We have been experiencing slow economic growth for a while now. Financial crashes are typically succeeded by over ten years of slow growth, which means a new downward cycle may be imminent. In the context of record Dow Jones levels and the FTSE not far off its high, it might seem strange to be pessimistic. But when Warren Buffett holds over $100bn of cash, it seems to be an anecdotal indicator that we are nearing the top of a cycle. Being agile with your supply chain is now more important than ever, as you don’t want to get caught with high priced goods and services, or the wrong inventory altogether as your market evolves.
Politics shape and reshape the global economy. More so now than ever, economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans, and Labour and Conservative represent a vast divide. Whether it is Trump or Brexit, coalition politics and political decisions are having a big impact on both the polity and the economic prospects. Questions about trade, tariff barriers, regulation and corporate tax are now subject to divergent positions and disagreement. The answers could go in multiple directions, and so politics and electoral results are back to having a bearing on business certainties. Resolutions to these questions can take many different shapes and will bring some turbulent swings in the stock market and broader business marketplace. Since these issues are central to the way business is conducted, long-term cost discipline strategies aimed to give cover for the political uncertainty are warranted.
While not everything is going to be digitized or robotized (I hope a robot isn’t my next barber), the digital age has descended upon us. Some industries are further down the maturity curve than others – both retail and finance, for example, have substantial legacy infrastructures which impact the incumbent ability to compete cost-effectively, and with agility. All industries, however, need to optimize digitally; managing processes, metrics, and data to inform short-term and long-term strategies to stay competitive and manage costs. With the emergence of cutting-edge technologies and the disruption of traditional business models, every company will require a hard look at their strategy to ensure they are embracing both the challenges and opportunities that come with advancing supplier provided technologies and their effect on procurement. Companies need to consider how the rapid rate of innovation will disrupt how their organizations work and line up their suppliers to respond. What a moment in time! Add a dash of currency devaluation leading to imported inflation, sprinkle in digital technology, and we could not ask for more ambiguity from the circumstances around us. Setting clear, agile strategy to control costs is the shrewd response to deal with the uncertainty of our times. Go procurement.