It’s people that keep the supply chain functioning. Understand key talent trends and the skills and capabilities needed to succeed.


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Identifying the trends that matter now is a challenging task. It’s certainly possible to identify 20 trends at random, which at some point in the future will have a significant impact. Assessing near-term relevance requires a deep understanding of the drivers of change.

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The start of each new year provides us with a fantastic opportunity to assess where we are and what we want to achieve in the year to come.

It’s a time for locking down objectives and plotting a course to deliver them. While much of the focus is on how to do bigger and better things, a good proportion of what we end up doing is likely to be a build on last year’s activities. As ever, there are many more things to do than we have time to achieve, so making an impact in the right places is crucial. The natural tension between what we need to do – the basics – and what we want to do – the value-adds – at either end of the spectrum, can make the process of objective-setting a real challenge.

Bring the outside in

Perhaps the best place to start is with horizon scanning. The IGD Futures series provides an assessment of the food and grocery industry through several different lenses, from shoppers, online and physical retail and the supply chains that serve the industry. These brief reports are a great, free resource to support any horizon-scanning exercise!

Assess you own development needs

Understanding where the industry is heading allows you to assess how well equipped you are to influence and impact the future. An assessment of strengths and weaknesses through a gap analysis, and using it as the foundation to do the ordinary extraordinarily well, will set you up for success. And getting the basics right is a base expectation!

Doing so develops trust and a platform for deeper partnerships. Through our Supply Chain Fundamentals series, we’ve developed a suite of reports designed to support supply chain knowledge building. From responsiveness to distribution and S&OP to customer centricity, we’ve got it covered.

Identify the big opportunities

At the other end of the objectives spectrum lie the real value-adding opportunities. Having established a foundation, this is where the industry leaders will focus their efforts. Supply chain people need to be an engine for value creation, helping deliver growth through:

  • Reinventing services providing more choice, better experiences or greater convenience
  • Premiumising products, for instance, with local, ethical or sustainable credentials
  • Connecting more precisely to personal needs and lifestyles
  • Rethinking ways of working to continually reduce costs and waste

Engage to unlock value

Once you’ve set your course, the next step is to engage. Relationships and the ability to work effectively with people have a disproportionate impact on our success. We recently looked at what makes for successful business relationships and what gets in the way. Transparency and trust, information flow, a joint problem solving and learning mindset, and shared objectives were all identified as enablers of productive internal and external relationships. Time is the biggest barrier, and accurately determining where potential can be transformed into tangible value for both parties is the name of the game.

What next?

Action! I’ve provided my perspective on some of the key inputs for effective objective setting and provided some resources to help support you in creating them. Take a look at some of the materials I’ve highlighted – I hope you find them useful.

Remember to:

  1. Bring the outside in – how is the landscape evolving? Where do you fit in? What will you need to do to succeed?
  2. Assess your own development needs – build your knowledge by performing a gap analysis
  3. Identify the big opportunities – set objectives that stretch and challenge you to self-disrupt, focussing on value creation and growth
  4. Engage to unlock value – commit and embed through joint objectives

Chris Irish

Chris Irish

Supply Chain Insight Manager

Download our report to understand how supply chain excellence will be a source of growth and value for the future.

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We hear a lot about businesses making efforts to work closer together in order to 'uncover mutual benefits' or 'create cost savings', but what about the benefits for people? It’s no secret that collaboration is a core part of any successful business approach, but making it a core part of a personal development programme may be less obvious. Suzannah Murphy, Supply Chain Analyst at IGD, explores why openness and creating collaborative leaders of the future is key to your team’s success.

Creating collaborative cultures

At IGD, we’re always looking for great supply chain stories to tell. This year, I’ve heard about some fantastic work that businesses in the industry have done to create collaborative cultures between teams and businesses. Projects that initially began to streamline processes blossomed into open, trusting partnerships. It’s clear that by starting this collaborative process earlier in people’s careers, we as an industry can help embed a collaborative culture into the day-to-day, which can in turn play into a successful business strategy. It’s a win-win all around.

