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Key Themes from Four Years of o9’s Largest Event

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Published: Reading time: 9 min
Igor Rikalo President & COO at o9 Solutions
Igor RikaloPresident & COO at o9 Solutions
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2021: Disruption, Visibility, and Agility

2022: Geopolitical Conflict, Covid Recovery, and The Sustainability Revolution

2023: Shifts in Global Trade, Scenario Planning, and Risk Management

2024: GenAI, Automation, and Supplier Collaboration

2025: Digital Knowledge Models, Hyper-Automation, and Multi-Tier Visibility


Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

At the end of 2020, in-person meetings and conferences were still out. Online was in, with our WiFi connections filling the void left by COVID. There was one silver lining: the creation of aim10x digital (formerly aim10x global)—an idea spurred by the pandemic to record our clients, prospects, partners, and other speakers sharing their thought leadership and sharing it with a global audience virtually over three days. Our first iteration was more successful than any of us expected, with thousands of planning professionals from across the world registering for the event.

Since then, we’ve watched it grow into our largest and most important annual online event. To date, aim10x digital has hosted over 100 virtual sessions that provide supply chain and commercial professionals with learnings, insights, and best practices from real digital planning and decision-making transformations at some of the world’s largest global enterprises. People are still watching sessions on demand from 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024.

I also can’t help but notice how the event has acted as a barometer for what’s happening in the larger market. At each event, certain themes have emerged that define the business landscape, from the shock of global disruptions in 2020-21 to the generative AI and automation wave of 2023-24. Here is a brief journey through the key themes that have emerged over four years.

2021: Disruption, Visibility, and Agility

In 2021, we found ourselves in uncharted territory. The ripple effects of COVID-19 continued to test the resilience of global supply chains, revealing cracks in many conventional SCM approaches. As economies reopened and consumer preferences shifted from services to goods, demand skyrocketed. This uptick, combined with just-in-time inventory systems that traditionally minimized buffer stocks, resulted in widespread shortages and delays.

This new reality demanded new ways of working and technology. Spreadsheet planning became obsolete, and legacy systems struggled to adapt quickly to necessary changes in planning and operations. These systems, unable to integrate data across global supply chain networks, compromised visibility and forced decision-makers to rely heavily on their instincts. It became clear that companies with digitally driven supply chain capabilities outperformed their less-technologically-equipped peers, and boardrooms took notice.

One of our most watched and re-played sessions that year was "Globally-Operating European Companies on Planning and Decision-Making in a New World.” The panel featured supply chain leaders from three of our clients detailing their strategies for anticipating and managing disruptions, focusing on leveraging data to improve supply chain visibility. The improved visibility, the panelists agreed, would help them identify root causes and resolve issues faster and run predictive analytics to proactively identify and plan for potential disruptions earlier.

"If you have the right data, you create visibility very early, and when something in the supply chain hits you, you can make very fast decisions."

Ivanka Janssen, former Chief Supply Chain Officer at Philips

Looking back, all three companies have pushed far beyond managing disruptions to becoming digital leaders in their own right. While the pandemic may not have been the sole catalyst for their digital transformations, it accelerated them. Since then, each company has set high benchmarks for digital maturity in their respective industries.

2022: Geopolitical Conflict, Covid Recovery, and The Sustainability Revolution

Apart from the geopolitical turmoil of the Russa-Ukraine conflict disrupting essential commodity flows such as grain and oil, sustainability quietly became another global focal point in 2022, with many organizations becoming acutely aware of the intersection between the efficiency of global supply chains, the financial performance of companies, and the planet's health. We also began our collective recovery from the pandemic. Businesses began reopening. People headed outside and began interacting face-to-face again, albeit with certain restrictions. 

Many nations revisited or reinforced their commitments to the Paris Agreement, emphasizing reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy. Efforts to achieve net-zero emissions intensified, with some countries setting more ambitious goals. In parallel, corporate sustainability initiatives grew, with more businesses incorporating environmental goals into their business strategies due to regulatory mandates and consumer demand for eco-friendly products.

It was no surprise then that Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's keynote, "The Case for Optimism on the Climate Crisis," was by far our most watched and re-watched session in that year. More of a formal address than a presentation, he explained how the Sustainability Revolution was similar in magnitude to the Industrial Revolution but was accelerating at digital speed and how it was poised to fundamentally change how businesses, people, and the planet interact. 

"As global supply chains are significant contributors to environmental impact, intelligently matching demand and supply, and enhancing alignment and collaboration along the integrated supply chain, are crucial not just for better financial outcomes but also for the planet's health."

Al Gore, Former Vice President of the United States

I remember how that session left me feeling inspired and hopeful about the planet's future. Since then, some progress has been made, with many organizations going beyond commitments to taking tangible actions to reduce their carbon emissions. Environmental regulations such as CSRD requiring companies to report on their ESG impact are ramping up in Europe. Danone has been doing exciting work with its WEF-certified Lighthouse factory in Opole, leveraging automation and other technologies to drastically reduce carbon emissions, water usage, energy consumption, and manufacturing costs. PepsiCo is building an IBP capability that will enable it to integrate sustainability metrics into its business planning processes. Still, there is much more work to be done, specifically when it comes to tracking Scope-3 emissions that come from the supplier network.

