Gartner: operating with a customer-centric approach in the research and advisory sector
Supply Chain Digital speaks with Mal Jones, Head of APAC Sales at Gartner, and discusses how the research and advisory firm conducts business in Asia.
As a leading research and advisory company, Gartner operates with a firm customer-centric approach and serves leaders of every major function in all industries and market sectors. Offering expertise in supply chain management to executives across various enterprises, the global firm caters to more than 15,000 client organisations from 100 different countries worldwide.
Having worked for Gartner since January 2015, in roles such as Business Development Director in Sydney, Australia and Director of APAC Supply Chain, Mal Jones is well-experienced in understanding the supply chain industry in Asia. Originally emigrating to Australia from the UK in 2008, Mal moved onto work in Singapore in May 2017 and remains responsible for launching Gartner’s supply chain business across Asia. Despite the task of negotiating challenging and diverse markets in Asia, Mal believes that there is a great opportunity for Gartner to experience growth and achieve success in the region. “It’s a different way of working here, and there are massive opportunities for us in Asia. We’re quite new in this region and have only been operating in this market for a few years. However, we’re one of the fastest growing divisions in the business and it’s a great place to be.”
As a company with $4bn in revenue and a member of the S&P 500 with clients in 73% of the Global 500 and organisations of every size, Jones believes Gartner’s ability to consistently disrupt the consultancy industry enables it to stand out from its rivals. “We're a retained partner for clients and work on an individual level. We work with chief supply chain officers and their direct reports, but our engagement is very practical, and we generate value through on the ground support through our research, toolkits, ongoing discussions with our industry experts (end to end coverage /cross industry) and peer connections,” explains Jones. “The change management journey isn't easy. It's the individuals in the company who are driving it and often our clients tell us that building internal capability is one of the hardest parts. If you get somebody coming in and driving it for you; you're not really building skills for the medium and long term. Our aim is to add short, medium- and long-term value for our clients over time. The world for customers is becoming increasing challenging, as supply chain leaders continue to try to balance, cost, cash and service priorities for their customers and market segment.”
“Customer expectations of faster fulfilment and increased supply agility continue to grow, driving significant challenges for businesses with rigid legacy fulfilment networks to cost effectively respond,” says Thomas O’Conner, Senior Research Director at Gartner. The key success factors that will ensure the sustainability of strategic supply chain transformations include active C-suite level engagement and sponsorship of supply chain transformation initiatives. “There needs to be clear alignment with broader organisation goals and objectives, including an understanding of the capabilities required to deliver and succeed in these objectives,” says James Lisica, Senior Director at Gartner. “Our own research shows that 75% of digital supply chain projects fail to align with broader digital business strategies. It’s important there’s effective communication and change management skills within the supply chain that go beyond analysis and return on investment (ROI), instead focusing on employee engagement, feelings and actions associated with the transformation.”
With a drive to build long-term, sustainable relationships with its clients, Gartner maintains a client retention rate of 90% in Asia, in addition to operating with a multi-year engagement and partnering with clients over three years as standard. “Supply chain transformation and building capabilities inside an organisation doesn't happen overnight,” explains Jones. “Our high retention rate is testament to the value that we can help our clients generate; they come back year over year and renew. We really want to foster long-term partnerships by delivering value and ensuring we align with the business’ overall strategy. Our clients’ immediate supply chain priorities can sometimes change, but usually the critical priorities that CEOs lay down tend not be disrupted too dramatically. For example, it might be that our clients want to grow market share in Asia and double their volumes, but our clients always want to make sure they're delivering profitable growth to their shareholders. The supply chain is critical to delivering this and the strategies and execution from those executives and their teams running the supply chain must be aligned because the supply chain doesn’t operate in a bubble. Our job is to really understand what's happening in the business and then help our clients translate that into effective supply chain transformation strategies and execution in the most efficient way.”
As the rise of technology necessitates the digital transformation of companies worldwide, it has become progressively more important that Research & Advisory firms such as Gartner move away from traditional models and begin to leverage technology in new ways. “Today, our model consists of operating in a digital format in many ways,” explains Jones. “Gartner.com is where all of the research sits and we don't fly experts all around the world; we use technology to connect our clients to our experts to have those conversations. From the client's perspective, digital transformation is coming at them at a rapid rate. Our job is to try and help cut through the noise and figure out which technology is appropriate at each stage of the journey. One person’s AI is another person’s attempt at transitioning away from spreadsheets. Digitalisation can mean lots of different things to a range of different companies.”
Looking to the future, Jones has a clear idea of how success can be achieved long-term in the supply chain space. “The supply chain is one of the key levers for successful growth for a company,” notes Jones. “If you're not transforming your supply chain and not continually looking at efficiencies and maturing the processes, you're going to be going backwards versus your competition. CEOs know that they have bright people in the organisation. They also know that they haven't got time to go and research best practice and figure out the right things to do in the correct order. Therefore, there's a role for partnerships with us to be able to help plug that gap and build that capability up. I would expect our double-digit growth to continue into the future – there's no reason why not.”
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”