How to Drive Adoption of New Supply Chain Planning Technologies

Despite extensive technology investments, digital transformation plans for many supply chain planning (SCP) leaders are lagging due to lack of adoption of new tools among their teams.

We spoke with Ingrid Gonzalez McCarthy, Senior Director Analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, to discuss how SCP leaders can better drive adoption of technologies among their teams at a time when SCP tools are offering potentially transformative benefits through the use of advanced AI, machine learning, and digital twin technologies, among others.

Gartner experts will be discussing this issue at the Gartner Supply Chain Planning Summit in London, U.K. on October 30-31.

Members of the media who would like to speak with Ingrid in more detail on this topic, or register for the Gartner Supply Chain Planning Summit, can contact Justin Lavelle to schedule an interview.

Q: Why is there resistance to adopt new tools among supply chain planning professionals?

A: The primary reason is one of perception. Planners resist because they are not convinced that the new tool is reliable and presents a risk to their ability to do their jobs effectively. This presents a problem for leaders who tend to lead with the benefits of the tool; these benefits will not break through to their teams if the planners do not trust that the tool will function as intended.

There are many potential causes for this mistrust. Planners may be unclear about the data sources or may find the data that feeds into the tool to be limited or otherwise have shortcomings. Planners may also test the tool and find discrepancies between its output and those of the legacy tools they are comfortable using, such as spreadsheets. These discrepancies can erode confidence in the reliability of the output of the new tool they are being asked to use.

Q: How important is user-friendliness and a lack of complexity when introducing a new SCP tool?

A: Planning leaders have typically prioritized user-friendliness and simplicity as key criteria for introducing new tools to their teams. In our discussions with the planners themselves, however, we find that they do not mind using a complex tool.

If the tool can achieve the level of data granularity and visibility needed to make an informed decision, complexity itself is not the main barrier. Instead, the key challenge to using a new tool is that planners struggle to transition their workflows in accordance with the new tool. When they encounter challenges that they can’t quickly overcome, they tend to regress back to using their “reliable” old planning tool.

As a result, planning leaders need to have a mechanism for receiving feedback early in the process of introducing a new tool to their teams and ensuring that the feedback is addressed. If concerns are not alleviated early in the process, negative attitudes about the new tool’s shortcomings have a way of snowballing through the team and creating entrenched negative attitudes that are hard to overcome later.

Q: Beyond addressing early feedback and concerns, what else needs to change with training and education to drive adoption rates higher?

A: Planning leaders must take proactive steps before, during, and after a new technology is introduced to ensure it is widely adopted. In the early stages, planning leaders should actively involve their teams in the tool selection process, not just customizing it after the tool has been selected. Potential discrepancies between the new and legacy tools’ outputs should be anticipated and addressed before going live with the new tool.

The nature of training will also need to be updated as planners will face more questions from stakeholders when using tools based on emerging technologies (such as AI) and therefore will need to exhibit soft skills such as communicating how the tool’s output translates to business strategy.

Finally, planners need to have confidence that they will be allowed to experiment and not have their mistakes held against them in the early stages of adopting a new tool.

Q: How can SCP leaders measure the success rate of adoption?

A: Traditional business metrics that measure adoption can be misleading because they do not always account for work that can be done outside the tool, or they may be impacted more by factors outside of technology such as process efficiency and organization structure.

Gartner recommends multiple types of metrics to measure adoption rates more holistically, including tracking user experience, automation and efficiency metrics.

Planning leaders also need to adopt a governance framework to ensure these metrics are being updated in a timely fashion, ownership of metrics is clearly defined and connected to key performance indicators, and that action is actually being taken based on the metrics.

Gartner clients can read more in Emerging Solutions to Drive Digital Adoption of Supply Chain Planning Tools. Nonclients can read more in Digital Supply Chain Technology.

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