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The Modern CSCO’s Guide To A Data-Driven Supply Chain

February 10, 2023 | Premangsu Bhattacharya

Blog / The Modern CSCO’s Guide To A Data-Driven Supply Chain

As Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) continue to look for new ways to improve their organizations’ competitive advantage in today’s rapidly changing market conditions, embracing the potential of digital technology has emerged as a priority. However, becoming an advocate for a digitally enabled supply chain can be daunting – where do you even start?

This guide outlines four practical steps that CSCOs can take to become an effective advocate for a digitally enabled supply chain at their company:

Step 1: Systems Thinking and What It Means for Supply Chain Professionals 

Systems thinking is an approach that views a system as a whole, rather than its individual parts. This means taking into account both the internal and external aspects of a business. It allows supply chain professionals to consider all stakeholders involved in a given process and how changes made in one area can have ramifications throughout the entire supply chain system. 

Instead of viewing the various components within a supply chain separately, systems thinking encourages the examination of how these pieces work and interact with each other as part of an overall system. 


This allows for more effective solutions that address multiple aspects of the problem rather than isolating it to a single component or element. In short, this kind of critical analysis can help make sure you are putting all the cogs in just the right places for your supply chain system to work at its best. 

Step 2: Understand Digital Technology 

Before advocating for digital technology in your organization, it’s important to ensure that you understand what it is and how it works. Take some time to explore the options available and familiarize yourself with the different types of technologies that are used in supply chains today.

The world of technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, and the digital innovation tools available to Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) have kept up with the times. In order to remain competitive and meet the challenges posed by market conditions today, global CSCOs must leverage these tools to their full potential. 

To that end, here are our picks for the top five digital innovation tools every supple chain leader should consider:

Data Collaboration Platforms 

Supply chains need to operate like well-oiled machines – and with digital collaboration platforms, they can. By streamlining data processes into a single point of access in the cloud, supply chain organizations get an efficient communication hub that leads to increased productivity when it comes time for decisions or adjustments. To remain competitive, supply chains must scale to a new level, which Mckinsey calls microsegmentation. By breaking the entire process down into hundreds of individual components and customizing them based on customer needs—utilizing data-driven strategies–supply chain leaders can craft tailored products that deliver maximum value for customers while reducing inventory costs and improving visibility.

Learn about the advantages of a data platform

Machine Learning 

Supply chains have found a new ally in machine learning. With machine learning, it is possible to scan and recognize patterns, along with the forces behind them. With its fastidious eye for detail – recognizing possible trouble areas ahead of time to ensure maximal flexibility and resilience within logistics operations — supply chain experts are justifiably excited about their newfound teammate’s potential.  By relying on these accurate future insights, supply chain operations are better equipped to adjust ahead of time and proactively counteract any forthcoming changes.

Also Read: Top 10 Use Cases for Machine Learning in Supply Chain 

Predictive Analytics 

Excel remains the most widely used – but not always reliable – tool for demand forecasting and planning. With ever-increasing data sets, spreadsheets struggle to deliver on scalability goals. But that’s just part of the problem; traditional statistical methods can’t address today’s complex supply chain complexities or tackle issues like reducing inventory costs without putting pressure onto suppliers. 

The power of big data and advanced analytics has revolutionized the way we process, store, and utilize vast quantities of information. With cloud-based services as a secure platform for collecting quality datasets to mine through – powerful demand forecasting models can be created with greater accuracy than ever before. Data mining algorithms used in SCM allow us to not only uncover insights from relationships between variables but also gain an understanding over time by continuously learning from newly collected data. 

Learn about AI: How AI enables Enterprise Digital Transformation with Deeper Customer Insights 

Warehouse Digital Twins

Warehouse Digital Twins are the next-level of warehousing technology, offering you a real-time representation of your entire warehouse setup. Think of it as an interactive 3D simulation combining physical elements such as building infrastructure, material handling machines and inventory with digital sources like IoT devices and WMS data. With this game-changing innovation in place, virtual testing becomes possible to help measure any potential improvements from changes to layout or software. 

Read: Utilizing Digital Twins for Supply Chains 


IoT tracking devices represent a massive leap forward for supply chain operations, allowing unprecedented insight into real-time shipment status.

