If you had to make a list of all the things to concern yourself with every day as a supply chain manager or business owner, growth and scalability would undoubtedly be right at the top. In a lot of ways, it’s a delicate tightrope act to walk – particularly in a world where supply chains are growing larger and more complicated every day. But while it’s certainly true that growing too slowly can be disastrous, growing too quickly is just as bad – and research indicates that both are among the major reasons why so many businesses fail each year.
In a lot of ways, your rate of growth (and determining what that rate should actually be) will be dictated by the technological foundation that you’ve built and that you work with every day. In the best case scenario, your IT infrastructure should grow as your business does the same. It should support your organization and your supply chain as it exists today, yes – but it should also allow you to better prepare yourself for the challenges you may face tomorrow, too.
But unfortunately, this will be difficult (and often impossible) if your technology isn’t as scalable as your supply chain. As your supply chain continues to expand you’ll naturally be dealing with more data, more customers and more resources. Without the technology backbone to support that, you’ll be at a major disadvantage at a time when you can hardly afford it.
The Art of Scalable Technology
According to one recent study, a massive 70% of respondents described their existing supply chain as either “complex” or “extremely complex.” There are a lot of reasons for this – the rising requirements of both B2C and B2B customers and the ability to balance the successful delivery of orders with affordable costs are among them. But despite this, the same study revealed that only 6% of people think that they have true supply chain visibility – meaning that they know what is happening where, when and why, at all times.
As your supply chain continues to grow and evolve, you probably already have a lot of processes in place to help you deal with that. But the key thing to understand is that you’re undoing nearly all of that work if your technology isn’t set up to do the exact same thing. Every technological asset you rely on should support your supply chain both as it exists today and theoretically where it will be tomorrow or you can’t really rely on it at all.
To get an idea of this concept in action, think about a critical function like enterprise printing. If your technology in this arena isn’t scalable, you’re probably dealing with a number of specific problems every time you try to print something to a third-party location up or down the chain from the head office.
Because you’re working with a legacy solution that was never built with the cloud in mind, you’re probably dealing with constant authentication issues. You could fix them – but you would have to essentially rebuild your software, your on-premise infrastructure or, more likely, both. Right now, you don’t have access to any of the features you need like mobile printing or pull printing and the user experience is suffering a great deal. You finally get things to work… only to realize that because your supply chain just changed AGAIN, you’re essentially right back where you started.
Or, with a True Cloud Printing™ solution like PrinterOn, you can print simply anywhere – no questions asked. Because solutions like PrinterOn Enterprise can be deployed in either a private cloud or in PrinterOn’s own managed cloud, they’re naturally scalable today, tomorrow, five years from now and beyond. Do you want to be able to print from iOS or Android? Check. Do you think you might need macOS printing or SAP printing down the road, even if you don’t right now? Check. Do you want to keep your options open in terms of solutions you’ll need to integrate with in the future like Google Cloud Print integration? Double check.
Your needs of today are properly addressed and you still have the freedom and flexibility to continue to grow and expand down the road, knowing that your solution is ready to take that journey with you. Cloud printing is just one example of this idea, but it’s an important one. EVERY piece of technology up and down your supply chain needs to support this level of scalability in essentially the exact same way or you’re eventually going to hold your organization back. You certainly won’t be in a position to drive it forward, which is the most important goal of all.
It’s About Adapting, Forever and Always
In the end, it’s important to understand that scalability ultimately refers to your business ability to adapt over time. Your supply chain does this constantly – it’s always changing, evolving, expanding and contracting in order to address new market demands and meet new needs as they arise. But if your technology can’t do the same, you’re artificially putting a limit on the amount of growth that you can actually do.
At that point, it’s a bit like running a marathon where you’re walking and everyone else is running. Sure, you’re technically all engaged in the exact same event, but the playing field is hardly level. You may not initially think you have a problem, but pretty soon the truth will become clear: you’ve been left behind and you can’t do a thing about it.