Gartner's sixth annual study focused on the intersection of supply-chain management processes and technologies. Among the most notable trends, says Klappich, is the continuing adoption of cloud technology, or software as a service. Companies are being driven to the model by economics, the importance of time to value, and the need to free up limited I.T. resources.
"Over the next several years, [the cloud] is going to become the dominant method of sourcing new technologies," Klappich says.
Gartner saw initial reluctance among some companies to embrace the cloud, and the rate of adoption has not been equal among all areas of technology. Time has alleviated some concerns, however, with transportation and warehousing functions finally beginning to accept the cloud model.
Also emerging from the latest Gartner study is the arrival of "mega-suite" vendors of enterprise resource planning software. Best-of-breed applications aren't disappearing, says Klappich, but ERP vendors are now offering enough functionality to satisfy the needs of a large number of clients.
The study confirms the notion that supply-chain technology can be a significant source of competitive differentiation. "We found a marked difference between leaders and other companies in several areas," Klappich says. For years, analysts have argued about whether it's more important to have strong processes or strong technology. "The data is irrefutable," he says. "It's the combination. Leaders are most likely to have both, laggards one or the other."
It's not a question of imposing good technology on bad processes. Underlying management practices are essential to substantiating those processes and making sure they are repeatable, day after day. Otherwise, says Klappich, "it's not going to do anything for the business."
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, cloud supply chain, SaaS, software as a service, supply chain services, supply chain planning, supply chain I.T.
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