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5 Key Takeaways from the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium

4 minute read

Nearly 4,000 supply chain professionals from across the globe recently gathered at Gartner’s 2023 Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo.

The event, which featured more than 140 research-driven sessions and 50 Gartner experts, focused on the talent, knowledge, and skills gaps that companies need to address to build the supply chain of the future.

The Catena Solutions team was in attendance, and we’re excited to share our insights.

In this blog post, we’ll explore our team’s main takeaways from the conference, specifically around how supply chain-based organizations are handling disruption, talent, transformation, technology, and sustainability.

Takeaway 1: Organizations aren’t prepared to handle risk and disruption

CEOs are worried their supply chains aren’t equipped to handle risk and disruption. Resiliency is a major concern, with the majority (79%) of CEOs saying their supply chains are dangerously complex and brittle. High inflation is also alarming leaders, with 69% of CEOs reporting it as a key issue.

Though businesses can’t avoid risks entirely, more are prioritizing preparing for inevitable issues. Companies are also improving risk mitigation through elevating disruption response. This includes:

  • Implementing processes that proactively monitor and assess risk
  • Identifying the overall impacts of disruptions to organizations
  • Modeling scenarios and severity to improve disruption response

Additionally, companies are investing in technology that enables quick decision making. With more than two-thirds of leaders saying their supply chain can’t consistently make fast and accurate decisions in real time, investing in technology for resiliency and agility is crucial.

Read: 5 Focus Areas for Supply Chain Optimization

It’s not about if disruption will occur, it’s about when. The past few years have shown companies that waiting for problems to happen and bracing for impact isn’t going to cut it. Proactively preparing for risks is the only way businesses can build the resiliency needed to take their supply chain strategies to the next level.

Geoff Olsen, Leader of Supply Chain Transformation at Catena Solutions

Takeaway 2: Talent shortages are still impacting supply chains

Supply chain talent shortages have been plaguing companies for years, and the challenges are showing no signs of easing up. In fact, 78% of CEOs say talent scarcity is reaching crisis level.

Leadership is greatly impacting organizations struggling with the talent shortage: Gartner found one-third of companies claim to lack executives who have the necessary skills to engage needed talent.

As new generations in the workforce change the landscape, leaders are left trying to figure out how to build and lead strong teams. The good news is companies are committed to figuring out this issue, as investments in people and culture initiatives are at the highest rates in the past 10 years.

Additionally, increasing overall company productivity, outsourcing non-value-adding activities, and offering employees flexibility, purpose, and growth opportunities helps attract and retain key talent.

Companies are no stranger to talent issues, and it’s clear the problem is persisting. Luckily, many organizations have found that adopting a people-first mindset and focusing on meaningful work and growth helps attract and retain the best talent.

Jennifer D’Angelo, Vice President at Catena Solutions

Takeaway 3: Transformation is easier said than done

Most companies are planning large-scale transformations, but many of these initiatives will fail.

Two major factors are to blame: employee resistance and failure to focus on integration.

Research shows employees are less willing to support enterprise change. According to Gartner, the percentage of employees who would change to support company initiatives dropped from 74% in 2016 to 38% in 2022.

The key to fix this? Investing more resources in change management and integration to make transformation easier for employees. A key message from the conference was most organizations need to double their change management budgets to see transformation success.

As for the types of transformations supply chain organizations are undertaking right now, customer enablement and innovation are coming out on top. Rather than only being responsible for making and delivering products, supply chains have evolved to be major drivers of revenue through commercial innovation and delivering personalized, purpose-driven products and services.   

Read: Supply Chain Trends & Insights Report: Transformation

The days of the traditional supply chain are gone. Supply chains now play a front-and-center role in organizational success through product innovation and customer enablement. However, transforming to support these initiatives is not an easy feat, and many companies may need outside expertise to effectively complete them.

Liz Bright, Client Engagement Director at Catena Solutions

Takeaway 4: Automation and technology should enable employees

Another big question on the minds of business leaders: How do you leverage technology to drive productivity?

Worker productivity is declining. Data shows employee productivity has been trending downward for around a decade.

This is where technology comes in. Organizations are using supply chain technology, especially AI and machine learning, to drive their decisions and compile and organize data. The potential for tech to enhance and empower—not replace—the workforce is huge.

The right digital investments boost collaboration, visibility, and cultivate new commercial opportunities. Automation in particular can be used to free up employee time for more valuable activities.

Additionally, 56% of CEOs believe information overload is near crisis level and that digital technology should be used to help employees manage the vast amount of information they encounter daily.

Read: Supply Chain Trends & Insights Report: Innovation

Many workers are concerned about being replaced by technology, but that’s not what’s happening. Instead, companies are prioritizing digital investments that enable employees to do more efficient and valuable work. It’s all about finding the right balance between people and technology in order to maximize productivity.

Geoff Olsen, Leader of Supply Chain Transformation at Catena Solutions

Takeaway 5: Sustainability is essential for a competitive advantage

Sustainability continues to be a top priority for companies.

Compared to 2022, the importance of environmental sustainability for CEOs has increased by 11% for 2023.

Though it’s a priority for organizations, most are still struggling to reach their ESG/sustainability goals. Gartner reports that promoting a circular economy is important to 75% of organizations, but only 19% believe they have sufficient capabilities to support circularity.

Additionally, by 2026, 80% of global enterprises with net-zero goals will have to restate their milestones due to stakeholder scrutiny. Other research shows by 2025, 74% of supply chain leaders expect the circular economy to increase profits, so companies should get on board with sustainability sooner rather than later.

How can companies jump start their sustainability initiatives? Supply chain leaders recommend supporting suppliers through change and adapting core capabilities and infrastructure to enable better end-to-end processes and make adoption easier.

Read: Improving Supply Chain Sustainability: 5 Ways to Get Started

It’s clear ESG and sustainability goals are no longer ‘nice to haves’ for companies. Research has shown supply chains are major contributors to organizations’ environmental impact, and business leaders need to create actionable plans for sustainable supply chain transformation. At Catena Solutions, we’re seeing more and more companies integrate sustainability and ESG initiatives into their plans.

Geoff Coltman, Vice President at Catena Solutions

Facing challenges relating to these takeaways? We can help.

Catena Solutions specializes in supporting supply chain organizations with their business initiatives including digital, financial, human capital, and supply chain transformations. We do so by meeting you where you and your company are in your journey, whether that’s needing consulting resources for knowledge gaps or interim support for business continuance.

Contact us to learn more.

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