Earlier in 2021, we had discussed how retailers can create an intelligent supply chain to successfully navigate through the disruptions and quickly adapt to changing customer behavior. As our retail customers embarked on the journey to create a resilient and intelligent supply chain, there were three key areas that emerged where our customers prioritized their investments—optimizing fulfillment, predicting supply chain risks, and enhancing supply chain visibility. Let’s take a look at some of Microsoft’s recent innovations in these areas that enable retailers to create a supply chain of the future.
Turning order fulfillment into a competitive advantage
A retailer’s success hinges on having the right inventory at the right place at the right time. As retailers and brands continue to adapt to meeting the growing e-commerce demand, determining where the inventory is fulfilled for e-commerce versus in-store orders becomes critical to ensure that customer demands are met on time and in a profitable manner.
As a recent Gartner® report found, one of the ways to achieve supply chain excellence is by holding distribution center inventory in a channel-agnostic manner for flexible use of inventory to fulfill online and in-store demand effectively1. To achieve this level of flexibility, retailers need a system that offers rules-based order orchestration leveraging AI and real-time omnichannel inventory data to proactively address constraints and profitably fulfill orders on time and in full.
At Microsoft, we are at the forefront of these efforts, investing in solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management that help retailers reimagine the future of global supply chains and turn order fulfillment into a competitive advantage.
Predict risk and enhance visibility with AI-powered insights
According to Gartner®, 76 percent of supply chain executives indicated that compared to three years ago, their company today faces more frequent disruptions in their supply chain. Meanwhile, another 72 percent reported that the impact of disruptive events has increased.2
Retailers have made significant strides in 2021 to create resiliency in their supply chains but the response has still been very reactive in nature. Slow digitization of the supply chain continues to inhibit organizations from proactively planning for changing customer demand and supply challenges. With an increase in e-commerce, it is imperative to gain real-time visibility into inventory at every node of the supply chain, all the way from the manufacturer to shipping ports to distribution centers to stores and finally to the consumer. Brands gain affinity when they consistently deliver on their order promise to their customers.
With this need for increased visibility and consistency in mind, we recently launched Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Insights in preview that enables organizations to predict risks in their supply chain based on news, weather, geo-political events, etc., and enables them to make better supply chain decisions with proactive risk mitigation via prescriptive insights powered by AI.
With Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Insights, retailers and consumer goods companies can create a digital representation of their physical supply chain. This enables them to simulate different scenarios at different nodes along the value chain and make well-informed decisions to mitigate any disruption. They can further gain visibility into the supply chains of their multiple tiers of suppliers, and improve the effectiveness of their demand and supply planning to ensure a delightful customer experience.
We also made significant enhancements to the Inventory Visibility add-in for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. Retailers can now get near real-time inventory visibility across all their internal channels and disparate third-party supply chain systems in a single place. Adding multiple systems in a scalable manner allows them to add new third-party integrations as they grow their supplier network or acquire new businesses. The enhanced visibility enables businesses to proactively mitigate any out-of-stock situations. Furthermore, they can perform soft reservations based on omnichannel sales demand so that they do not incorrectly commit to a customer.
Retailers can further leverage enhanced planning capabilities to enable near real-time inventory planning by prioritizing certain orders over others with ease. For example, they can prioritize orders for products that are low on stock versus the ones that are not. Lastly, retailers can optimize and streamline back-of-house operations like receiving and replenishment using the Warehouse Management mobile app. The mobile app empowers distribution centers, warehouses, and brick-and-mortar locations to make inventory decisions like transferring goods from one location to another simply by scanning the items. By running critical warehouse operations on Edge, retailers can ensure business continuity across all locations despite latency or network issues at HQ.
All the supply chain solutions from Dynamics 365 are not only interoperable with each other but also seamlessly work with other third-party ERP, commerce, and supply chain systems.
Take the Supply Chain Visibility Guided Tour to see how a retailer can enhance supply chain visibility using Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Cloud for Retail.
Here are some recent examples of our retail customers who have created a resilient supply chain this past year using Dynamics 365.
Servis Industries Limited powers direct-to-consumer expansion by moving to the cloud
Established more than 50 years ago, Servis Industries Limited (SIL) is a leading manufacturer and exporter in Pakistan. To achieve its goal of becoming a global, world-class, and diversified company, SIL moved its on-premises infrastructure to the cloud by adopting Dynamics 365 Finance, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, and Dynamics 365 Commerce. Now, the company has a holistic overview of its retail stores and an infrastructure management system that can support rapid national and international growth.
“To achieve our goal, we need to open 40 to 50 outlets per year. It used to be that with each new store, our team had to be on-site to provide technical support. Now, everything is cloud-based, so we don’t have to travel. The new stores can just access the systems and start their operations almost immediately.”––Faisal Rizvi, Head of IT, Servis Industries Limited.
Another challenge that SIL encountered in its journey was the need to meet the evolving customer expectation for personalized engagement, omnichannel experiences, and frictionless interactions. For this, the company turned to Distributed Order Management to deliver smooth order processing between its e-commerce platform and physical stores and to optimize order fulfillment across their network by utilizing AI, automation, and real-time inventory.
Khaadi delivers rapid omnichannel success
Founded in 1998, Khaadi is Pakistan’s premier fashion retailer with more than 70 physical stores across Pakistan, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the United Kingdom, and online stores in more than 12 countries. With its growing network of physical and online storefronts, the company needed a solution that could streamline its omnichannel sales delivery and empower its daily operations with actionable store-level insights for managers. The drive towards omnichannel was forced into overdrive when pandemic lockdowns moved all of Khaadi’s operations online. Suddenly, they needed to pivot to leverage a single inventory across the business and use their stores as fulfillment hubs.
