Synchronize Content and Product Supply Chains to Create Frictionless Digital Value Chains Globally

Oct 17, 2018

Article ImageWhile there may not be a universal recipe for enhancing agility in all cases, synchronizing content and product supply chains turns out to be an indisputable enabler of faster delivery. It is actually also a key requirement to deliver products and services in a cost and time effective way in the digital age. Customers have less patience and tolerance for delays as they have a choice that is increasingly cross-border and influenced by fierce competition. Although this synchronization task sounds simple, it is actually one of the most sensitive and time-consuming challenges that global leaders have to take up at the intersection of content, product, and technology.

Prior to starting any effort to tackle synchronization, you should keep a few essential points in mind to transform these supply chains into value chains for your business and customers internationally. Needless to say, the more markets you are in or intend to enter the more challenging synchronization efforts are.

Assess mindsets and processes before mapping them-- Change management means changing management too. With practices that may have been common and embedded in supply chains for years it is not easy to remove, replace or upgrade content related activities seamlessly. Acceptance and adoption must be gained in addition to leveraging diversity and inclusion to get there in globalizing organizations. Roles and responsibilities have to fit nicely in a chain that may be more or less fragmented than what it used to be previously and most likely cross-functional to reflect the necessary alignment of content and product linkages

View supply chains as chain reactions instead of pain reactions--In order to synchronize content and product supply chains it is crucial to set content expectations right in terms of scope, time, and format. In other words there should be no mismatch between product lifecycle milestones and content readiness. This implies world readiness from the outset and localization effectiveness along the way for global products that must delight customers across markets. A lack of timely localization awareness, planning, or delivery is a major source of pain reactions generating delays in the product supply chain and inconsistencies in the content supply chain.

Apply supply chain synchronization to existing product updates as well as to new product introductions--Agile product management does not tolerate any wasted time. Therefore you should ensure that your end-to-end content and product strategy shows no gap from day one. A couple of best practices can help you get things right. On the one hand, establishing and maintaining a new product introduction process implies nailing down a number of mandatory steps (aka tollgates) relating to compliance and velocity. So such a process paves the way to supply chain synchronization provided that it does not become a layer of bureaucracy or complexity for stakeholders. On the other hand adopting a methodology like Lean Six Sigma enables optimizing supply chains by removing waste of any nature.

Leverage supply chain synchronization to enter new markets most effectively-- Like for new product introduction the process of entering new markets should be formalized based on research, data, metrics, and business objectives among other things. The alignment between content and products for each market should be part of that approach as well. A new market entry process has to put forward the actual customer experience requirements in your target market and ensure that local products are going to be managed accordingly. You can then avoid a number of (wrong) assumptions that may come up when defining product lifecycles and make sure that all resources involved in content supply chains (e.g. designers, developers, localizers, testers) deliver on time both individually and collectively.

Consider supply chain synchronization for physical touchpoints-- Selling digital products and services still means taking some physical touchpoints into account which will remain in the short or long run. Ignoring content effectiveness for these moments would break the associated micro experiences. Packaging is a frequently used example of physical reach to customers. Marketing and branding leaders know how important relevant packaging is in conveying local and personal vibes within countries and regions. IoT devices are another example where physical touchpoints matter.

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