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Supply Chains, Cybersecurity, and Digital Transformation

Anymore, it’s pretty difficult to avoid headlines announcing that 2021 will be a year of increasing cybersecurity attacks on IoT, cloud, blockchain, cryptocurrency (Hackwatch.com) and increasing cyber attacks on remote workplaces (cgnet.com). Include 2020 cybercrime cost estimates of $2 trillion dollars cost (thebestvpn) and you can begin to wonder if digital is really such a great thing after all.

The catch, you are part of the team, perhaps the leader, chosen to digitally transform your company supply chains and deliver results and neither cybercrime nor denial of service attacks are desired results.

Ouch

Add your new role the uncertainty around new and old tech digital safety, all the changes taking place in supply chain, economies, and business, and a bit of hesitation isn’t such a bad thing.

Unless it means you never stop hesitating.

Things aren’t as bad as they look at first glance. You have more tools, techniques, and mastery than you think you have. Those tools, techniques, and mastery are what is needed right now. What is that masterful experience?

Risk analysis, mitigation, and management

Long staples of supply chain management, the skills to evaluate, adjust, monitor, and manage risk are exactly what is needed before you spend any money on technology.

Throughout my career, I’ve witnessed highly competent people jump right into a project with “just get things done (we’ll plan later)” only to find they are quickly surrounded by icebergs. Icebergs that could have been avoided if just a bit more preparation had been performed to orient the tactical activity that must be completed to get results.

Tactical activity that can cost a lot, but deliver little, if the correct planning and risk analysis isn’t performed first.

In the past three articles, I discussed the need to understand who it is you want to serve how, and then align strategy using a hierarchy of metrics and carefully chosen KPIs – all of which mold your process innovation. ( read calmly beating the pack vs struggling to overcome fearthe real cost of new technologies, and eliminating doubt). Following the articles’ steps helps you make great strides in creating the alignment and universal understanding you require.

Here’s the thing: alignment and understanding are just the first step.

Now is when your risk management mastery kicks in.

The often-missed step in supply chain transformation work

Typically, a highly qualified team is gathered, existing data is analyzed, tools are used, and conclusions drawn concerning the highest most critical risks, where they may occur, and why.

Truth is, at this point in transformation work, all that great risk effort is premature.

You forgot a step.

Miss this step and your digital transformation efforts will fight you all the way to the Go Live date and beyond.

Here’s what you’re missing…

…talk to people

What?

You may point to schedules and troves of data and budgets and time limited access to team members, and… None of that will matter if you don’t uncover the hidden risks that are found only through conversation with those who know and use and interface and have to deal with results of the systems and processes affected by your digital transformation work.

Even though you want these conversations to be, well, conversational, you still have to plan and understand what you want to gain from them. Communicating will not be a freewheeling, stream of consciousness only chat. You structure your conversations to open time for the expert/user/integrator/service agent/field service tech/manager you are talking with to:

  • think through various scenarios you direct them to
  • look at past problems and potential solutions from a different point of view, and
  • work with you to uncover deeply hidden secrets you must know for digital transformation to have a chance of succeeding.

How do you do this?

Start with a set of questions based on the person’s functional area, career level, and expertise. Use the 5 Why’s to dig into quickly stated replies in order to extract the gold – the root cause of an age-old problem. Listen to the current difficulties interfacing with the supply chains to be transformed. Seek to understand the hesitancy surrounding proposed supply chain changes. Be open to criticism of processes and activities that inhibit the person’s, and the area’s, ability to produce great results. In short, use what is called active listening.

I’ve got the data, now what?

Pull out recurring themes, common areas of complaint, hitherto unknown problems that your supply chain processes and method of performance is inadvertently causing other groups or functional areas.

This is what you bring into your risk management work.

Even if you think your gathered experts will already know about what you are finding, remember, they probably don’t. While known problems are issues, there are risks surrounding those issues and why they are issues in the first place that need to be understood.

Why?

Because expertise is based on problems solved in the past, viewpoints analyzed before, and incidences read or learned about. Some people may be able to make inferences based on abstract thought, but not all.

Besides, your company is always more subtly complex than you realize. While initial problems may look the same, the way risk manifests in different areas is different. Known problems often have unknown consequences. Unknown until you bring them to light by talking with someone who has to deal with unintended consequences.

Why haven’t you heard about these unintended consequences before now?

…it may be that heads are down doing work and there is simply no time to sit and work through issues

…it may be that functional areas have no idea where the root cause of the problem is buried, which means you don’t get to analyze that issue because there is no request for help

…it may be that the issue exists, but no one knows it because the results are not seen. Nor is magnification of the issue throughout company systems understood.

So many reasons for risks to become unsolved issues. So little time to solve the issues. So little time required to hold meaningful conversations ahead of time.

The biggest risk

Truth is, there is an even bigger risk than we’ve talked about that will raise its head if you don’t hold those conversations.

That risk is sabotage.

If you don’t decide stakeholders in this digital transformation project need to be talked to up front, you run the risk of them not supporting your efforts.

The consequences of bypassing stakeholders may become evident when new processes or tools (instead making our own spreadsheets) are not used, or when executives are told a specific area is unique and the desired change will not support the results the area is responsible for producing.

Better if you ask for insights first. Bring people on board as internal consultants you can run concepts and suggestions by. Get them to expose obscure requirements that, if learned too late, sink transformation projects.

Only through conversation can you uncover the truly meaningful risks – the ones so big no one sees them anymore. The ones that can easily squash your work.

The payoff

Yes, you will uncover unknown risks and gain insight on integrations and systems that have been delegated to tribal knowledge and not documented.

Here’s the thing, you’ll also be able to categorize all of this into your performance mix (see the first three articles above). You’ll get into and out of your pilot effort much more cleanly. Your supply chain – business performance mix was developed to match your strategic plan. Aligning your risk mitigation planning with that strategic plan means less error, more confidence from stakeholders, increased respect from those who expect results, and avoidance of deeply hidden problems (corporate icebergs).

With a cleaner pilot:

These bullet points are worth a few conversations any day.


To learn more about structure in supply chain risk mitigation and management, click here.

Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky has been automating supply chains and operations her entire career and now helps companies with digital transformation. Click to learn more

Keywords and concepts: supply chain, risk management, performance mix, results, SCOR


Photo credit: Simon Berger / Unsplash

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