Supply chain tech expectations 'at peak', says Gartner

Gartner 'hype cycle’ report on supply chain strategy suggests that expectations around tech have reached a peak but that cost is slowing down adoption

A Gartner ‘hype cycle’ report on supply chain strategy – designed to separate reality from hype – suggests expectations around technology are at a peak.

The report also suggests the main obstacles to technology adoption are prohibitive investment needs and difficulties around achieving a return on investment.

New additions to Gartner’s supply chain ‘hype cycle’ include machine customers, ecosystem partnerships and hybrid work.

Gartner hype cycles represent the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how relevant they are to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. 

Hype surrounding supply chain tech promises

“When new technologies make bold promises, how do you discern the hype from what is commercially viable?” Gartner asks. “And when will such claims pay off, if at all? 

It adds: “Hype cycle methodology gives a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.”

Gartner says clients use its hype cycles to gauge the promise of emerging technologies within the context of their industry. They also use them to measure others’ appetite for risk.

The report says the supply chain resilience hype cycle has already reached the “peak of inflated expectations” and that it will arrive at the “plateau of productivity” in between five to 10 years.

The ‘peak of inflated expectations’ highlights capabilities where early publicity produces success stories, but expectations rise above the current reality of what can be achieved. ‘Plateau of productivity’, meanwhile, is where capabilities have proven themselves. Organisations feel comfortable with reduced levels of risk, and the rapid growth phase of adoption begins.

Supply chain resilience and cost management at odds

Noha Tohamy, VP Analyst with Gartner Supply Chain practice, said: “Today’s levels of disruption in global supply chains, and price inflation, have transformed existing notions of resilient operations. 

“Challenges such as those from active conflict, severe weather, cybercrime, trade policy uncertainty and other risks, make improving supply chains’ resilience a key priority. At the same time, the pressure to manage traditional key performance indicators, such as cost still remains.”

The report also says investment in emerging technologies – such as blockchain and advanced analytics – to drive insight and improve decision making will “become essential for organisations that want to advance their supply chain resilience”. 

New Gartner supply chain 'hype cycle' terms

This year’s supply chain hype cycle sees three new additions:

Machine customer  This is a ‘non-human economic actor’ that obtains goods or services in exchange for payment. Examples include Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices that place orders independently, intelligent replenishment algorithms that maintain availability of consumables, and intelligent assistants that suggest deals to consumers.

Supply chain ecosystem partnership  This is a large community of independent organisations that shares and combines capabilities and develops equitable relationships to generate and exchange value to all participants. 

Gartner says the network can grow to become an industry ecosystem when it seeks to amplify the common value to address goals that go beyond efficiency and service to risk mitigation, innovation, and shared purpose such as addressing climate change.

Hybrid work  Is where at least some activities can be done in any location, typically via a laptop or mobile device. With hybrid work, employees may work from a corporate location, from their homes or from so-called “third spaces” such as client sites, airports or coffee shops.

“The new additions to the hype cycle show how technology, a different understanding of how to work and collaborate, are changing supply chains,” said Tohamy. “Leaders must use the technologies and capabilities at their disposal to guide their organisation in weathering current conditions and position them to thrive in a yet-to-be-imagined future.”

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