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Leadership Views: Erik Olson, Accenture

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Denver Transportation Institute

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More than 40 industry leaders serve on DTI's Board. Following on our successful Transportation Talks webinar series, we feature brief thoughts from a member each month. 

Name: Erik Olson
Position: Managing Director, Supply Chain & Operations, Accenture

Years with DTI: 1.5


You are part of the North American Leadership Team. What are that team’s current priorities? What leadership needs have emerged for Accenture’s supply chain and operations in the different service groups you manage?

At Accenture, our supply chain and operations practice currently has several distinct priorities. Some of them revolve around industries that are experiencing the greatest degree of disruption, while others have to do with the manner in which the global COVID pandemic and broader macroeconomic trends are influencing supply chain investments by our clients. On the industry side of the ledger, we are seeing the most dramatic acceleration of supply chain investments and transformation in industries like consumer goods, retail, life sciences, health, and more recently, industrial products. Key trends influencing the acceleration in those industries involve customer intimacy, customer experience and growth-oriented challenges to supply chain operations. Direct-to-consumer, unified commerce, last-mile logistics, and enhanced value-added (supply chain) services are directly influencing clients in those industries to invest in new and superior supply chain capabilities. Broader macro-economic priorities are driving us to invest in topics like sustainable/responsible supply chains, resilient supply chains, and highly automated/autonomous supply chains.

Are there specific challenges to the global supply chain that concern you? What does the future look like for global supply chains?

While global supply chain challenges are indeed the topic for many supply chain executives, I believe the changes in this space will be a bit slower to evolve. Many of our clients are struggling to evaluate the resiliency risks in their supply chains brought on by the global spread and dependencies in their operations. Everything from better visibility, better understanding of the risk profiles, and better awareness of the means by which global supply chains can be de-risked are where folks are currently headed. We will see more leverage of cloud, big data, and digital twins emerge to help global companies address many of these concerns. I believe that we will also see the acceleration and spread of solution “platforms” (think less ERP or ‘system of record’ solutions), where the convergence of emerging technologies like open architectures, micro-services, APIs, blockchain, IoT-enabled products and assets, and on-demand compute power will propel better supply chain solutions. We will still struggle with the notion of competing priorities between supply chain partners, but the democratization of many of these technologies will begin to erode that challenge over time.

What needs are you looking to fill with people in the supply chain and operations practice? What skills are important to meet these needs?

The predominant talents and skills that we are now seeking are a blend of good old E2E supply chain knowledge (product design, procurement/supply management, manufacturing, order management, fulfillment, after market service, demand planning and forecasting), combined with new-age technology skills around big data, analytics, AI, MI, cognitive, cloud, IoT, blockchain, among others. While many of the functional skills might be easy to find, the bigger challenge will be in the data and decision sciences for supply chain optimization. Given this demand, we offer training programs for our workers that will not only build but advance their deep technology skills, but ultimately as availability of folks with these skills in the open market grows, more and more companies will be in a position to embark on their digital transformations.

Resources from Accenture:

Accenture Supply Chain & Operations

Supply chain transformation on the cloud

Customer-centric supply chains: A license for growth

Large companies have invested, on average, US$153.4M to transform their supply chain for growth over the past three years. With investments that significant, efficiency alone is no longer the measuring stick for successful supply chains. They must deliver return on that investment in the form of growth.

The Sustainable Last Mile: Something unexpected happened to last-mile delivery during the pandemic—it got greener. When supply chains started moving again, the ecosystem adapted fast, as people purchased more and different products online. Stores became fulfilment centers. Ship from store and curbside pickup emerged. Parcel drop density rose. The sustainability gains that came from the pandemic were unintentional. Now it’s time to get intentional and make the last mile more efficient, less expensive, and more eco-friendly.