Lora works with supply chain leaders to take teams to higher levels of excellence. Lora has over 35 years of supply chain experience. She was an industry analyst at Gartner Group, AMR Research, and Altimeter Group. Prior to that, she spent 15 years building supply chain software at Manugistics and Descartes Systems Group and 20 years as a supply chain practitioner at P&G, Kraft General Foods, Clorox, and Dryers, now a division of Nestle. Laura is also the author of two books on supply chain management: Supply chain Metrics that Matter and also Bricks Matter.
What follows are some takeaways from the conversation. You can watch the complete interview here.
Blaine: Tell us a bit more about Supply Chain Insights. What does this organization do?
Lora: We’re a research firm. We triangulate to market on new technologies. We help business leaders to basically understand where technology is headed. You and I both worked for Gartner, Gartner focuses more on IT. I help line of business leaders. I also do quantitative research studies. I use my LinkedIn panel of 280/2000 followers around the world to do quantitative research.
I do qualitative research projects for business users that are interested and I coordinate some chair groups to help people understand next-generation technologies. We have one on network of networks which is blockchain and cognitive computing and one on the redefinition of demand planning which is looking at cognitive computing and how we can change demand processes.
Blaine: As I was looking through your history, you’ve published a lot of content, written two books. You write of some really interesting blog postings. One of your books is called “Bricks matter“.
Do they matter any more or have things become so virtualized now? Why do bricks matter?
Lora: Well, the supply chain is all about atoms. E-commerce has been all about electrons. We have to have physical goods to sell even though we’re morphing into services. 3D printing allows us to change some of the atoms in the supply chain. Assets will drive atoms: the making, manufacturing, and the distribution.
So, bricks do matter; where we put our bricks, how we use our bricks, what our brick strategies are, they matter.
Blaine: you brought up IT-led organizations and I guess it does bring up the perennial question of supply chain leaders tend to be more akin to the OT side of the organization. But then, there’s always should digital transformation be led by IT or OT. What’s your thought on this question of IT-led organizations versus business-led and who’s fundamentally responsible for driving this?
Lora: I think it’s business led. I think IT is very much trying to keep existing systems afloat. I think that IT-led transformation can’t stick. I wrote an article about that, and I strongly believe that it needs to be business led.
Blaine: Now, does that mean the supply chain management organization should be spinning up their internal IT group, their OT group in trying to go around IT (which I think happens fairly often), or should they be trying to work with IT?
Lora: They need to be working with them. It’s very much about putting them on a scuba team or putting them on a sprint. It’s very much about businesses led. It really needs to be led by business leadership.
Blaine: What do you think are the two or three biggest technical drivers of change in supply chain these days? What are you seeing as some of the biggest things that could be really pushing change across supply chains over the next five years?
Lora: I think we’re at an inflection point where we will redesign supply chain planning, and ERP types of investments will become legacy as we focus on the redefinition of the autonomous supply chain. So, I think that we’ve got a lot of fun stuff getting ready to happen.
Blaine: Tell me a little bit more about the autonomous supply chain. What does that mean?
Lora: It’s a supply chain that senses, learns, and acts. So, it’s a layer of semantic reasoning. It’s got an ontology. We no longer have single ifs or single thens for rules. We can have learning rules and we can basically evolve, be much more agile.