IT Teams – Can We Talk?

IT Teams – Can We Talk?

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Dear IT Teams,

It’s me, Bill – the Supply Chain Analyst. Can we talk? 

I know that we used to drive each other crazy – but we’ve both changed for the better, and I think we can make things work. Hear me out.

I used to kinda stink at my job (and I didn’t even know it). I was pretty good with Excel. I knew all the formulas and I could even write my own VBA, and I thought that was enough. Looking back, it seems like we were running our entire supply chain – planning, distribution and logistics, order management…all of it – from Excel. Not great in retrospect.

And if I’m being honest, you weren’t always the best to work with. You had a real command-and-control approach to technology: We’d ask you for something and you’d gather a bunch of requirements just to disappear for 6 months and come back with something that usually missed the mark.

Remember that huge business intelligence initiative we did? We were going to modernize our whole reporting infrastructure into a one-stop shop for all our supply chain analytical needs. You came to me with big promises.

But when it came time to gather requirements, I was vague. I had no idea how to tell you what I needed, and you didn’t know the business well enough to understand me. In the end (18 months late and way over budget), you left me with the same stuff I had before, in a slightly prettier package.

This doesn’t have to happen anymore. Your approach is changing, it’s less about command-and-control and more about enablement – empowering operators with a flexible stack and all the tools we need to solve our problems on our own.

I’m changing, too. I’m using low-code/no-code tools – as a citizen developer – with loads of benefits:

  • I’ve saved a ton of time and money (without having to bug you much). Literally thousands of hours, millions of dollars.
  • I’m more data literate. I’ve been building my own data pipelines, working with relational databases and creating my own data models.
  • Because I’m more data literate, my communication with you is becoming more effective. I don’t give you vague requirements anymore – I talk in terms of selection criteria, filter criteria and modeling steps.
  • And that huge backlog of yours – I can help alleviate it. There aren’t enough of you to go around, so you rightfully prioritize the big stuff – and there are lots of smaller things that I know you’ll never get to. We can take care of that stuff ourselves now.

Here are some examples of what my team and I have been able to do with little to no help from you:

  • We automated our product allocation process, a highly manual process that in my 11+ years here you never wanted to touch. We were able to save over 40 hours per week (not to mention the huge morale boost for our allocation team).
  • We built out a data model and a suite of analytics to support our promotional planning process. It routinely identifies millions of dollars worth of planning errors. But the need for this was specific to our market, so it was never going to make it to the top of your backlog.
  • We built functional prototypes of data models that supported our demand planning and claims teams. In fact, they’re serving as inspiration for your product teams to build global solutions.

You might be skeptical. You’re worried about governance and best practices. I get it. But that’s no reason to tell us not to use low-code/no-code tools – it’s a reason for you to help us learn these practices. You’ve developed them over decades – we won’t get it overnight, but with your support, we’ll get there.

Coming from a supply chain and logistics background, a lot of these practices are actually pretty intuitive for me. We’re all about processes and efficiency. And your best practices are largely in place to ensure stable and efficient development, deployment and maintenance processes:

The point is, teaching us these practices won’t be as hard as you may think. So, IT folks – here’s what we need to really make things work between us:

  • Enablement: Make sure the tech stack includes a full suite of citizen development tools – like no-code ETL, app building, RPA, orchestration, BI tools…and when you’re ready, a dash of GenAI. Stuff that we non-tech teams can use on our own.
  • Governance: Left to my own devices, I’d make a big mess of the platform. App registration and monitoring, documentation requirements and security guidelines are a few of the big things we’ll need to be able to do this at scale.
  • User Community: Hosted by the platform owner and with the help of superusers like me, together we can help onboard new users properly, ensuring that they adhere to governance standards.
  • Development Best Practices: Help me and others like me learn about your basic development principles and best practices so that we don’t have to figure them out the hard way ourselves.

I realize this might make you feel a little uncomfortable, even with the governance in place. But, with the right tools and empowerment, the benefits are huge and the risks can be managed – we just have to work together to make it happen.

Hoping you’re ready to come along on the journey with me!

Your Friend,
Bill Shube

Sr. Manager, Supply Chain Operations Technology at a Big Toy Manufacturer and Founder at Supply Chain Watchtower

*Note: I’m writing this on my own behalf in collaboration with Parabola. These views are my own and not representative of my current employer.

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