Saturday, February 4, 2023

Microsoft Rolling Out Supply Chain Platform

REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft is targeting the supply chain market with its latest software release.

The Microsoft Supply Chain Platform is designed to help organizations maximize their supply chain data estate investment via a combination of Microsoft artificial intelligence (AI), collaboration, low code, security, and SaaS applications within one overarching platform, according to the company last month.

This supply chain software rollout by Microsoft comes at a time of supply chain disruption worldwide. Whether due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the Great Recession, the “Great Resignation,” quiet quitting, layoffs, legislation that impacted trucking and shipping, the war in Ukraine, or other factors, the global supply chain has stuttered of late. Chip shortages, cabling shortages, and much longer lead times for equipment have become the norm.

Supply chain dovetails nicely into existing Microsoft strengths in enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), collaboration, project management, and the cloud.

Microsoft Supply Chain Platform

The Microsoft Supply Chain Platform makes use of building blocks across Azure, Dynamics 365, Microsoft Teams, and the Power Platform for the development of enhanced supply chain capabilities. For example, a feature known as Dataverse enables users to create thousands of connectors to gain visibility across existing supply chain systems. They can use it to develop custom workflows using low-code solutions within the Power Platform. In addition, they can collaborate internally and externally on security using Microsoft Teams.

Existing Microsoft partners within its already extensive ecosystem can use it to enable supply chain resiliency and agility for their own customers. Some will use it to carve out a niche of supply chain and domain expertise that piggybacks on other offerings, such as Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Teams, and Power Platform.

Command Center

At the core of the Supply Chain Platform is the Microsoft Supply Chain Center, which provides a command center experience that can harmonize data from across existing infrastructure supply chain systems, such as data from Dynamics 365 and other enterprise resource planning (ERP) providers, including SAP and Oracle, along with stand-alone supply chain systems.

Microsoft Supply Chain Center, therefore, will be welcomed in some quarters as a ready-made command center for supply chain visibility and transformation. It can work natively with an organization’s supply chain data and applications to add more comprehensive collaboration, supply and demand insights, and order management. Note that Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management customers can automatically gain access to Supply Chain Center.

Within Supply Chain Center, there are several components. Data Manager enables data ingestion and orchestration from current systems of execution. A supply and demand insights module leverages Azure AI models to predict upstream supply constraints and shortages as well as perform simulations. Smart news insights provides relevant news alerts on external events. An order management module orchestrates fulfillment and automates it with a rules-based system through real-time omnichannel inventory data, machine learning (ML), and AI.

“Petabytes of data”

“Businesses are dealing with petabytes of data spread across legacy systems, ERP, supply chain management, and point solutions, resulting in a fragmented view of the supply chain,” said Charles Lamanna, corporate VP, Microsoft Business Applications and Platforms.

“Supply chain agility and resilience are directly tied to how well organizations connect and orchestrate their data across all relevant systems.”

Lamanna said Microsoft Supply Chain Platform and Supply Chain Center “enable organizations to make the most of their existing investments to gain insights and act quickly.”

Supply chain solutions are “more critical than ever,” said Daniel Newman, founding partner and principal analyst, Futurum Research.

“Our early assessment of the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform and Supply Chain Center is that the company has put its technology, applications, and resources together in a way that will serve its customer base well in a wide swath of IT and operations environments, offering flexibility for diverse IT environments and continuous agility for transformation into the future,” Newman said.

Microsoft’s Recent Activity

Of late, Microsoft has been making waves via aggressive moves to expand the number of cloud markets it locally serves as well as the capacity of those locally situated data centers. Hardly a month goes by without yet another announcement about a new territory or two.

Similarly, AI has regularly been featured in company announcements in 2022, as have expansion of the capabilities of Teams and its adoption across the enterprise landscape.

Backing everything, the company places high value on expanded partnerships and building out its channel partner ecosystem. There are regular announcements about new partners, improved channel programs, and features aimed at broader collaboration.

Growth of the Supply Chain Market

The global supply chain management market size was estimated to be valued at $18.5 billion in 2021, according to Grandview Research.

But with an expected expansion rate of 11% per year between 2022 and 2030, this market could be well in excess of $50 billion by the end of the decade.

See more: How Supply Chains Can Improve Demand Forecasting

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