So much data, so little visibility: How lack of visibility hinders business growth

Supply chain finance people working at office. P2P-SCF

June 25, 2024

Most businesses in the industry know that access to insights is central to achieving operational success and unlocking increased productivity. These insights come from data—enterprises have never had access to more data than they do today.

Yet, data is a blind spot for many companies, as they struggle to turn data into meaningful insight that truly enhances business performance. This is becoming increasingly problematic; McKinsey predicts that by 2025, employees will use data to optimize nearly every aspect of their work. Businesses that lag behind or are unsuccessful in their data efforts risk losing out to competitors and could severely impact their ability to drive growth in a volatile market.

To overcome this challenge, businesses need to uncover what’s standing in the way of true data visibility and adopt strategies to break down those barriers.

The inherent power of data

Businesses in the industry have vast amounts of data at their fingertips, including:

  • Employee and resource data Financial data
  • Supply chain data 
  • Machine performance data
  • Stock data

With a clear view of these valuable data, businesses can make smarter decisions and drive greater productivity. For instance, they can minimize overstocking by aligning inventory with customer demand. Data also allows for efficient resource allocation, yield optimization, and even prediction of potential roadblocks.

On top of this, businesses can get recommendations on what products to pitch to specific customers, what level to price at, and how much to discount to win business while avoiding margin dilution. In fact, the opportunities are ample: from project costing that predicts profitability to automated workflows that enhance efficiency, businesses only stand to make significant gains.

Meanwhile, the repercussions of a lack of data visibility can be immense. When large businesses make ill-informed decisions due to insufficient visibility, it can lead to significant financial losses and even bankruptcy. For example, leading party retailer Party City had to file for bankruptcy after experiencing unprecedented disruption with their helium supply chain.

Unfortunately, businesses face internal and external challenges around enabling better visibility. They must address these complexities to access the actual value of their data.

Addressing business blind spots

The first major area that businesses need to tackle is internal data visibility. Almost all businesses in the industry have plenty of data within the organization but suffer from having it split across different locations and disparate applications and databases. This means employees can’t do anything meaningful with it, and its true potential is lost—or it takes so long to connect the dots that any possible gains are diminished.

It’s not uncommon for large businesses formed through continual mergers or acquisitions to have multiple disparate ERP systems, meaning data is inherently siloed. On top of this, legacy technology or infrastructure might not be compatible with modern data integration solutions, further hindering employees from developing a single source of truth.

The second challenge that must be addressed is visibility along the supply chain. According to research, half of manufacturers think greater supply chain visibility would benefit their business. However, most businesses have very limited view of their supply chain, meaning they’re left woefully underprepared when things go wrong. It’s commonly suggested that 80% of a business’ data is outside their ERP—yet in reality, this refers to 80% of supply chain data.

82% of manufacturers said monitoring their supply chain is critical. Despite this, supply chains can be extremely difficult to monitor, even for the largest businesses. The most common depth of monitoring is limited to a level one supplier. For example, a business that a given organization will interact directly with either as a customer or as a supplier. This is typically referred to as the “one up, one down” approach.

Our research found that around a quarter of businesses undertake no monitoring of their supply chain at all—both up (26%) and down (24%) respectively—demonstrating the lengths some businesses will have to transform to drive real change. These businesses typically depend on standard fixed lead times in their planning and hope for the best. However, this approach is incredibly risky and fraught with challenges.

The technology opportunity

Greater visibility of your supply chain beyond your immediate trading partners is an essential contributor towards mitigating risk. The truth is that investing in supply chain resilience is now a critical business imperative. But the path to success is not always clear.

Strategies involving new technologies were relatively unpopular among manufacturers, with 62% of businesses having yet to make any new investment in supply chain technology. However, this is a crucial area for businesses to explore, as new digital solutions can help enhance data visibility.

Three key considerations for improving visibility:

  • Remove data silos. Data visibility is critical for driving organizational change. Businesses should look to uncover the locations of disparate data and find a method of bringing it all together to identify trends, correlations, and anomalies.
  • Supply chain monitoring. Exploring ways to increase visibility beyond level one suppliers is a key part of mitigating risk and managing disruption.
  • Employee training. Employees should have full access to software systems that provide them with the necessary information to create and facilitate new strategies.

Building data visibility is a business imperative

Improving visibility within the business and supply chain is a fundamental first step for industry to boost productivity. With the ability to take a detailed look at the bigger picture, businesses are arming themselves with the information needed to manage disruption and enhance performance.

Volatility is inevitable, so businesses should start building data visibility sooner rather than later. This will enable them to make significant strides toward stability and resilience, helping them weather any storm.

To find out more about how you can address both internal and external data blind spots, sign up to our webinar, where you’ll hear advice from expert speakers about how you can use technology to power greater visibility.

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