Millennials stir global supply chain dynamics

Article By : Lisa Ann Cairns

In the face of the changing dynamics along the global supply chain, the internal organisation of companies is equally in a transformative period.

A transformative period is inevitably happening in the global supply chain. Deeper connections, more customised solutions and automated data transfer points are necessary for robust B2B supply chain relationships. To respond to these demands, corporate governance and business processes must adapt.

Concurrent with the B2B changes, internally, management teams are experiencing real generational shifts as Millennials climb the ladder, move into management roles, and reshape their companies. More than just a changing of the guard generationally, Millennials bring with them fundamental differences in social and business mindsets, and a very different, native relationship with the digital age and communication, an age they grew up in, unlike their management predecessors.

Beyond the corporate shifts, new Millennial management teams are proving to be a key element in the successful adoption and maximising of the Internet of Things (IoT). Their ease and fluency with technology and automation as the digital generation is obvious in the leaps and bounds in IoT business operations and more pervasive Digital Business/Industry 4.0 endeavours. Millenial managers readily embrace and accept the changes to business operations and processes offered by digital business implementations, unlike some of the recalcitrance experienced to date. Similarly, the current generation of employees is also comprised of young professionals who grew up with ubiquitous mobile computing and connectivity as part of their life, not a new capability to adapt to.

The generational divide along the lines of digital socialisation before entering into the workforce quickly translates into very different outlooks, goals, and acceptance of new business operations across generations. Millenial management growth, business transformation and supply chain shifts are rapidly gaining momentum.

For example, now more than ever, there is the expectation of automation to handle mundane or scheduled tasks and a preference for communication through non-interpersonal channels. Who you know and the extent of your rolodex is not as critical an element in today’s communication culture. While seemingly subtle and potentially banal differences in daily business topics, these management issues are not just food for thought in business schools or social science research; there have very real implications for a cresting wave of change and the anticipated rapid adoption of critical business applications that will result in significant shifts along the global supply chain, crosscutting industries.

Deepening and improving B2B and B2C relationships are core requirements to business growth in today’s globally competitive marketplace. Customisation is necessarily balanced with greatest efficiency and automation – business demands that seem to be at odds with each other.

Meeting the demands of customised engagement with customers and business partners requires an honest view of today’s expectations of digital business. It is not that the technologies and automated processes are newer than a decade or more ago; rather, what is new and changing is how technologies are being used differently. Efficiencies and visibility into partner operations have shifted to provide increased visibility into shared processes. Current supply chain strategy, therefore, is to leverage business partnerships at deeper and more core levels and to offer highly customised and dedicated services through single-point distribution providers.

Further contributing to the types and the trajectory of supply chain shifts we are seeing, Millennials bring with them a very different economic outlook than their predecessors in the business world. In their personal lives, there is a greater affinity to shared and collaborative economies (see this recent EBN article on federated economies) – an ease and value of the “Do it Yourself” (DiY) culture where a collective leveraging of skills, core capabilities, and shared work to complete projects is par for the course.

Additionally, Millennials economic orientation deeply embraces the truly entrepreneurial spirit where the individual can compete toe-to-toe with longstanding institutions (as exhibited by Uber and Lyft versus taxi companies and AirBnB and VRBO versus hotel chains). Furthermore, Millennials hold the expectation that social responsibilities guide the conscious of corporations as well as individuals.

Together, these economic and socio-economic orientations are critically informing new directions in B2B collaboration and new, competitive, strategic planning. This business sociological moment may seem the food of an MBA classroom, but to appreciate strategically the direction of change happening, we need to appreciate and understand the important role that generational differences and outlooks is playing in the global supply chain. How the new crop of managers makes decisions, strategise, and weigh choices and outcomes is significantly different, and hence, significant changes in the modus operandi ought to be expected.

As we move into the second half of 2016, and wonder about which predictions for our industry will and won’t hold true – perhaps instead of looking for the cyclical moments, we need to look at the positive changes that are being molded by the fresh outlooks and experiences of the Millennial managers rising through the ranks and shifting B2B relationships and expectations.

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