Understanding Control Towers and their Capabilities
A supply chain control tower is created by combining people, processes, data, organization, and technology to improve visibility, control, and decision-making.
Don’t look at a control tower as a stand-alone supply chain management (SCM) application, but rather as an integrated capability embedded in a broader SCM suite or tool. It can serve specific use cases along supply chain functional domains.
Leverage the control tower as an analytics-driven, decision-support tool; don’t just conceive it as an extensive visual dashboard.
There is a lot of confusion in the market about what a control tower actually means and offers to supply chain organizations. Rather than just looking at it from a technology perspective, supply chain technology leaders would be wise to consider its underlying capabilities.
Gartner defines a supply chain control tower as a concept that results in combining people, processes, data, organization, and technology.
Control towers capture and use (close to) real-time operational data from across the business ecosystem to provide enhanced visibility and improve decision-making.
Christian Titze, VP Analyst at Gartner, says;
“Supply chain control tower is not a stand-alone SCM application, but an integrated capability embedded in a broader SCM suite or tool. It could be an intelligent data platform providing use-case specific insights, predictions, and suggestions”
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How Can Supply Chain Technology Leaders Realize a Control Tower?
Establish a central hub as an integrated part of a broader SCM platform using these building blocks: people, process, data, organization, and technology. The idea is to capture and use data to provide enhanced real-time visibility and in-depth analysis. This can enable better short- and midterm decision-making aligned with strategic organizational objectives.
6 key technology capabilities for a supply chain control tower:
- Continuous intelligence: Capture data continuously and in real-time (event stream processing or business activity monitoring)
- Advanced analytics: Leverage predictive and prescriptive analytics to move from being reactive to proactive
- Impact analysis: Understand the impact of signals from the digital ecosystem on the company’s supply chain
- Scenario modeling: Simulate different scenarios for providing a suitable smart response
- Collaborative response: Connect and collaborate in the ecosystem (aka collaboration room)
- Artificial intelligence: Drive a higher degree of automation by artificial intelligence/machine learning
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How to Deploy a Supply Chain Control Tower
There are two major deployment options to consider:
- Buy. Going this route means embedding control tower capabilities as part of a broader SCM platform. It is mainly about domain-specific towers allowing visibility and control. These control towers support the framework of “see > understand > act > learn” and represent that the horizontal layer is well-integrated in the tool on top of other core SCM application functions.
- Build. This is about creating a data lake and applying business intelligence on top. Such towers predominantly serve visualization needs, with all being about “conversation with the data.” Lately, new vendor entrants are offering more sophisticated capabilities around data science to support analytics and provide some degree of data correlation, impact analysis, and recommended next actions.
Possible Challenges When Establishing a Supply Chain Control Tower
Supply chain technology leaders primarily see control towers as extensively visual dashboards and, at times, fail to leverage them as analytics-driven, decision-support tools.
Many companies lack end-to-end visibility, process orchestration, and aligned decision-making.
Visibility is a necessary foundation and first step, but you will also need advanced deep analytics (predicting), providing scenario-based options for the next best action (prescriptive), and decision support to optimize the outcome.
Read More: Your Ultimate Guide to Data and Analytics
These are both business- and technology-related challenges when starting a control tower initiative:
- Lack of clarity on the span of control. Overcomplicating the span/scope of supply chain operations managed by a control tower can lead to unrealistic expectations about benefits.
- Resistance when breaking down functional silos for end-to-end visibility and control. Supply chain control towers are still functionally siloed in their setup and do not provide the anticipated end-to-end visibility, control, and decision-making support. Data lakes are only a partial answer.
- Questions on actual data ownership. With many business partners providing data into the control tower, who owns the data? Who is allowed to see what data? Who evaluates the data? Who gets benefits out of insights? Who benchmarks the data?
- Required talent. Lack of clarity and/or required skills to work in a control tower environment.
- Ambivalence on a build-versus-buy decision. Without a well-rounded understanding of what is required to design, implement, deploy and maintain a control tower, it is difficult to evaluate whether the control tower should be in-house (and there are the options platform versus data lake), hybrid, or outsourced.
- Inability to identify the right technology requirements. Investing a significant amount of time in reviewing and evaluating different technology platforms with multiple capabilities and functionality can result in analysis paralysis and the inability to make an investment decision.
Gartner Insights | Gartner Peer Insights
Nucleus Research Control Tower Value Matrix 2022 Vendors
O9 SOLUTIONS | o9 Solutions is an expert in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, with o9 Solutions’ Control Tower capabilities, customers can monitor supply and demand signals in real-time to detect disruptions early, predict potential exceptions, and automate decision-making with AI/ML to alleviate or altogether avoid disruptions and increase efficiency within the supply chain process.