As these projects take time and resources to set up internally, it may be some time before you see the benefits. So, how can you create a culture of openness and trust with your trading partners, without so much of the work? We've got the answer: IGD Mentoring.

What's IGD Mentoring?

A programme that has been referred to as "the best initiative I've been involved in" and "the highlight of my 2017" by industry participants, IGD Mentoring is a free, award-winning mentoring initiative for supply chain teams.

We work with businesses around the industry to match rising stars with industry leaders and experts. And here's the best part: it's a cross-company programme. Everyone involved is partnered with someone from another, non-competing, business, usually between customers and suppliers. Having started as a handful of supply chain directors and senior managers, we’re now working with around 300 people from almost 60 businesses this year alone.

Inside your industry; outside your organisation

For these participants, what's made the programme stand out is that it's inside your industry, so you speak the same language and face similar challenges. But with a mentor who's outside your organisation, there's the opportunity to have truly open and honest conversations with someone whose only goal is to develop you.

More than a conversation

What began as an opportunity for people to broaden their horizons has transformed into so much more. Whenever I meet an IGD mentor or mentee, I'm always surprised by how much they pack into their partnership.

From coaching discussions to factory tours, IGD Mentoring participants have a broad range of experiences. Here are a few examples of what participants are getting up to in their meetings:

  • Walking the supply chain to help the mentor understand the mentee's challenges at work
  • Discovering that their mentee had only ever worked with supermarket retailers, a mentor organised a day of company inductions for their mentee, to help them better understand foodservice
  • Attending and providing input to part of their mentee's end of year review

It's not just about the mentee though. Mentors are also reaping the benefits of their involvement, spending time shadowing their mentee at work and having their teams taken around their mentee's facilities. By being a mentor, they also enable someone else from their business to be a mentee.

The sense of giving something back has been a highlight for many mentors: "It was hugely satisfying to work with a totally engaged individual who was prepared to listen to advice and accept coaching. To see my mentee develop this year has been a highlight for me."

Leading to greater things

Beyond personal development, I've also heard of instances where the connections formed between businesses has been so successful that they've begun working on joint projects together, learning from each other's experience to create a more streamlined supply chain. It's at times like this when you start realising just how important networking is. In fact, networking ranked as one of the most important skills this year's mentees were looking for.

Want to get involved?

As one mentee puts it, “Grasp the opportunity - IGD Mentoring will deliver as much as you put into it. Take this wonderful initiative with both hands.” So, there you have it. Give yourself and your team the opportunity to be open, and experience the benefits to your business by starting your collaboration journey.

If you work in supply chain, logistics or distribution, then we've got great news: we’re accepting mentor and mentee nominations from now. If you’re the person in charge of supply chain within your business, even better. Register your interest and we’ll take you through the nomination process:

Suzannah Murphy

Suzannah Murphy

Supply Chain Analyst

Boost your development and grow your network by joining this award-winning, cross-company mentoring programme for people working in supply chain, logistics and distribution.

Get the latest industry news and insights straight to your inbox with our range of newsletters.

At the start of 2018, we picked out four supply chain trends we expected to gather momentum over the course of the year. I’m reviewing how they’ve developed, and this week, I’ll look at Reprioritising skills for success. This signposts the growing influence and impact of technology on the businesses and individuals that make up the food and grocery industry.

We projected that technology will trigger significant changes in the way people in supply chains spend their time, leading to new training and skills requirements.

Of course, technology in the supply chain environment isn’t new, but the last couple of years have seen big leaps forward in artificial intelligence (AI) and specifically, machine learning. For me, this means reading less about theoretical benefits and more about implemented, functioning use cases. This is a sure sign of progress, giving us a better feel for what’s hype and what’s real.

