How Project Managers Can UnlockVisibility In The Supply Chain

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PM Articles by Project Times. 

Supply chains are an essential component of modern businesses. Every industry depends on them to ensure goods are delivered on time and in perfect conditions. The slightest disruption can throw processes awry and create immense losses for stakeholders.

Visibility into supply chain processes helps minimize errors thanks to end-to-end connectivity. When speaking of visibility implementation, most discussions center around IoT devices and the need for front-end processes to tie together.

However, visibility into supply chain logistics also depends heavily on back-end processes tying together. Project managers have immense input in process design and must ensure that infrastructure doesn’t turn into a roadblock to visibility.

Here are a few key ways supply chain project managers can ensure they meet their organization’s broader visibility goals.

Define Project Scope

Visibility depends on various systems talking to each other. For instance, a manufacturing unit communicates condition-related data to its logistics partner’s systems. This overlap often causes issues on the back-end, especially when enhancing infrastructure.

New projects can potentially get lost in a maze of scope creep if project managers neglect to define boundaries appropriately. Continuing the previous example, if a project manager in charge of upgrading logistics systems strays too much into the manufacturing unit’s data structure and job scheduling, they’re likely to take on too much work.

Managers must define the scope thoroughly during the project planning phase. More importantly, they must seek buy-in from project stakeholders to avoid miscommunication down the road. A good way to receive buy-in is to spell out requirements as clearly as possible. This way, PMs can prevent confusion and also transparently communicate project goals.

Standardize Communication

When multiple systems and teams talk to each other, the communication typically suffers. Each team uses different standards and modes of conveying information, and this leads to confusion in the back-end of supply chain systems.

Project managers can mitigate this problem by standardizing and simplifying communication standards. For instance, if a data issue from an upstream partner is creating testing issues on their system, PMs can create communication and report templates that their teams can use.

These templates can also be shared with upstream and downstream partners to simplify communication. It’s best to implement these templates during the dev and testing phases. By doing this, any production issues will be dealt with swiftly.

PMs will have to deal with some pushback from their project partners since everyone will likely prefer different templates. Collaboration, then, is the key to unlocking visibility in the supply chain. So always focus on collaborating to create the best back-end system that supports business aims.

Create Knowledge Repositories

Implementing visibility requires teams from every area of the supply chain to come together and integrate their systems. Project releases typically follow an iterative or CD release process. In the rush to release upgrades and constantly improve the product, critical development information tends to get lost.

If a project team is localized, this isn’t necessarily an issue. After all, there will always be informed personnel around to explain key decisions and historic choices. However, supply chain projects do not work like that. Often spanning the globe, they’re vast and involve teams that might never see each other face-to-face.

Standardized communication, as previously highlighted, goes a long way towards ensuring visibility-enhancing projects proceed smoothly. However, PMs must create knowledge repositories and archives to help external teams understand their systems and data structures.

For instance, if an upgrade involves scheduling an ETL process from an external source, the PM and dev team must familiarize themselves with the upstream system’s data formats and models. Without a repository or knowledge base, the team will rely on inefficient emails and meetings where nothing gets solved.

A repository will allow them to quickly determine which data sets they need, the formats they need them in, and communicate this to the upstream team. Thus, iterative releases become simpler, and front-end visibility doesn’t suffer.

Prepare Data Appropriately

A project’s success and progress are measured by the business impact it creates. In an interconnected series of projects, measuring success can turn into an issue if PMs neglect measuring success with the right metrics. Often, data from external sources are necessary to measure success.

For instance, a logistics PM will have to take condition-related data from the manufacturer and downstream partner into account and isolate them from their datasets. Only once this separation has been achieved can they create reports measuring delivery success.

Every stakeholder in the supply chain runs analytics these days, and cleaning data is an essential task. PMs must verify their ETL processes for data integrity and make sure any changes they make are communicated to downstream entities.

Downstream changes often rear their head when upgrading from legacy to modern systems. In such instances, it’s best to refer to knowledge repositories and communicate changes to all stakeholders. Standardizing data models and database design principles is also a good way of ensuring data integrity is maintained across multiple systems.

Back-End Processes Essential For Visibility

While front-end technology receives the bulk of the attention when speaking of visibility, backend processes are just as important. PMs play a significant role when determining process design. These 4 tips will help them create robust processes that ensure visibility is implemented and maintained throughout the supply chain.