The 2014 Scorecard

A new year is an excellent time for making predictions: The media turns to forecasts for everything from consumer spending to politics, interest rates to sport, trying to second guess what to expect in the year ahead.

But rather than looking ahead, I've decided to take a quick look backwards to see what happened to three of the biggest predictions made about the manufacturing and logistics industries 12 months ago. 

Prediction #1: The rise of the demand-driven supply chain

Thanks to the rising popularity of agile methodologies, there's been a lot of discussion about changing the focus of the supply chain from pull (forecast driven) to push (demand-driven). 

However, creating a market-responsive system relies on the ability to readily access and share data along the supply chain.

In particular, it requires an accurate knowledge of inventory, exceptional visibility into demand and consumption, and the ability to quickly act on changes.

Five years ago, the technologies to support such a view were not within reach of many organisations, especially small to medium enterprises, due to cost and resource considerations. 

By the eve of 2014, this had changed:  The cloud had brought apps for every logistics need within the reach of all, offering businesses the opportunity to gather more data about their business, market and customers than ever before. 

In addition, companies adopting Agile approaches to the supply chain were reporting solid market success.

Hence, the prediction that the demand-driven supply chain would finally gain momentum.

Twelve months on, we may not have seen the end of the forecast-driven supply chain but it's clear a shift has begun.

Demand-driven strategies are gaining adherents and continue to intrigue the market.  With additional developments such as big data (see below) on the horizon, it's reasonable to assume that the change from pull to push will continue into 2015.


Prediction #2. Big data and analytics

For the last year at least, everyone seems to have been spruiking the unrealised value of big data, the mass of structured and unstructured data that sits within every organisation. 

The idea was that by mining this information, by correlating diverse, previously siloed data, organisations would gain insights that would enable them to improve production, better forecast demand, engage in analytics and more.

At the end of 2013, many vendors were said to be working hard to develop ways of easily and quickly harnessing the data, and analysts were predicting that big data would be one of the biggest trends of the year ahead.

So has it lived up to expectations?  The topic has definitely made waves, primarily among large enterprises and government departments, but if we were to be honest, it remains a tool for the future. 

The potential uses are so broad that while everyone agrees there will be benefit from using big data, exactly how data should be used, what data should be used, and the benefits will be remain ill-defined. 

My guess is that it will take a few more years before big data catches on in a big way. 

In the meantime, use cases will emerge almost by stealth as businesses applications begin to engage a wider and wider range of organisational data. 

Because of their comparative agility and reach, cloud applications will lead the way in this trend.


Prediction #3: The need to upgrade systems will see businesses become more open to new approaches to technology

The ERP and supply chain systems that are being deployed today are vastly different to those of five or ten years ago. 

The cloud, mobile apps, mobile devices and social media are redefining the way we do business.

We have tremendous flexibility to select from on premise, cloud and hybrid systems, integrated suites of applications and best-of-breed solutions.

Where old-style solutions embraced a certain predictability, in the post-GFC world, technologies that enhance responsiveness and agility are key. 

The prediction was accurate, but openness to new experiences, approaches and methodologies will become an essential trait in the foreseeable future, when everyone in a market is chasing competitive advantage.

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