The industry response

We’re beginning to see responses to these developments, with food and grocery businesses making concerted efforts to develop new strategies. This means addressing both the opportunities and the challenges technological development presents.

Take M&S’s recent announcement on its investment in digital skills – a high-profile strategy to equip its team to succeed in more digital world. M&S has partnered with digital training agency Decoded to launch a company-wide Data Academy, giving employees hands-on access to technology such as machine learning. An important element is the Data Leadership strand, which aims to create the most data-literate leadership team in retail. Steve Rowe, M&S Chief Executive said, “This is our biggest digital investment in our people to date...We need to change their digital behaviours, mindsets and our culture to make the business fit for the digital age.”

In the US, Walmart announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to further accelerate its digital transformation. The companies will work together on a broad set of cloud innovation projects that leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence and data platform solutions for a range of external customer-facing services and internal business applications. Walmart’s president and CEO, Doug McMillon, stated, “Walmart’s commitment to technology is centred around creating incredibly convenient ways for customers to shop and empowering associates to do their best work. Walmart is a people led, tech-empowered company, and we’re excited about what this technology partnership will bring for our customers and associates.”

Source: Supply Chains for Growth, IGD, 2018

Culture, skills and inspiration

Business-wide initiatives like these demonstrate real ambition and a drive to embed technology and data skills at all levels. But lots of factors influence success, from culture through to training. We’ve explored some of these this year.

How to build a data-driven culture looked at the importance of mindsets in digital success, while 5 ways to digitalise your supply chain gives practical tips on how to transition to a more digitalised state. We also looked at strategies for training skills in Supply chain training: creating real impact. Interestingly, technology has a role to play here as well, with gamification, VR and AR all in the mix.

Source: How to build a data-driven culture, IGD Supply Chain Analysis, 2018

What will the future demand of us?

Our Supply Chains for Growth research highlights the growing need to develop mindsets and skills to capitalise on a more digital future. Specifically, it calls out the ability to self-disrupt as a means of Walmart demonstrate both a self-disruptive drive and recognition that even the largest businesses can’t go it alone.

We think it’s is always more powerful to lead the disruption than to have it imposed on you. But it doesn’t just happen. People must be empowered, and radical thinking should be rewarded. Even if an idea is too extreme or impractical, there may be scope to scale it back or implement in stages. Being open to questioning, risk-taking, experimenting and learning from failed experiments are all important. These are all skills in themselves and they sit alongside the traditional skills that are needed to deliver the “eternal virtues”, like cost and service management.

The reprioritisation of skills to set up for success in a more technologically advanced supply chain will continue. It would be easy to focus on capital investment, equipment and systems but to maximise their effectiveness and the chance of success it is vital that people at the heart of the strategy. We’ll continue to monitor how food and grocery businesses approach this challenge in the weeks and months to come.

Chris Irish

Chris Irish

Supply Chain Insight Manager

Get the latest industry news and insights straight to your inbox with our range of newsletters.


In this short report, we take a look at how last year's trends have progressed, and how they’re likely to develop going forward.
The forces that will shape food and grocery supply chains in the year to come.
Greencore won the IGD Learning and Development Award in 2018 for Grow with Greencore, its online learning platform. In this case study, we explore how Greencore invested in its people to transform its culture and improve engagement.

Access free videos, infographics and toolkits whenever and wherever you need to.

Making your business relationships pay

Relationships and the ability to work effectively with people have a disproportionate impact on our success. This series looks at what makes for good relationships, barriers to building and maintaining them and how they will evolve in future.     

  1. Characteristics
  2. What gets in the way?
  3. Evolution

Early bird offer!
15 October, London
term technology looks like The IGD Supply Chain Summit 2019 focuses on how to be customer centric. We’ll connect you with the retailers, suppliers and solution providers that are winning with customers.

Use our benchmarking reports to compare yourself to your peers and as a roadmap for future development.

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