2023: Shifts in Global Trade, Scenario Planning, and Risk Management

In 2023, supply chain management faced increased difficulties due to the persistent effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising geopolitical tensions. These challenges led to changes in global trade, pushing companies to embrace digital capabilities that would enable them to better anticipate and manage potential risks. Scenario planning became an essential capability for navigating the uncertainties that affected global supply chains. By examining a range of possible future scenarios, companies could formulate contingency plans to maintain operations despite unexpected changes in the market or political landscape.

Legendary Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli’s session, presented by Pier Paolo Tamma, its Chief Digital Officer, was the most watched and re-played session that year. He explained that its Integrated Business Planning (IBP) capability enables the tire manufacturer to simulate different scenarios, maximizing certain variables, such as EBITA, minimizing others, such as carbon emissions, and making proactive decisions. 

"Sales, Supply Chain, and Logistics can now collaborate, share data, and perform simulations, like, ‘What if I move the production from here to there?’ Or, ‘What will happen regarding cost and EBIT impact?’ That's our final objective: making proactive, data-driven decisions to maximize variables like EBIT and minimize others like emissions or cost."

Pier Paolo Tamma, Chief Digital Officer at Pirelli

I anticipate that tomorrow's scenario planning capabilities will be even more dynamic, enabling the breakdown of silos across commercial, finance, and supply chain functions. This will allow organizations to simulate the impacts of demand and supply risks and actions as scenarios. Decisions will be made much more efficiently, reducing the effort and time required in weekly, monthly, and annual integrated business planning cycles for tactical and strategic planning.

2024: GenAI, Automation, and Supplier Collaboration

2024 was a big year for advancements in automation, generative AI, and supplier collaboration. "Advancing Supplier Collaboration and Procurement with Samsung SDS," presented by Hae-Goo Song, Executive Vice President at Samsung SDS, covered all three topics in detail. Although it was initially broadcast during early morning hours in Europe, which usually sees lower live viewership, it turned out to be one of the most re-watched sessions of the event.

Hae-Goo emphasized the role of automation in reducing the reliance on manual labor and improving efficiency to enhance decision-making and operational performance. "We believe we can automate most of these manual activities with the latest technologies," he stated. He then discussed how generative AI could capture and systematize so-called tribal knowledge, often unstructured and shared informally. He stressed the importance of leveraging past experiences to inform future decisions, explaining, "Planners have many of their own experiences, but all of this knowledge is poorly documented or systemized. In the past, we have exchanged all this intelligence through phone calls or emails. But now we can leverage these past experiences for future decisions."

He also highlighted the inadequacies in current direct procurement solutions, which fail to adequately address significant cost factors. By building out next-generation supplier collaboration and direct procurement capabilities, Samsung SDS aims to enhance efficiency and reduce costs for its clients. "It's time to take action to realize an enterprise optimization we discussed twenty years ago,” he said.

2025: Digital Knowledge Models, Hyper-Automation, and Multi-Tier Visibility

While it’s too early to predict precisely what 2025 will hold, I expect the push to convert tribal knowledge into domain-specific "Digital Knowledge Models" will pick up significant speed. About 80% of the knowledge within global companies is still tribal and stuck in silos. This makes it challenging for business unit owners to get quick and accurate answers to important questions. For example, figuring out why a product didn't meet sales expectations last month or what actions could boost product demand next quarter often involves a cumbersome process of gathering insights from various experts. Too often, the answers come too late or lack detail and accuracy. I believe more business leaders will push their organizations to fast-track the digitization of expertise and tribal knowledge within customer-facing, planning, supply chain, commercial, and product innovation functions, as the competitive landscape in the future will be defined by the quality of these "Digital Knowledge Models."

I also expect global enterprises will increasingly focus on hyper-automation. Companies will continue to drive higher ‘touch-less planning’ percentages across areas such as post-game analysis of plans versus actuals, demand forecasting, and operational planning decisions in procurement, production, distribution, and customer response.

Sustainability and supply chain transformations are also set to converge, particularly around multi-tier visibility and collaboration. In 2020, the pandemic heightened awareness of the need for multi-tier supply chain visibility to identify risks and opportunities beyond a company’s immediate operations. In 2025, I see the possibility of this finally extending into Scope-3 emissions, which would help drive significant improvements in ESG KPIs. However, achieving this won’t be without challenges, as suppliers often lack the incentive to fully disclose their suppliers' operations. It will be up to CSCOs to lead the charge on this front and use ESG as a driver to collaborate with suppliers on digital platforms around demand and supply signals, bill-of-materials, capacities, lead times, and drive forums to identify sources of inefficiencies and risks.

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About the author

Igor Rikalo President & COO at o9 Solutions

Igor Rikalo

President & COO at o9 Solutions

Igor Rikalo is the President and Chief Operations Officer of o9 Solutions. He oversees the global operations of the organization and plays an integral role in ensuring the business continues to scale at a global level. At o9, he has developed a successful track record of building high-performing teams, managing global strategic initiatives, and delivering strong business results.


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