Digital supply chain: it’s all about that data

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"Exponential data growth is a fundamental problem that is continuing to overwhelm most businesses, and it is accelerating. New digital business models are increasingly more complex, we are talking about entire ecosystems of data and companies that are able to effectively manage that complexity will clearly maintain a competitive advantage.

Unmanaged, that complexity becomes a barrier to innovation and inhibits our ability to derive meaningful insights and, in fact, becomes a barrier to achieving the automation and efficiency we desire. To seize the full potential of digital, companies must develop data strategies, and better information and data management discipline, and start asking better questions."

Dave Padmos
EY Global Technology Sector Leader
Advisory Services



Supply chain data is no exception

The volume of data is skyrocketing as diverse data sources, processes and systems show unprecedented growth. Companies are trying to capture and store everything, without first establishing the data’s business utility.

The fact is, technology is enabling this proliferating data complexity — continuing to ignore the need for an enterprise data strategy and information management approach, will not only increase “time to insight,” but it may actually lead to incorrect insights.

Companies must act now to focus, simplify and standardize big data through an enterprise data management strategy. Otherwise, technology will drive increasing data cost, complexity and inefficiency; companies will be unable to benefit from advanced analytics like machine learning; and they will be unprepared for the next wave of data growth triggered by new technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.

Companies that don’t act now will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Infographic for EY Digital Supply Chain report

Managing the data growth dilemma

The growing tsunami of data is both a boon and bane to businesses in the digital age. Limitless oceans of data, often reflecting customer experience as it happens, have the potential to remake supply chains and business models. 

These models can and should be more efficient, productive, flexible and responsive. But right now, data is a mess. The current period of hyper data growth leaves most companies in a position where their ability to uncover business insights is effectively hidden within an increasingly complex and often unfathomable amount of data.

How can we expect data, which today is one of the biggest transformational roadblocks at many companies, to enable an entire ecosystem? This report explores the promise and perils of the “big data era” in order to encourage all of us to proactively address the issues.

Frankly, it’s “all about that data.”

Unprecedented data growth

Winners and losers in the big data era will be those best able to rapidly cull relevant insights out of enormously complex and fast-growing datasets. But rising data complexity presents an existential challenge for supply chains.

Ask yourself

  • How well are you managing today’s data explosion?
  • What is your data strategy and how does it support your business goals?
  • Are you asking the right questions?
  • How would you know?

Supply chain, disrupted

Out-of-control data growth can obscure, rather than reveal, business insights needed to drive digital-age supply chains — but a growing consensus shows how to avoid that trap and manage growing data.

Ask yourself

  • How much data am I willing to own and protect?
  • What insights are a must and which are nice to have?

Supply chain, advanced

Machine learning can significantly accelerate “time to insight,” but it is no substitute for the hard work of enterprise data management strategy development and data simplification.

Ask yourself

  • What steps do I need to take as we move toward a more digitally connected supply chain?
  • How can I prepare my data?

Supply chain, horizon

IoT and blockchain technologies promise benefits potentially greater than the cloud-mobile-social-big data technologies that supply chains are grappling with today.

Ask yourself

  • How prepared are you to address the impact of IoT, blockchain and open, self-organizing supply chains?

Harness the power of data — don’t let it flatten you

Companies must act quickly to take control of data growth, complexity and chaos. That includes focusing, simplifying and standardizing data analysis through an enterprise data management strategy, and exploring the range of possibilities afforded by machine learning, IoT and blockchain.

Those that do will be getting meaningful insights that truly matter to their business.

As the more volatile and complex future rushes toward them, they will be first to detect changing market conditions and trends, and most importantly they will be able to innovate and adapt more quickly. They’ll continuously evolve their supply chains, business models and operational processes from a position of strength derived from those insights.

Those that don’t will find themselves at a significant disadvantage. 

Ask yourself

  • How have you prepared to evolve your supply chain, business models and operational processes concurrently with customers and markets — in real time?
  • Are you asking the right questions — questions that provide real value to your business?
  • Are you being good data stewards?
  • Are you working to protect something that is now more than ever becoming one of your most valuable assets? 

"The bloom is off the rose when it comes to the ‘store everything’ standpoint. People are starting to realize that keeping too much data is a liability, not just an asset."

Paul Brody
EY Americas Strategy Leader
Technology Sector