COVID-19 driving resilient and flexible supply chains
Supply chains can’t afford to be caught short in a crisis again, so what do they need to do to ensure continuity?
"Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked.” Warren Buffet’s famous quote is a perfect description for the current state of service supply chains. The ‘new normal’ has fast become a well-worn phrase during the Covid-19 crisis. Much of it tends to refer to new ways of working; how organisations are going to cope with social distancing and flexible working practises, for example.
But what does this mean to supply chains? The pandemic has been an awakening. In many ways it has exposed supply chains, the often complex, cross-border, inter-industry relationships that have been built up over decades. Over by supply chain disruption in the past few weeks and the question that most will have asked themselves is could they have done more pre-pandemic to ensure greater resilience in a crisis?
The answer of course is ‘yes’. The old normal should have involved emergency contingency plans and stress testing to ensure continuity but a mix of streamlining, old processes and perhaps even complacency has undermined supply chains. This has led to absenteeism during the current Covid-19 crisis, as Gartner reports in its on the Coronavirus and impact on service delivery. While many organisations can be forgiven for not foreseeing the pandemic, the unpreparedness is a concern. So what can organisations do to ensure the new normal learns from the old normal’s mistakes?
For service teams tasked with keeping the lights on in critical areas such as healthcare, utilities and food manufacture and logistics, it has undoubtedly been a challenge. Service engineers still need to fix things and they need tools and parts to do the job. So, should organisations have installed more flexible working structures and supply relationships pre-Covid-19? Should they now look at mixed labour and supply models to cope with the ebb and flow of service demands?
For starters, there is going to be a backlog of machines to fix, especially as a lot of work that was shelved during the lockdown was preventive maintenance. How can organisations get up to speed quickly? The mixed labour model could certainly feature here, with increased use of third-party contractors capable of scaling up or down depending on requirements. A core team of engineers would be supplemented by external support in a crisis. This core team could also work in a flexible way, much in the same way they have done over the past few weeks.
To build resilience, organisations need to ensure that maintenance skills are available regardless of the crisis and this will come down to contingencies built into emergency plans. As well as mixed labour models, this may also include emergency partner plans, alternatives for products and parts to enable a greater chance of supply continuity. Covid-19 has almost certainly forced organisations to re-visit their risk assessments and this may also include customer risk. For example, what is the spread of risk across the customer base? Is one customer dominating and is this customer serviced by one highly skilled engineer? It’s important to identify the dependencies and try and spread the risk.
Supply chains thrive on predictability and planning. Forecasting and situational stress testing are a good pulse check for any service supply chain. Technology can make a huge difference in your flexibility and digital control. Mobile tools and centralised machine histories, remote access to supplier parts ordering and the ability to scale service teams quickly, will go a long way to helping organisations cope with any future crisis, whether it’s economic or health related. But more than that, these are good practises anyway. If Covid-19 has done one thing for service teams, it’s taught them that the new normal is not just about coping and preparing for future disruption, it’s about working better and delivering continuity now.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.