2018’s trends: Reprioritising skills for success

Date : 28 November 2018

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

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