00:00:00 Introduction to essential supply chain skills
00:01:16 Technical writing and digital literacy importance
00:02:51 Financial awareness and resource allocation
00:03:52 Conclusion and advice for practitioners


Conor Doherty, Head of Communication at Lokad, emphasizes the evolution of supply chain management, highlighting three critical skills for future practitioners: technical writing, digital literacy, and financial awareness. Technical writing is crucial for documenting complex processes, ensuring knowledge is preserved and shared. Digital literacy, encompassing coding and data analytics, is vital for interpreting vast data streams and solving intricate supply chain challenges. Financial awareness enables practitioners to understand the economic impact of their decisions, ensuring fiscal responsibility. These skills are essential for navigating the complexities of modern supply chains and making informed, prudent decisions.

Full Transcript

Conor Doherty: Whether you’re a first-year university student or a supply chain veteran, the skills required for supply chain management have evolved significantly over the last 25 years. Today, I will present three skills that I think are absolutely vital for everyone in the field. For each one, I will briefly explain what it is and the specific supply chain problem I think it solves. Let’s get started.

Skill number one: technical writing. In simple terms, technical writing is producing clear and concise documents that explain complex information. It involves considering both the purpose—why you are writing—and the audience—who will be reading.

The specific supply chain problem this addresses is the tendency towards oral traditions. Many functions in supply chain, both mundane and complex, tend to be communicated orally rather than properly documented and stored. For example, if only one manager knows how to properly optimize delivery routes for a frequently shipped product, that manager becomes a very expensive bottleneck in the event they are unavailable or they leave the company entirely. In the latter case, the information leaves when they do.

Effective technical writing requires training in both process writing and the basics of version control—a method that allows for the tracking of changes to documents and the retrieval of past versions. To get started, you’ll need version control software like Git, a repository hosting service like GitHub, a plain text editor, and a command line tool like PowerShell. Platforms like Coursera actually provide really good step-by-step guidance for beginners with these tools.

Skill number two: digital literacy. Broadly speaking, this refers to the ability to find, evaluate, and use information in digital space. Digital literacy, however, has changed quite a lot in the last 10 years with the emergence of other core competencies such as coding, data analytics, and cybersecurity. This is important because supply chain problems are not only quantitative but increasingly complex. Retail stock allocation, demand forecasting, and inventory replenishment are problems that become much more difficult to manage as the catalog and data sets grow.

Simple tools like ABC analysis can provide a general overview of sales performance, but even a modest understanding of coding and data analytics will provide you far greater insight into sales performance. With a little coding knowledge, you could perform an affinity analysis, which will allow you to identify surprising customer purchasing habits. In this way, digital literacy allows you to make more educated supply chain decisions. Lokad uses Envision to tackle its supply chain problems. If you’d like to learn how to code with Envision, there’s a link to a workshop in the description below.

Skill number three: financial awareness. Understanding the dollar implication of each decision represents a financial leveling up of supply chain management. For example, if both my large supermarket and small neighborhood store run out of French coffee and I have but one unit left to allocate, where should it go? Conventional wisdom suggests the large supermarket. However, a SKU-level stock-out there means clients will probably switch brands. Meanwhile, at the small neighborhood store, which has a much more limited assortment, the absence of that one unit might represent a category-level stock-out, in which event the clients purchase neither coffee nor possibly anything else.

This demonstrates a purely financially driven perspective, where all decisions are evaluated with a much more nuanced understanding of economic drivers, constraints, and opportunity costs, with the ultimate goal of reducing dollars or euros of error. Understanding this purely financially driven perspective, in combination with the other skills mentioned today, should provide a solid base for anyone entering supply chain, as well as experienced practitioners looking to upscale.