ALLOY | Alloy is a facilitator in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, the Alloy Intelligence product enables early warning of inventory risks and shifting consumer demand within the supply chain, and the Alloy Planning product provides Point-of-Sale driven forecasting capabilities for customer demand and inventory, allowing users to track performance against projections.
BLUE YONDER | Blue Yonder’s Luminate Control Tower solution enables customers with a complete supply chain view, which provides prescriptive insights and automated resolutions across a business’s supply chain, incorporating internal, partner, and third-party data streams.
COUPA | Coupa is a facilitator in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, with the Coupa Control Tower, organizations can consistently develop and adapt supply chain structures, policies, and flows through the analysis of digital models underpinned by its proprietary algorithmic engines, an organization equipped with Coupa can answer tough supply chain questions with confidence through scenario modeling.
ELEMENTUM | Elementum is a facilitator in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, with the Elementum Orchestration platform, customers can combine their internal and partner data streams to enable real-time supply chain visibility and coordinated planning processes with suppliers, logistics, and manufacturers, additionally, Elementum matches data across each instance in the network providing users with a single version of the truth.
ELEMICA | Elemica is a core provider in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, Elemica delivers control tower functionality through its Buy, Sell, Move, Assure, and See solutions, with the Elemica Control Tower, customers can leverage supply chain connectivity with partners, and traditionally siloed departments can digitize operations, automate processes, eliminate data siloes, and provide real-time updates.
E2OPEN | E2open’s comprehensive supply chain management platform covers Control Tower functionality across distribution, planning, logistics, global trade, and supply. Customers leverage e2open applications, along with embedded AI/ML and analytics, on a single platform to generate data-backed insights, enhance trading partner visibility, and drive operational efficiencies.
INFOR | Infor is a leader in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, the Infor Nexus Control Center is a multi-enterprise business network and supply chain management platform. Nexus offers real-time visualization of the end-to-end supply chain by onboarding trading partners to the nth tier via one-to-many connections.
KINAXIS | Kinaxis is a leader in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix with Kinaxis RapidResponse, the company’s concurrent planning platform, has built-in control tower technology that helps mitigate risk, identify opportunities, and cope with escalating volatility in the global markets, its Command & Control Center application adds on the more advanced control tower and automation functionality, allowing companies to visualize supply chain operations on a global scale.
MPO | MPO (a Kinaxis Company) is a leader in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, MPO’s Control Tower solution enables multi-party orchestration for B2B, B2C, and D2C business models through a single user interface, by integrating with ERP, WMS, carrier systems, and trading partners, MPO consolidates supply chain data to provide a complete view of all orders in transit, allowing the organization to respond to delays and exceptions with knowledge of the impacts of their decisions.
ONE NETWORK | One Network Enterprises is a leader in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, One Network’s Intelligent Control Tower predicts and monitors for exceptions, automates prescriptive decisions, and informs execution functions from a single instance, this allows companies to plan as well as optimize upstream and downstream execution processes across the entire supply chain, leveraging a common platform and single data model.
SAP | SAP is an expert in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, SAP provides control tower functionality through its SAP IBP solution, which facilitates Sales and Operational Planning (S&OP), forecasting, demand and supply planning, and inventory optimization; its Ariba Network enables users to collaborate with trading partners by sharing forecast, order, inventory, and quality information in a realtime and secure manner; and Leonardo, SAP’s microservices system, supports planners and transportation teams by enabling big data, IoT, blockchain, and AI/ML functionality.
SHIPITSMARTER | ShipitSmarter is a core provider in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, ShipItSmarter’s technology acts as a Fulfillment Control Tower delivering solutions for carrier and freight management, financial management, fee, and rate management, and shipment lifecycle management, ShipitSmarter boasts partnerships with all major shipping carriers in Europe and maintains a constant flow of information exchange to keep track of supply transportation changes.
VIEWLOCITY | Viewlocity is a core provider in this year’s Control Tower Technology Value Matrix, Viewlocity offers end-to-end control tower capabilities that give the end-user real-time supply chain insights and offers prospective solutions to eliminate bottlenecks, increase collaboration between stakeholders, and improve flexibility for an efficient Supply Chain process, customers often choose Viewlocity because of their lean six sigma methodologies that increase productivity while reducing errors and waste in the supply chain process.
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What Every Executive Needs to Know About Control Towers in Supply Chain Management
In this 'paper' we describe how a network control tower is a collaborative platform that engages your trading partners in decision-making for better decisions, better optimization, better teamwork, and ultimately better results. Download Now!
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