Gartner: Adaptation Will Define the Future

By Sam Scane
Gartner recently released a study, identifying three critical areas to combat future supply chain challenges...

With the weight of the global pandemic still felt across the globe, it’s clear that Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) are under a lot of pressure to not only continuously adapt but prepare for the uncertain future that lies ahead. 

During the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo, which took place virtually across the Americas, Gartner analysts discussed the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for supply chain leaders, and certain aspects that require adaptability above all else, to see businesses thrive. 

According to Tom Enright, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice “Companies that achieve long-term efficient growth over their industry peers during turbulent times, do so because they are better at protecting large, transformative growth bets across the business cycle; they avoid reactive responses to macroeconomic conditions and take advantage of uncertainty to break away from industry competitors.”

Part one - Strategy

The saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but what happens when everything else breaks? Well, by then, it’s usually time for a change of strategy. Gartner found that 80% of companies were still using annual calendar-based strategic planning cycles, which runs the risk of that particular strategy being outdated in that very year, or sooner. This could leave companies with little-to-no resources to change their course or adopt new approaches for the changing winds, something like the gust of change that COVID ushered in. 

To combat this, companies will have to invest in an adaptive strategy that changes alongside the landscape of the supply chain world, dynamically allocating resources and monitoring trends as they come, allowing for growth in the right areas, elevating them above their competitors. “It’s crucial to regularly update the strategy to reflect changes. Adaptive strategic planning is an always-on activity to navigate and succeed through any turn, in any version of the future” noted Enright. 

Part two - Investments

No doubt a key part in future planning, the strategy itself requires insight and funding, the ability to allocate additional funds to initiatives as and when priorities start to shift. Gartner found that 72% of strategists said slow budget reallocation is the biggest barrier to more adaptive strategies, which makes a lot of sense when you consider that a major internal shift waiting for correct funding could see mismanagement between imperative internal processes. 

Lisa Callinan, vice president team manager with Gartner Supply Chain practice, shared insight on this strategy “A second option is to mimic the approach that venture capital firms use when assessing whether to fund early-stage start-ups. Success with a prototype or trial is the basis for developing more accurate estimates on how much further funding is needed. Teams feel less constricted and feel less pressure to present a solution that guarantees returns from the start.”

Part three - Leadership

The fallout of COVID put a lot of pressure on the leadership skills of CSCOs and how they manage their teams. From implementing new internal structures to consistent remote working environments, it’s been more present than ever that effective leadership skills are what will drive teams in the future. It’s no longer enough to lay down a strategy, let it roll and adapt where possible, hoping your team can do the same; anxiety, worry and other factors can affect core parts of organisations, even more so in modern times. 

Enright concluded with “This next phase will demand another set of skills from leaders. They will need to balance their leadership style and develop skills as a master communicator to empower change and adaptability within the supply chain organisation.”

It is clear to see that things are going to have to change internally for supply chains to keep up with a new take on modernity, one perhaps none of us truly expected. But with adaptive planning, investments and leadership, it’s far from impossible to thrive in the present and the future. However, like a lot of things, only time will tell, and smarter industry leaders will adapt and make the most of the quickly changing global stage, while others may be left behind, and their tactics with them. 


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