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Digital Supply Chain Tools That Cut Costs, Delight Customers, And Boost Revenue

photo credit: Associated Press

Over the next three years, the companies that are winners or losers in their markets will be determined by how well they DAAAB.

DAAAB?

That is what I call the collection of powerful new technology and management tools reshaping global supply chains. DAAAB stands for Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms, Analytics—all the essential elements for a digital transformation that will ultimately produce Business Results.

DAAAB represents some of the most exciting tools in business today because they help companies create new opportunities for visibility and agility. Companies can use DAAAB to tightly link their supply chain operations to their customers—and their suppliers, and their supplier’s supplier, as well as their customer’s customer. DAAAB is all about the data, but it is the combination of technology and management skills that companies need to master to harness the tremendous power of data to improve business operations.

Here are some straightforward definitions of the key elements of DAAAB:

  • Deep learning is the software that figures out relationships (based on neural networks).
  • AI (Artificial Intelligence) applies business rules to problems and gets smarter and better every day.
  • Analytics is about figuring out what the data means and how one data point influences another.
  • Algorithms are sets of rules or formulas that drive business operations.
  • Business results are hard-number improvements in revenue, cost, and customer happiness.

Look at today’s dominant digital natives. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook sit at the top of their markets and are making a fortune deploying DAAAB to create huge shareholder value.

Yet few businesses are actively managing DAAAB. They have only begun to experiment with Deep Learning. Every business leader (well, maybe not everyone) is talking about AI and Analytics. Executives are using the term algorithm, but do they have a process for developing and deploying them? That’s doubtful. Few companies have truly implemented a solution using these technologies and improved the results of their business. Many have hired data scientists, upgraded their computers and networks and committed to making more data-based decisions. Some companies are making tangible progress, but most are conducting more limited or controlled experiments.

How can you and your company use DAAAB to get results?

I had a chance to spend some time with Wes Nichols at our recent Executive Leadership Forum in Santiago. Wes is co-founder and CEO of MarketShare, the world’s largest analytics software solution for CMOs. Wes has worked with many of the largest companies to adopt data-driven decision-making, analytics and AI solutions as a serial entrepreneur turned independent board director and investor. He understands all the elements of DAAAB and has helped companies improve their business. Wes told me: “I have been working with companies on DAAAB-related deployments around the world, and virtually all companies are underestimating the power of the data they have in-house, while at the same time overestimating the quality of their home-grown analytics and algorithms.”

I bet that your company has valuable data that is not fully exploited and that you need new data that you don’t currently have. And I’ll wager that you are not actively managing or using DAAAB. Here are a few tips on how to get better, quickly:

  1. Clean the data that you currently collect and obtain the new data that you need either through trading for it or using sensors/other data collection methods.
  2. Use AI to help collect, clean, and analyze the data.
  3. Set up a cross-functional team to develop algorithms that better link the customer to supply chain operations, as well as use analytics to improve your demand chain operations (sales, marketing, promotions, etc.)
  4. Set targets for revenue growth and cost reduction and build them into performance plans

Now is the right time to ramp up DAAAB. You will beat your competitors by ensuring your supply chain is firmly tied to customer desires. You will likely need new people resources that are deep into data science and others that have market-facing experience. And don’t underestimate the degree of culture change needed to make this happen. Traditional managers often rely on gut feel and not on the insight provided by DAAAB. Change won’t come quickly. So, don’t wait to get started using DAAAB.

Now some of you may be familiar with another “Dab,” the dance move that became a global sensation thanks to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton who celebrated his team’s “victory” by doing the Dab after each touchdown. That’s how the dance move came to be associated with victory.

I don’t expect we’ll see videos of CEOs doing the “Dab” like Cam (or the French footballer Paul Pogba), but business leaders that embrace DAAAB will celebrate their victory.