Thriving in a world of ever-increasing complexity and uncertainty is a difficult task for many businesses and with this added adversity comes a host of prickly compromises within the organisations themselves.
There seems to be a constant striving for the panacea of Faster, Cheaper, Better – which are famously not all compatible at the same time.
This creates pressure in the business across many departments, but one of the main tension is the interplay between sales and the supply chain.
The marketing and sales function (alongside product managers/developers) wants to sell more, and increase market share. They see success through a very specific lens. The supply chain team are there to help achieve this, but they do have a fundamentally different perspective on how business is done and they have KPIs to match their version of success.
This can lead to disagreement and misunderstandings – as sales could be seen as going on wild short-term goose chases for little commercial benefit, or supply chain teams are seen as the sales-prevention department always saying no to their and the customer’s demands (however irrational and admittedly outrageous!)
So how can technology help balance these seemingly conflicting needs?
We’ve found that supply chain software and digital technology bridges gaps between departments. When implemented at the same time as being underpinned by people development and cultural change, success often follows.
We’ve already hinted that one of the major tensions between departments comes from a lack of understanding and disagreements and this all boils down to collaboration.
Having all of your supply chain data in one place so that you can analyse and model different scenarios means that everyone can be on the same page. Different departments can understand the complexity and intricacies of making supply chain decisions to meet customer demands. Whether this is volumes or delivery times, being able to evaluate the situation and make rational, calm conclusions based on evidence is key to everyone getting along and working toward the common good.
Rather than deliver a staunch “NO” – the conversation becomes one of “what is the current situation of Z,” “if we did X” or “how can we do Y” against a backdrop of collaboration and flexibility.
Much like a caged animal, the salesperson who is being restricted from hitting their targets can get quite… fiery!
However, being offered rational, data-driven explanations of capacity, lead times and the impact on distribution or profitability may mean that the sales function look for more creative ways to hit its targets.
By analysing supply chain data, sales and the operations function can work together to start to build a more agile and resilient supply chain to hit next quarter’s goals by removing blockages.
By sharing and collaborating, sales can help set the tone for some of the supplier targets in the Supplier Relationship Management software so that these targets, OKR’s, KPI’s or other success measures are more clearly linked to the commercial success of their team.
Marketing teams can discuss their goals and promotional activity with supply chain teams to be able to better forecast and plan demand spikes, something that may sound obvious but is often missed due to the silo mentality.
Sales and marketing can also work together to plan order speed, frequency, volume and the flow and processes so that supply chain teams can work to meet those needs with their supplier base whilst balancing risk and cash flow.
It’s all about striking that balance between competing needs. Sadly these problems are endemic in many supply chains, but technology platforms like SourceDogg help open a conversation and facilitate collaboration through clarity and transparency.
This balance-striking through better communication means everyone feels like they’re being heard. It minimises the blame game that accompanies the planning and forecasting cycle and builds trust between departments over the long term.
Robust & Resilient
The short-term-thinking cliché often levelled at sales departments isn’t always a fair deduction. The truth of the matter is that short-termism can be a damaging trade-off when trying to build a robust and resilient long-term solution in the supply chain.
This is where sales and marketing leaders must come together with supply chain leaders to assess the overall picture and start to become more proactive problem-solvers rather than reactive recipients of their fate.
Supply chain software platforms help drive this proactivity by facilitating and augmenting the plan, do, act cycle.
By collecting data from suppliers based on customer requirements, discussing trends in sales performance and customer beliefs and behaviour all feed into creating a supply chain that can handle changes in demand.
The reverse is also true. By analysing trends and performance of the sales portfolio and the curse of product proliferation, the supply chain team is empowered to do a better job on what really matters.
Some companies may have thousands of services or sku’s that make up small percentages of sales yet they’ve been created due to one or two very assertive customers and salespeople with a lack of supply chain perspective. These imbalances can hurt companies badly as the disproportionate cost of holding stock, maintaining supplier relationships and admin and manufacturing costs may result in losses when all things are considered.
And so we return to the collaboration and balance points we’ve mentioned above. With the right teamwork, supplier data and relationships in place the whole business will be in a better position to make those tough but “right” decisions.
By using supply chain software, your business could reduce or remove the tensions that are playing out between departments in your business. It doesn’t have to be an all-out war with Sales Vs. Supply Chain factions working against each other.
Instead, we’ve found supply chain software solutions like SourceDogg actually facilitate better inter-departmental relationships and open up honest and transparent conversations between collaborative teams. These teams can balance their goals with a data-driven perspective and build supply chains that are robust and resilient and more capable of saying “YES” to customer demands in the future – however outrageous.