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    A Project Manager's Guide to IT Supply Chain Complexities

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    You do not have to be an experienced project manager to know that there are all sorts of issues with the global supply chain. But if you are a project manager, you can be uncomfortably close to the situation, and it may fall on your shoulders to determine how to deal with some of these complexities and problems for your company or your clients.

    With this in mind, below you will find a crash course on current technology supply chain complexities and how they might affect IT deployment and service delivery. Here is a project manager’s quick guide to IT supply chain complexities.

    Supply Chains Are As Complex and Globally Connected As They Have Ever Been

    First, it is worth noting how complex and globally connected IT supply chains are. The more complex the deliverable, the more hands (or machines, or steps) the deliverable goes through in the manufacturing process.

    When the system works as intended, these connections do not pose a problem. But if you disrupt one link in the chain, the whole supply chain can suffer.

    This is precisely what we have seen during the global chip shortage that started in 2020. The manufacturing capacity for silicon chips is relatively limited, with most of the capacity concentrated within a few companies in Asia. When those factories shut down right as the  demand increased, we entered a shortage that experts expect will continue to hamper production well into 2022.

    Now, this example explains the nature of the problem, but it is not something you can solve. It is not like you (or we) can make semiconductors appear out of thin air. The challenge is knowing how to navigate the resulting supply chain issues.

    Critical Chain Can Be a Worthwhile Approach

    As a project manager, you cannot directly fix shortages or stoppages in the supply chain. But you can mitigate risks. One way to do this is by taking a critical path or critical chain approach. This approach, popularized by the late business guru Eliyahu M. Goldratt in works like The Goal and Critical Chain, helps project managers identify bottlenecks and choke points (especially those in the critical chain — steps that must be completed for a project to succeed).

    Once you have properly identified those bottlenecks or breaks in the chain, you can better focus on solutions and workarounds for those bottlenecks.

    To be clear, Goldratt didn’t envision a global shortage of something most companies cannot make themselves (semiconductors). Still, in today’s highly complex supply chains, just getting to the bottom of where the bottleneck is located is a step some businesses fail to take. Bottlenecks are not always obvious, but identifying them is crucial to overcoming them.

    The ultimate goal here is to avoid chasing every rabbit like it is the true crisis. Identifying the core issues is the first step. Next is focusing your attention on solving those core problems.

    Move Up Your Timetables

    Technology supply chain delays can and do cause delays in service delivery and IT deployment. Sometimes, these are unavoidable: when a supplier promises they can get you a component in two days but then takes two months to do so, you are stuck. (And hopefully looking for a new supplier!)

    Availability is not usually quite that unpredictable. What is more likely is that you will know a delivery date upfront when you go to purchase the component; it just won’t be as timely as you expected.

    Until the global supply chain normalizes, the best practice is to pre-plan and schedule ahead of your ordering timetables. Although, we cannot tell you how much to move them up. That depends on your suppliers and the current backlog. But ordering earlier than you used to can go a long way toward reducing supply chain-related delays.

    Look for Opportunities to Simplify

    IT supply chains are complex for a reason, but that does not mean the complexity is worth the associated risks and costs. One of the responsibilities of project management professionals is to look for excess complexity and remove it. 

    This, too, will look different for every niche, industry, and use case. As an example, consider an IT provider that offers five or six different network routers with pretty much the same feature set and range. Could the company simplify that range down to two or three (and negotiate a better rate based on higher purchase volume)? Doing so would simplify inventory concerns and eliminate excess vendors that will reduce overall supply chain complexity for the company.

    Of course, we are not recommending burning any bridges. If your preferred supplier starts to have unworkable delivery timeframes, you may find yourself switching back after all.

    Choose the Right Enablement Partner

    Last, choosing the right enablement partner can be a massive difference-maker in navigating supply chain complexity. Kinettix has the global reach and scale to understand and navigate supply chain challenges. When you choose Kinettix for your enablement partner, you gain access to a specific wealth of expertise and knowledge.

    Let us show you exactly how Kinettix can help. Schedule a call today.

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    Chad Mattix

    Written by: Chad Mattix

    A global IT executive experienced in establishing strategic partnerships for large U.S.-based organizations, Chad Mattix specializes in managed services, contract pricing and negotiation, and the startup and growth of technology services companies. Chad has spent the last 15 years helping large U.S. retailers and U.S.-based IT service providers expand their capabilities across the globe to follow their clients’ expansions. He has developed and completed full entity formations in Brazil and China and has worked with sales pursuit teams in messaging and client-facing presentations. He has also established global alliance and partnership models for multiple global IT organizations. Chad travels around the world to develop and maintain long-term relationships with employees, clients, vendors and partners, which are critical for success.

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