chain visibility.

Companies have little confidence in their current supply chain visibility

What was striking in the IDC survey was that respondents placed supply chain visibility last on their list of benefits they have experienced from B2B integration. This result initially took me aback, as visibility is of utmost priority given the last few years of turmoil and disruption in supply chains. Supply chain visibility is all about seeing what is happening and knowing how and where to respond to changes in the market. 

Upon closer inspection, I realized that supply chain visibility is likely last on the list of B2B integration benefits, because current visibility efforts have been disappointing. The visibility tools companies have today have yet to sufficiently protect companies from disruption. But the problem isn’t that supply chain visibility isn’t helpful. The problem is that most companies lack good visibility technology. This was demonstrated later in the survey, with only 19% of companies reported having advanced or comprehensive visibility, and 36% said they have only basic visibility.  

Growing concern over the lack of supply chain visibility

Lack of visibility is, of course, of great concern since the next supply chain disruption is bound to be right around the corner. Respondents placed supply chain visibility at the top when asked to identify supply chain gaps that would present major problems in the near future if not closed soon.

A graph representing the supply chain gaps that would present major problems if not closed in gaps that would present major problems if not closed including lack of supply chain visibility and robust data analytics.

Given that the level of disruption and level of competitive pressures seem to be increasing and given that many companies have experienced only minor benefits from their existing supply chain visibility technologies, it’s not surprising that many companies believe there is much to gain by improving this aspect of supply chain maturity. In fact, many see this as a potential source of competitive disadvantage for companies that fall behind.

Our follow-up question revealed that this is precisely where many companies are going to invest. When asked which integration improvements companies are prioritizing over the next two years, “better visibility of inventory” emerged as the second highest priority.

Cloud technologies improve supply chain visibility

The difficulty is that first-rate supply chain visibility remains elusive for most companies. Fortunately, recent innovations in technologies that support B2B will drive change, increase supply chain maturity and improve how we integrate and execute supply chains.

When asked about future investments into B2B and supply chain maturity endeavors, companies worldwide, especially smaller companies, see the continued deployment of cloud technologies as the primary driver of change to the way supply chains operate. The benefits cited for cloud are varied, with 49% of respondents said cloud helps improve visibility, 45% that it improves data sharing and collaboration, and 43% that it offers more robust security and data protection. Smaller and mid-sized companies, in particular, give cloud technologies greater importance, given the role cloud can play in democratizing technology.

Image of a man with a tablet in front of a clear screen tracking a supply chain.

As the world becomes more uncertain, companies understand it may be unrealistic to always see disruption coming and respond in a timely manner. Companies will try their best, but if they cannot predict a disruption, they at least want to be prepared to react quickly once something goes wrong. Cloud technologies, such as OpenText Business Network Cloud provides the answer by combining technologies that mutually improve agility, flexibility and supply chain visibility to create adaptable and resilient supply chains for companies of any size to outperform the competition.

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