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Providers of Supply Chain Services Know Value of Innovation

Analyst Insight: Service providers are blending services across consulting, technology and outsourcing to deliver ongoing operational capabilities to supply chain organizations. Bundling multiple services for a client is not unusual or new. For at least the past five years, providers with multiple service lines have been presenting bundled services to clients. - Michael Dominy, Research Director, Gartner

Providers of Supply Chain Services Know Value of Innovation

Delivery of bundled services often involved hand-offs from one service line to another. In many cases, the hand-offs were clumsy and did not feel "bundled" at all, with extra work required by the client organization and performance dips during or shortly following the hand-off. A key culprit is organizational structures and incentives within the service provider. Business consulting service lines delivered discrete projects that focused on the end users, technology services that focused on the technical configuration and implementation of software, and outsourcing services that focused on steady-state operations.

Innovative bundling that delivers value to supply chain organizations can now be seen from several large service providers. One example is Accenture Perfect Product Delivery, which combines capabilities from its supply chain management business process outsourcing service, its transportation management software implementation services and its business consulting service.

The blurring lines between the service and software providers markets present more options for organizations striving to improve supply chain capabilities.

Software vendors are combining business process support services with their applications functionality, and service providers are powering business delivering process services, using their own or a partner's software. Supply chain organizations seeking improved capabilities can license software from an application vendor, and implement and run it within their company, as had been the practice for several decades. Alternatively, they can subscribe to a SaaS or a managed service. Software-based or software-enabled services can be delivered by an independent software vendor (ISV) or a service provider. For example, an application management service or BPO provider can deliver software functionality to the supply chain organization as a subscription using an ISV's software, the service provider's internally developed software or a combination of the two.

Examples of the blurring between traditional software and services across multiple functions are even more prevalent in the logistics and sourcing and procurement functions. For example, companies can license and implement themselves, or subscribe to sourcing solutions from a range of vendors such as Oracle, SAP, Ariba, Iasta and others. In addition, there are solutions available from BPO providers, including IBM, Capgemini and Accenture, which have acquired software vendors and offer sourcing and procurement capabilities through multiple delivery models. In logistics, companies can turn to software vendors such as LeanLogistics for managed services as well as software. Additionally, companies can turn to service providers such as 3PLs like C.H. Robinson Worldwide or Transplace for transportation managed service or software functionality.

                                                     The Outlook

The supply chain services market is in flux. Large players are acquiring small and mid-sized players to expand their expertise in specific supply chain processes, applications, industries or geographies. Meanwhile, service providers of all sizes and from all corners of the market are leveraging technologies, such as cloud computing, analytics, planning and optimization tools, to deliver differentiated value through recurring supply chain services, such as replenishment planning, sourcing, order management and fulfillment.

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