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Four Considerations for a Supply Chain Planning Tool Vendor Selection

Supply chains across all types of organizations have spent the last few years battling disruptions, inflation, demand volatility, supply shortages, global conflict, natural disasters, shifting consumer behavior, labor shortages – the list goes on and on. Given how much your supply chain team has to account for and plan around, having a robust and fit-for-purpose supply chain solution is crucial, making the supply chain planning tool vendor selection all the more critical. 

The good news is that supply chain solutions have advanced and evolved to meet the current challenges. The challenge businesses are facing now is that there are so many technology vendors, from the brand name traditional vendors (such as SAP IBP, Kinaxis, Blue Yonder, and Logility) to the newcomers and niche players (such as Anaplan, o9 Solutions, and Alloy). This is rightfully overwhelming, and given the pressure to select the right system, having an organized and methodical selection process is crucial.  

So, how can your organization ensure you are selecting the right supply chain platform? At a minimum, to be successful, you need a structured selection process paired with well-defined requirements and selection criteria. Below we’ve outlined four critical considerations organizations should account for when conducting an advanced supply chain software vendor selection in order to ensure the RIGHT software solution is selected. 

Four Considerations for a Successful Supply Chain Planning Tool Vendor Selection

  1. Prioritize business requirements.

Your business requirements are at the heart of the software selection process. When developing your requirements, your organization needs to work to not just define, but vet and prioritize your business requirements, accounting for the unique intricacies of your business. There’s a move toward adoption of industry best practices that come with industry-leading solutions, in which business adopt “out-of-the-box” business requirements. However, for your potential vendors to fully understand what you require in your business for the software to work for you, this effort needs to happen.  

In Clarkston’s experience, this is best done through a variety of functional-driven workshops to ensure the selection process is aligned to the benefits you want to achieve. It’s critical to ensure the requirements are aligned with the future of the organization, and that there’s clear delineation between must haves and nice to haves; a robust set of business requirements will allow you to scan the market for the best supply chain solutions that align and focus on functionality connected with the most critical business needs. 

  1. Ensure the right people are involved in the selection process.

Ensuring the right people are in the room and that your requirements match your goals are essential to the solution’s implementation and long-term success. It goes without saying that the business is critical to the selection process. But also, so are your peers in IT. The IT, technical, and long-term support team are essential parts of the software selection process, especially during requirements gathering and prioritization. This ensures the selected solution fits within your IT architecture strategy, data/application security, long-term support capabilities, and any other organization-specific strategy and requirements.  

Your IT team needs to work alongside your business team to ensure a holistic design is considered, and importantly, to digest and analyze software vendor responses to ensure they meet your organization’s needs and capabilities as well. The goal is to implement a strong system, but to also ensure that the system can be supported, grow, and evolve with your business. Advanced supply chain solutions are data hungry, so partnering with your IT organization to ensure a robust integration with your core ERP is in place becomes critical. 

  1. Align selection criteria to desired benefits.

The software solution that checks the most of your requirements may not necessarily be the best solution for your organization: the software solution that satisfies your most critical requirements and would allow you to achieve your desired benefits is. For example, the software that meets all your requirements may not be able to accommodate the expected growth and scaling of your business.  This is why it’s imperative to align your entire selection process inclusive of vendor demo scripts and evaluation scorecards with your most critical qualitative and quantitative benefits. This way, you can ensure the software solution you are selecting is the RIGHT solution for the future of your organization and will allow you to realize your desired benefits, not just the one that checks the most boxes.  

As the selection process advances, you will likely end up with a couple of strong vendors that will likely meet your business requirements; it is at this point when a strong selection criteria will come to help decide between viable vendors, shining the light on industry strength, leadership, total cost of ownership, and other elements. 

  1. Start your planning early.

Implementation planning needs to begin during the selection process. This does not just mean developing the implementation roadmap and defining the project team, it needs to include stakeholder and systems impacts, data cleansing, change management and training planning, identifying internal and external resource requirements, determining any backfill requirements, etc. 

Making Progress on Your Vendor Selection

Advanced supply chain software vendor selections are never easy. The market is scattered with a combination of traditional and comprehensive vendors, newcomers, and niche players. A successful selection process requires a delicate alignment of your business strategy, business and IT processes, and business and IT requirements. While some organizations may opt to take on this challenge internally, many organizations decide the best path is to have an impartial third-party who knows your industry challenges and the has a close pulse on the software market, to lead and advise the selection process. That experienced third-party can provide a methodology and facilitate cross-functional conversations in a tactful, collaborative, and outcomes driven approach. 

Clarkston pairs our robust vendor selection methodology with our years of supply chain technology experience to look across functional, technical, and vendor dimensions to drive a complete understanding of software vendor capabilities when evaluating vendors and their ability to meet your business needs today, and in the future. 

Tags: Supply Chain Planning & Execution, Vendor Selection & Advisory