Tackling supply chain complexity as a project manager


Supply chains are complex so having the ability to manage this increasing level of complexity is necessary in order to achieve those vital business objectives of profitability and growth.

We live in a global environment, so you need to be able to recognise those factors that add to these complexities such as risk and security considerations, compliance and regulatory hurdles, geographical spread of both suppliers and customers. Not to mention the vast number of people involved in the same industry when you look at things on a global scale – and these are just a few of the things that contribute to increasing complexity in the supply chain.

Complexity of connection point drive

One thing complex supply chains have in common is the quantity of connection points that exist between customers and suppliers.

The best way to manage complexity is by focusing on the connection points; there are the points that link several people systems, functions, processes or partners in the supply chain.

This can be managed using project management skills in the following ways:

1.Critical path method

This is a project management technique that can be used to illustrate the sequence of activities that occur in a project schedule, it can help a company get to grips with complexities. This critical path can be visualised with the help of project management software, and includes looking at tasks with dependencies placed in the necessary order to complete a project in the shortest possible time. Using this method to manage and identify the critical path can be very effective.

Once you have identified the tasks in your critical path you need to focus most of your attention on these in order to simplify your approach and have the greatest impact.

2.Collaborate and communicate

One of the most important skills that any project manager needs is the ability to communicate and do it well, especially when managing complexities. This might mean for example in a sales and inventory operation plan (SIOP) or perhaps a sales and operations planning process can be carried out across supply chain partners. This will provide you with a vehicle for both collaboration and communication on the topics of demand and supply.

Another way in which you can link any gaps in communication is with the use of software for collaborative project management. This will give you a single means of truth in terms of your team and project activity and any updates to your schedule; it will give you a single point to work from.

3.Agile processes

One thing you will learn on a project manager course is that Agile is a great tool to use when it comes to managing supply chain complexity. Agile consists of a series of flexible and fast processes that can look at changes, assist teams to adapt to opportunities in the marketplace and improve the performance of a business. All you need is a simple scenario which you can add layers of complexity to and this can assist you in finding and managing the complexities you will face.

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