Last month, our comms team caught up with Scoutbee’s newest Strategic Advisory Board member, Dr. María Jesús Sáenz. In part one of the interview, she elaborated extensively on the role played by AI and collaboration to get digital transformation moving. She was also very vocal about the importance of having a clear strategy in place for such a journey. Let’s find out what she meant by that, shall we?
Scoutbee: Dr. María Jesús Sáenz, we very much appreciate your passion for strategy but there are a few observers who claim that strategy means nothing if you don’t have the personnel to run it. What’s your perspective on the matter?
Dr. María Jesús Sáenz: It’s no secret that procurement is overwhelmed and understaffed, so here’s my advice to a procurement leader who’s reading this interview and thinking: how do I go back and create a strategy when the team are busy with looking for supplies and getting the best deals, etc.? Supply chain leaders have traditionally been focused on execution, but are very familiar with data and KPIs.
The problem is that they’re not so comfortable with strategy and both must walk hand in hand. Without execution, it doesn’t make any sense. But there is hope: with data, even on the procurement side, you can connect strategy with execution in a more dynamic way. This is the beauty of what Scoutbee is doing – that you’re scanning what’s going on in terms of your supply base or potential supply base in order to have alternatives to focus on what the strategy is telling you to do, for example, to be responsible.
Scoutbee: That’s fascinating. Could you provide us with a practical example of how you see strategy and operations being tied together for the greater good?
Dr. María Jesús Sáenz: Sure. As a result of the last two years, procurement should be changing due to all the global disruptions that have been happening but, typically, the strategy was defined five years ago and doesn’t make any sense right now. So, the strategy should be closely defined according to what’s going on in the real world.
Some companies are more focused on building risk management and resilience, and monitoring what risk management is together with their supplier base. Perfect. This is another point in the strategy but then you need data, you need to monitor, incentivize, and grow the relationship based on this anchor point built into the strategy, in this case, resilience.
If you want to be more resilient, you need to monitor, for example, time to recover. How to monitor, how to share information with supply chain actors based on certain events, how this triggers all the signals in the supply chain…
So, my recommendation is to try to match strategy with execution, using the language of data that will make it stick. Availability of rich data becomes the glue that connects strategy and execution in more agile ways.
Scoutbee: You mentioned another topic close to your heart – digital twins. Could you provide a clear example in supply chain or a situation where a digital twin could help?
Dr. María Jesús Sáenz: Monitoring suppliers in terms of all these expectations with relation to contracts, together with real-time execution of what’s going on with parts, where they are, what the expected lead times are, what the real lead times are, and how you’re expecting to build responsiveness, how these relationships and transactions with your suppliers are really reacting according to your needs.
There are some fallacies about digital twins – for example, some companies think a digital twin is a simulation model. It’s not; it’s a real-time entity that’s monitoring what’s going on with sensors, software, and analytics, with which the supplier base and procurement operations can be monitored in real time and can be connected with real versus expected performance and contracts on a higher level and also create forward-looking scenarios.
Or how the relationship with this set of suppliers will be affected if inflation changes in the next two months, based on real-time execution. So it’s not only simulation; you need real-time signals and sensors in order to monitor what’s going on with your assets, your parts, how the competition is changing, the products that are competing with yours, or how this supplier is changing what they’re supplying to other competitors. You can access all of this information. It’s digital integrated with the physical world.
Scoutbee: You recently joined Scoutbee as a Strategic Advisor. What exactly will your role entail and why did you choose Scoutbee?
Dr. María Jesús Sáenz: I mainly chose Scoutbee because it integrates what my research claims are, all these relationship approaches, and how AI can change the landscape of supply chain relationships. It was kind of a coincidence actually. One of my Masters students in supply chain told me he was working with a great company that turned out to be Scoutbee. I hadn’t heard of the company at that time so he introduced me to Gregor and I started thinking about Scoutbee and exploring what they do.
Then I invited Gregor to one of my events as the CEO of a promising company. The interview was about data and AI but also about the CEO as a person, which was great. Then we started discussing my research and this is how Gregor asked me to be part of the Strategic Advisory Board at Scoutbee. I’m really motivated to help Scoutbee shape its future in the role of transforming supply chains to become digital.
Scoutbee: We’re very excited to have you on board. Last, but not least, given your role at the MIT Supply Chain Management Masters Programs, where students work directly with researchers and industry experts on complex and challenging problems in all aspects of supply chain management, what’s your advice to anyone wanting to join the industry? What are the must-have skills?
Dr. María Jesús Sáenz: I’ve actually been discussing this with the executives and companies we work with. From our point of view, a good supply chain manager in today’s economic landscape should have a global approach, meaning understanding different approaches to the same kind of problem. For example, the perception of risk is different in different countries and cultures. This brings diversity, it brings good approaches to the global supply chain.
Leadership skills are also important – they need to understand that supply chain is playing more and more of a role in the strategic boards of companies. Some supply chain executives have been promoted to CEOs because they have this holistic perspective. And of course, all the operations, processes, how to run good forecasting and good procurement processes but also analytics – a data-driven understanding of the supply chain. They will need to use the language of data in order to communicate in this agile, ever-changing landscape of supply chain.
Thank you again to Dr. María Jesús Sáenz for taking the time to sit down and talk to us.