6 Data Skills Your Supply Chain Shouldn’t Be Without

In part 1 we explored why data literacy is so important to supply chain success. In part 2, let’s take a closer look at the key skills required for using data more effectively.

‘The purpose of this role is to mine, collate, interpret, and recommend detailed and summarised decision-making analysis of sales forecasts for our global sales channels to market’, states the opening paragraph of a recent supply chain role advertised by a leading international health food retailer.

This vacancy for a supply chain data analyst reflects the growing demand across the industry for individuals with the skills to read and draw critical insights from increasingly large data sets. Google’s own Chief Economist Hal Varian predicted this demand in 2008 when he stated: ‘the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians.’

‘The ability to take data — to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it — that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades … Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.’

‘The sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians.’

Data analysis has gone from business as usual to business critical, yet the demand for analysts, data scientists, and related roles suggests the supply chain is still catching up.

What do data analysis skills look like, and do they currently exist in your supply chain today?

5 data skills your supply chain shouldn’t be without

1. Proven experience in forecasting and demand planning

Forecasting and demand planning skills are needed to build robust predictive models capable of anticipating demand and establishing product supply requirements. Whether you are reviewing your team’s existing capabilities in this area or hiring for this skill, it can be easily evidenced using prior models and their business impact on supply requirements.

2. High-level knowledge in forecasting and planning software

This is a vital skill for the development of daily, weekly, or periodic reports for colleagues or other stakeholders. A timed assessment can be carried out to assess an individual’s knowledge and practical ability.

3. Be able to articulate data and forecasts to engage other colleagues and stakeholders

The business need underpinning this role is that insights can not only be gathered but communicated effectively across the business, driving operational or procedural change. An effective data analyst is capable of both communicating these insights and using their analysis to challenge alternative outcomes in future sales promotions, for example.

4. Advanced analytical skills and proven experience in using data mining methodologies

Does the candidate have an opinion on popular methodologies and data reporting tools? And can they demonstrate the ability to optimise these tools and methods accordingly to better influence their ability to do their job?

5. Maintain accurate, secure and clean database information

With data directly influencing key stakeholder decisions, data housekeeping is essential for accurately monitoring and measuring forecast accuracy, stock availability, costs, and budgets.

Do you have the skills necessary to maximise the value from your data?

If not, you’re not alone. A recent study by Logility Inc. revealed that just ‘28 percent saw the ability to blend data from multiple systems for complete supply chain visibility as a key benefit of an advanced analytics initiative’, demonstrating that to many the data analyst is still seen as a peripheral role, an afterthought at a time when data is everyone’s favourite buzzword.

But advanced forecasting knowledge, expert analytical skills, and the ability to make swift, holistic business decisions supported by data are vital to gaining the most value from emerging technologies such as AI, robotics, and IoT — and a competitive advantage.

The vacancy concludes: ‘The candidate is expected to be the expert in the field for our sales forecast modelling of upstream and downstream product sourcing and the data hub for our production scheduling and demand planning.’

Do you recognise this person from within your team? If not, it could be time to reassess how your supply chain operates — and plan for a new job opening of your own.