Outside-in processes are key: An interview with Lora Cecere of Supply Chain Insights

The next big thing in supply chain will come from outside-in processes based upon demand insights; the ability to test and learn and to adapt processes. We've got to take supply chains across the commercial teams of sales and marketing and not be marketing or sales driven, but be customer or market driven.

I spoke with Lora Cecere, Founder, Supply Chain Insights, who presented at Xcelerate Retail Forum in Paris 2017.

You’ve been advising companies on supply chain topics for many years. What should be top of mind for retail supply chain professionals reading this interview?

Lora Cecere

As I think about the Xcelerate conference, five themes come to mind. One is that we’re drowning in data and low on insight, so how can we use new forms of analytics and technologies to drive outside-in processes based on data and insights?

The second is that with the move to cross-channel and click and ship we need to be much better at managing the “each.” Traditional supply chain processes were designed around the “case,” but our go to market strategies today need to involve the each. This gets into a lot more work at the store, a lot more work as we deal with replenishment of the each and click and ship of the each, and the management of stores with click and ship capabilities.

Third, most products today, with the shift to fresh, have a need for better open code dating. We don’t really manage products with short life cycles very well and have moved towards more fresh products with open code dates or expire by dates. There is a need to have that kind of coding on the packages and to be able to track and trace those packages through the supply chain.

The fourth is that we’ve traditionally grown up with a concept which I’m going to call ‘efficient silos.’ So, we believe that we could implement ERP and could make efficient silos that would create effective supply chains, but that hasn’t happened. We’ve put in Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) for procurement, or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for customer management, but what we find is that we make the silos stronger. This hasn’t improved the ability for the silos to work together within the organization and so we’re thinking about outside-in processes and cross-functional alignment. We’ve really got to focus on revenue management, our go-to- market strategies and cross-functional work with suppliers.

Finally, is the change in the world of analytics and thinking about what we can do in memory, with open source code and streaming data architectures. Data used to not be able to fly first class — today it can fly in real-time! So, we need to rethink supply chain processes to be able to use new forms of data. That’s what’s on my mind as I come to the conference. Those are some of the things I’ll be talking about.

When you mention the “each,” we talk a lot about personalization and getting to you know your customer on a one-to-one level, really showing the customer that you know who they are. Is the “each” related to that?

It can be. So, if I’m a manufacturer like Procter and Gamble, for example, and I’m shipping e-commerce, I’m going to ship a bottle of Tide as a single unit, whether it’s monogrammed or not. Likewise, if I’m in apparel and I can have monogrammed or customized wearing apparel then that’s personalized. So, it can but doesn’t have to be.

What do you think the next big thing in supply chain will be or where will it come from?

I think it comes from outside-in processes based upon demand insights; the ability to test and learn and to adapt processes. We’ve got to take supply chains across the commercial teams of sales and marketing and not be marketing or sales driven, but be customer or market driven. That requires the building of outside-in processes based upon demand insights, and a sharp break with traditional processes.

As you’ll be speaking at the Xcelerate Retail Forum in Paris, beyond the fine dining and the wonderful environment of Paris, what are you looking for most in terms of the Forum itself?

Well, I’m looking forward to talking to people that are working on new business models and can work together to drive some of these capabilities in the Symphony GOLD footprint. I think Symphony GOLD has some unique capabilities in the fresh and click and collect area and I’m interested to see how people respond to those.

Can you give us a little sneak peek into what you might talk about at Xcelerate?

Yes, so I’m going to talk about trends and demand insights, what it means to be market-driven, and to drive business processes “outside in.”

Tell us something that might surprise our readers about yourself

So, I’m passionate about supply chain, but I’m just as passionate about my two grandchildren!  I have a quilt on my counter that I’m working on for my granddaughter, and I’m stretching this morning because I took ballet last night. I take ballet four and five times a week when I’m in town and I was dancing en pointe and my ankles don’t like me very much this morning. At 63, it is becoming pretty hard on my body. I try and stay active through ballet, swimming and working out, and I’m fighting the hard fight against old age, but sometimes I think it’s fighting back even harder!

Learn more about Xcelerate Retail Forum.

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