Products that require particular temperatures or handling can now be monitored with pinpoint accuracy to ensure their quality during transit. Plus, if any anomalies are detected then relevant personnel will receive an alert so they may swiftly adjust procedures for a timely delivery of sensitive cargo – no more worries about spoilage.

Step 3: Create a Long-term Tech Adoption Strategy 

Cutting-edge technology is all the rage in business, but it often isn’t realistic to rush into implementation when many important processes haven’t been digitized yet. A viable tech adoption strategy starts by taking a practical approach – think simple first

A digital inspection process is an ideal place for supply chain digitization to start – allowing everyone involved a more efficient and effective way of doing business that ensures greater quality control measures are being upheld across the board.

Fixing the digital supply chain puzzle starts with having a handle on your enterprise data. Understanding how to organize and utilize existing information can be an invaluable first step towards achieving long-term business objectives – without needing to invest in complex tech solutions right away. After all, clearly mapping out exactly what you need is the key that unlocks powerful outcomes from technology adoption. So don’t get bogged down trying to fix every link at once – begin by organizing current resources for real returns now. 

Get inspired: A Tale of Retail: Transform Supply Chain with AI & ML

Step 4: Balance Innovation With Practicality 

In this ever-shifting business environment, supply chain organizations need to stay ahead of the curve using both traditional and innovative approaches for their initiatives. Gartner suggests adopting a bimodal framework for optimizing supply chain performance. Bimodal is a framework that offers two distinct but coherent methods – Mode 1 creates predictability in an unstable environment while Mode 2 enables agility through experimentation – helping deliver successful business change.

To ensure optimal supply chain performance and maximize ROI, consider following these five bimodal practices: 

Tap into the expertise of your stakeholders – Leveraging crowdsourcing encourages innovation and offers a unique approach to problem-solving that can lead to unexpected advantages. To deliver these results, make sure you target the right people and refine your strategy in three essential steps: analysis, synthesis, and selection.

Here’s an example of how CISCO manages innovation through its unique organizational philosophy called ‘Startup Mentality.’ To stay ahead of the curve, CISCO harnesses a dynamic mix of strategies: they employ in-house research and development to anticipate market disruptions, partner with startups for fresh perspectives, and drive internal innovation initiatives through inventive boot camps. 

Set aside a fraction of your budget for innovation – In today’s world, with constantly changing opportunities and threats, differentiated funding for bimodal projects could be an essential tool to navigate the landscape. An ROI-based approach does not foster innovation – but a portfolio approach can encourage exploration beyond risk elimination so your business stays competitive in this everchanging environment. Furthermore, regular reviews of these portfolios will ensure that both solutions are being tested and their underlying business cases are monitored closely over time.

Partner with startups – Partnering with small and dynamic startups is an excellent opportunity to inject innovation into businesses. Many larger organizations may feel uneasy about switching from traditional large vendors to newer, lesser-known ones however, the market has evolved in such a way that younger companies are now able to establish themselves quickly on global platforms or create forward-thinking solutions for industry needs. Working with startups makes practical sense due to the nature of the innovation projects. Because, more often than not, the road to successful digital innovation passes through multiple iterations, sometimes changing course midway through the project – large vendors do not have the patience or the bandwidth to support the evolving needs of such projects. 

Formalize Innovation Management – You must embrace innovation management not just as a concept but as an integral part of your operations and culture. By building sustainability into practice, you can create an environment that encourages collaboration among innovators with formal processes in place for producing successful outcomes at every step. Ultimately, this allows those involved to focus on outlining goals while proactively cultivating ideas and building relationships across the supply chain — resulting in disruptive strategies capable of transforming your organization’s future success.

By considering all aspects of digital transformation – from utilizing sophisticated analytics and automation technologies to optimizing workflows to investing in knowledge-sharing sessions for employees on modern strategies – CSCOs can enable themselves with an understanding of current market conditions that can help them ride any future waves that may arise in their industries. So go ahead, take the plunge – your company (and career) will thank you for it.

Ready to turn data into insights? 


Premangsu B is a digital marketer with a knack for crafting engaging B2B content. His writings are focused on data analytics, marketing, emerging tech, and cloud computing. Driven by his passion for storytelling, he consistently simplifies complex topics for his readers, creating narratives that resonate with diverse audiences.

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