Digital Supply Chains: Part Eight – Getting Started


Many businesses see the vision of a 100% digital supply chain as a ‘bridge too far.’ Thankfully, there are ways to start small, making a modest improvement to a single step of a single process and then growing from there. By starting small, results are seen quickly, investment and risks are minimized, and success can be built upon quickly.


( This article is excerpted from the complimentary report:
Getting Real with Workflow-Enabled Digital Supply Chains
, available for download here. )

This article concludes our series on digital supply chains by describing how to tackle change management and a few tips on getting started.

Getting Started and Driving Adoption

Minimum Viable Process Change

An agile approach is the opposite of a ‘big bang’ ‘boil the ocean’ approach. It is good to have a grand vision, but start small. Just as agile software engineers seek to put out a Minimum Viable Product quickly, digital supply chain visionaries can start with a ‘Minimum Viable Process Change.’ In practice, this means not necessarily starting with the largest ROI, but rather where there are the highest chances of rapid success. It is important to take a fresh look at processes and imagine what is possible, but then take it in small steps.

Change Management — Turning Resistance into Enthusiasm

Unless the people using the system buy in, it’s not going to work. How do we take people that have been doing something one way manually for decades and help them embrace new technology? Most people and organizations struggle when too many dimensions of changes are introduced simultaneously. Often the best first step is to take some portion of a painful, or error prone, or time-consuming process and put that on a workflow platform, without trying to change the process too much. Once people see how that is improving their lives, then they will be willing to take steps to bigger and bolder process improvements.

Some implementations stumble when a workflow is implemented that adds data entry work for the line workers, simply for the sake of giving visibility for managers and executives. It is critical to look for ways to make it win-win for the frontline workers using the system as well, saving them time and reducing their data entry burden, while at the same time providing the data for dashboard visibility for managers to gauge performance improvement progress and spot opportunities. That is why it is critical to talk through these changes with the people actually doing the work, try it out with them in a prototyping approach, and get them to become the champions of the system. It’s change management 101, but is so important.

Beginning the Journey Now

The great thing about Nintex, we can design and customize it to meet the needs of the business – we don’t have to tell them to do it this way or that way. Then once they have adopted, we can make more efficiencies and improvements. Other systems force people to change the way they do things.

Anthony Gouder, Digital Transformation Team Lead, Hawkes Bay Regional Council

The good news about using a workflow platform to drive digital supply chain initiatives is that you can start small, with low risk and low capital investment. Here are some ideas on how to get started:

  • Identify one or two pain points amenable to improvement via digitization and automation. Look for processes or tasks that:
    • are highly repetitive and time-consuming, wasting hours of your skilled people’s time;
    • have redundant data entry where time is wasted and errors are introduced;
    • where too much time is spent on following-up, checking status, and chasing people down;
    • where things slip through the crack or the process drags on way too long;
    • where there are compliance and auditability requirements;
    • where compressing time-to-completion will be highly valuable;
    • where visibility into the process is sorely needed.
  • Start simple — identify the Minimum Viable Process Change (MVPC) that you can implement first.
  • Select a workflow platform meeting the agility criteria outlined above.
  • Start with a monthly subscription to lower risk.
  • Work closely with the end users throughout these steps. If possible, find an end user who can author and maintain the workflow.
  • Implement your first MVPC and test it with a few friendly users. When ready, roll it out more broadly.
  • Spread the word and build on that success, in incremental pieces.

Once you’ve gotten a few of these done and people are clamoring for more, you may get executives’ attention and be able to define a more holistic digital supply chain strategy and roadmap, with resources to push it forward. There is no reason to wait, and plenty of reasons to start now rather than delay. Any business that is looking to survive and thrive in this fast-changing world should consider starting workflow-based digital supply chain transformation now.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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