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What is a control tower and why do you need one?

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Published: Reading time: 5 min
o9 Solutions The Digital Brain Platform
o9 SolutionsThe Digital Brain Platform
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Visualize what is possible

Empower The Future Vision

Make outcomes real today


Supply Chain Control Towers were first introduced in the 1990s. In the last 30 years there has been little effort or progress in creating a universal definition. Thus, confusion remains about what they are, how they operate, and what is their future potential. Rather than attempt to align on a collective understanding of what legacy Supply Chain Control Towers were meant to be, companies should shift the focus to identifying typical use cases, future vision and the potential outcomes of next generation solutions.

To start that shift, consider how Control Towers can help your company address the 3W’s:

  • 1.

    What happened?
  • 2.

    What is likely to happen?
  • 3.

    What actions need to be taken?

Visualize what is possible

Using the clarification of the 3W’s we can start to understand why a Control Tower is  beneficial in theory and how advanced use cases generate enterprise-wide value for the business. However, pontificating from the ivory tower isn’t actionable. Applying theory to execution starts with identifying specific next generation Control Towers capabilities that enable the supply chain to visualize and drive performance improvement in your organization.

The minimum expectation is that Control Towers are meant to provide a connected dashboard visualizing KPIs, metrics, and events that a supply chain practitioner uses to monitor the health of the operation and react quickly to disruption. Historically, a majority of the data comes from inside the organization and perhaps the first tier of suppliers depending on supply chain maturity. The volatility of supply chain performance over the last 18 months has highlighted the reality that this level of information isn’t enough.

To help you be better prepared for when the next disruption hits, Supply Chain Control Towers can help you with:

  • Visualizing performance data from across the entire network, starting with tier 2 or 3 (or farther) suppliers all the way through to POS data and everything in between.  This will allow supply chain leaders to identify and isolate weaknesses in the network and take proactive steps to shore up performance at these points.
  • Real time scenario planning during disruptive events.  This ability allows planners to find the most profitable alternative paths forward during a disruption.   Examples of this volatility could be cyberattacks, shipping delays, extreme weather events, unforecasted demand spikes and more.  On both the supply and demand side, Control Towers can analyze vast amounts of real time data to find the optimal path forward given the remaining options, saving an organization time and money while improving customer satisfaction. 
  • Cross functional collaboration and communication between internal and external teams. Every vertical is experiencing significant disruption, consolidation, and staffing challenges. The ability to communicate in real time in an easy way that gets all players up to speed quickly is imperative. More important is the ability to make decisions collaboratively and understand the impacts to everyone involved.  Control Towers enable that level of communication and transparency in an easy to read way, saving companies time and money and eliminating inadvertent fire drills when changes are made.

Empower The Future Vision

Building those capabilities within your supply chain requires new functionality. According to a recent Gartner report Quick Answer: These Are the Characteristics of a Supply Chain Control Tower that any future-proof supply chain needs to have:

  • 1.

    Continuous intelligence — Capturing data in real-time and continuously (event stream processing or business activity monitoring).
  • 2.

    Advanced analytics — Leveraging predictive and prescriptive analytics to move from being reactive to more proactive.
  • 3.

    Impact analysis — Understanding the impact of signals from the digital ecosystem to the company’s supply chain.
  • 4.

    Scenario modeling — Simulating different scenarios for providing a suitable smart response.
  • 5.

    Collaborative response — Connect and collaborate in the ecosystem (aka collaboration room).
  • 6.

    Artificial intelligence — Driving a higher degree of automation by artificial intelligence/machine learning.

Legacy Control Tower offerings weren’t built to handle these requirements, let alone excel with the execution of them. Older systems that were originally developed for on- premise usage have some of these functions, but they are often siloed and bolted on, providing sometimes good enough insight into real-time performance through fragile integrations. 

Make outcomes real today

The o9 Digital Brain, as a cloud-native AI/ML platform, is capable of all these things in addition to providing a revenue management optimization solution and our Enterprise Knowledge Graph (EKG) offering, which is a living repository that collects thousands of external data sets and intuits their impact natively to the organizational data providing an accurate real time analysis of market conditions and performance impacts.

Each department has its needs met when adopting a low touch, low overhead, powerful planning solution that incorporates the needs of the CIO dealing with staffing constraints, the CFO and finance team, as well as the needs of a CSCO that wants to meet SLAs with their customers. They are all able to work from a common platform to achieve a common goal of moving the organization forward.

For more detailed, industry focused information on Supply Chain Control Towers download one of our whitepapers, read our next blog The (o)9 Things a Supply Chain Control Tower Will Deliver, or request a demo.

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Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ 2023

o9 Solutions recognized as a Leader in the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Supply Chain Planning Solutions. Download for free the full Magic Quadrant.

About the author

o9 Solutions The Digital Brain Platform

o9 Solutions

The Digital Brain Platform

o9 Solutions is a leading AI-powered platform for integrated business planning and decision-making for the enterprise. Whether it is driving demand, aligning demand and supply, or optimizing commercial initiatives, any planning process can be made faster and smarter with o9’s AI-powered digital solutions. o9 brings together technology innovations—such as graph-based enterprise modeling, big data analytics, advanced algorithms for scenario planning, collaborative portals, easy-to-use interfaces and cloud-based delivery—into one platform.


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