Using Tech to Future-Proof the World’s Supply Chains

Feb 2, 2021 | General Business

How cloud software, automation, and other advanced technologies can help create more stable, predictable supply chains for 2021 and beyond.

For most companies, supply disruption was a key concern in 2020. Around the world, organizations found it difficult to sense demand, forecast material needs, and keep up with ever-changing customer demands.

Operating with supply chain networks put in place years or even decades ago, these companies suddenly found themselves in unfamiliar territory as suppliers extended lead times, existing stock was used up, and customers’ “panic buying” tendencies ebbed and flowed throughout the year.

For companies that already had cloud software, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and other advanced tools in place, the situation was somewhat easier to manage.

For example, companies with established cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms were able to more quickly shift over to remote work, while educational institutions with existing laptop/device programs and online learning platforms in place were able to pivot to web-based teaching.

These are just two examples of how organizations can use cloud software, automation, and other advanced technologies to adapt in this “new normal” operating environment, which at least for now appears to be here to stay.

A Worldwide Need

The need for robust, modern technology isn’t limited to U.S. companies, nor does it only apply to specific industries. In other words, the pandemic has been fairly non-discriminatory when it comes to inflicting its impacts. And while certain industries (e.g., hospitality, tourism, travel) have borne much of the impact on the business front, few industries would argue the value of shoring up supply chains now to prepare for the next potential disruption.

“As we move forward, every organization and every industry will increasingly need to ramp up tech intensity in order to reimagine their businesses,” India’s tech news site Gadgets Now states. “Flexibility and future-proof strategies for seamless communication and workforce productivity are a must; and having an always-on cloud-driven data platform will be fundamental.”

Pointing to the need for “tech intensity” as a definitive trend right now, the publication points to speed, agility, and collaboration as three must-haves for all companies. “The pandemic has taught us that no business is 100% resilient,” it adds, noting that cloud is already at the heart of accelerating digital transformation and innovation, and that the pandemic accelerated the move to hybrid cloud further.

“As businesses shift priorities to enable remote work, leverage cloud innovation, and maximize their existing on-premises investments, an effective multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid approach will be more important than ever,” Gadgets Now explains. “It provides organizations the much-required agility, scalability, and efficiency while enabling them to stay compliant as they rebuild their businesses.”

Supporting Good Business Continuity

Calling the cloud “non-negotiable for business continuity in the COVID-19 era,” PwC’s Paul Gaynor says that cloud-supported “remote work” technologies during COVID shifted to the principal way that work is performed, children are taught, and people stay in touch with loved ones. 

“We can expect this rise to continue,” Gaynor writes in Cloud Tech: The Make or Break in Today’s Business Resiliency. He says that nearly half of executives believe investments in digital transformations (cloud included) will grow in 2021 and that 52% of North American enterprise infrastructure decision-makers believe that adopting public cloud is either a “high” or “critical” future business priority.

To companies that want to use cloud to build their business continuity strategies, Gaynor recommends identifying how cloud can boost business transformation, always keeping cybersecurity top of mind, and engineering a resilient cloud foundation.

“To build an elastic and resilient cloud foundation, leaders must consider the key tools they’ll need, like a modern cloud ERP solution,” Gaynor adds. “Once they have selected and rolled out an appropriate ERP, organizations can further leverage the cloud.

A Quick Push to the Cloud

Citing IDC’s 2021 FutureScape report, Business2Community predicts that by the end of 2021, 80% of enterprises will shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as they did pre-COVID.

While cloud undeniably offers the flexibility that on-premises software delivery options can’t match, Business2Community says organizations also need flexibility in how they consume cloud services. “For example, by adopting cloud-native apps, businesses gain flexibility as well as scalability,” it explains. “That’s due to the ability to deploy microservices via containers that can be dynamically provisioned based on user demand.”

In Can Cloud Revolutionize Business and Software Architecture?, InformationWeek discusses how cloud offers companies more elasticity and the capacity to make faster changes. For example, cloud can help organizations scale up or down as needed and better react to customer engagement, supply chain shifts, and other demands that have risen to the surface during the pandemic.

As the business environment continues to evolve, and as companies look for new ways to improve their resiliency in the face of disruption, expect to see more of them turning to the cloud, automation, and other advanced technologies for help. Whether it’s a global pandemic, geopolitical turmoil, or a weather event, the next supply disruption will always be lurking around the next corner.

Will your company be ready for it when it comes?

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