To meet this challenge, Khaadi turned to Microsoft Power Apps and Power BI, alongside Dynamics 365 Commerce, Dynamics 365 Finance, and Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. With this technology in place, Khaadi successfully transitioned to omnichannel.
“We were able to draw up a blueprint for omnichannel sales rapidly and implemented a complete enterprise-level scenario in just in one weekend. IT was able to transform the dynamics of our business within just a week’s time, making Khaadi a truly omnichannel enabled retailer. From there, it was only a matter of three months before we scaled the roll out ten times with help of Dynamics 365 Commerce Distributed Order Management.”––Muhammad Rehan Qadri, Chief Information Officer, Khaadi.
As you can see by these recent customer success stories, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management is helping companies to deliver the retail supply chain of the future by empowering direct-to-consumer expansion and accelerating omnichannel success.
The events of the past two years have made it essential for businesses to invest in technology that can help them sense supply chain constraints and disruptions and predict spikes and troughs in demand. Microsoft Dynamics 365 assists companies in integrating these types of new capabilities, such as real-time, end-to-end visibility, priority-based planning, and AI-empowered insights so that they can effectively compete in this new normal. As we have seen here, this can take the form of accelerating direct-to-consumer and omnichannel success, empowering retailers to turn order fulfillment into a competitive advantage, and integrating advanced warehousing solutions to improve distribution processes.
To learn more, join the Ask the Experts session on how to automate and optimize fulfillment on Tuesday, January 25, 2022, at 10:00 AM Pacific Time. You can watch the on-demand webinar on how to create a resilient and sustainable supply chain and the total economic impact of implementing Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. You can also watch the on-demand webinar on how to enhance the visibility of your supply chain by taking a composable approach to rapidly deploy a Supply Chain Control Tower.
1- Gartner®: The Contemporary Guide to Retail Supply Chain Excellence: Part 1 — Inventory and Assortment Published 22 November 2021 – ID G00743960
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
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Celebrating many identities within a global community of impact: An Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month conversation
Srinivas Prasad Sugasani: It’s such fun to connect with you on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As Asians and Pacific Islanders, I feel that we have so much to celebrate. At the same time, as we think about some of the events and realities that we have navigated recently, I’m curious from your perspective,…
Srinivas Prasad Sugasani: It’s such fun to connect with you on Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As Asians and Pacific Islanders, I feel that we have so much to celebrate. At the same time, as we think about some of the events and realities that we have navigated recently, I’m curious from your perspective, Jane, what do you feel is different about this past year?
Jane Hesmondhalgh: We’ve continued on our journey of working to create an inclusive culture at Microsoft. And there is still a gap between our aspired culture and everyone’s lived experiences today. For some, that gap may be small; for others it may be larger. But the fact that at Microsoft we have this value system we’re aspiring to is, I think, very much aligned to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
We’re consistently working toward respect, accountability and high integrity at Microsoft. I would say that our continued work to make progress is not so much different this year, but that we’re focusing even more effort on it.
Unfortunately, this past year we have seen the continued trend of acts of hate toward Asians globally. But the fact that Microsoft is strongly supporting the community in the face of those is super critical for the community. And that much-needed support is not a one-time event where we say something and then we’re on to the next thing. It’s the ongoing recognition that acts against violence, injustice and inequities across the world are unacceptable.
SPS: That’s right. We’ve also been focused on community education in the wake of this alarming rise in acts of hate and violence — how the community can leverage safety practices, and how can we work with the local government communities to increase safety.
JH: Our Inclusion Council has also been really engaged in these discussions. Other examples of sustained commitment to the community include the events we’ve done to engage with external experts in ongoing learning such as Microsoft Include, and of course the support of our Asians at Microsoft Employee Resources Group (ERG). I have heard from the community specifically that one of the most powerful things they’ve attended this year are our community calls, where people have had the opportunity to talk through how they’re feeling with others who may have experienced similar things.
SPS: Based on what we heard from our community, we’ve also been increasingly focused on how we strengthen and support the advancement of the ERG and its members at the company. I am really proud of how we’ve been working with outside experts on leadership development across the company, all the way from entry-level employees to the most senior in the company. This is the kind of year-round investment that is directly benefiting the community.
JH: I’m so passionate about this piece — the leadership education for Asians and Pacific Islanders. When I started as the sponsor for the Asians ERG, that was the No. 1 feedback, that the community wanted unique and tailored leadership education.
As we know, there are 4.7 billion people in this broad community across the world. Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 60% of the world population. That really strikes me. Because within that, there are so many different perspectives. So, a question for you is, how do we ensure that different types of conversations and perspectives from the entire community are brought in?
SPS: As you said — 60% of the global population! And we are trying to represent diversity within the community at that scale. It’s actually one of our strategic pillars in our ERG — including all community members. I think we’re doing a really good job with that. The leadership team has ensured that we include many voices, and as a result of that diversity of thought, we’ve seen new steps and actions being taken. For example, we had an Asians ERG art exhibition. We had a day of remembrance where people could talk about their practices, cultures, ancestors. We had a stand-up comedy event. And we’ve focused specifically on women inventors. Those are just a few examples.
So, focusing on the many dimensions of identity within our global community ensures that we can all share our experiences and learn from each other.
JH: This leads me to reflect on the word “community” and what does that mean? With a global team located all over the world, how do we bring everybody together in a sense of community? At Microsoft the community is a combination of people, cultures and beliefs. So, I think that community piece is our connection to the history across the Asia Pacific region. Within this vast land mass, we can appreciate and understand the differences and uniqueness of the people in the sub-communities and societies. We talked earlier about Microsoft’s culture and values. I think one thing that helps us is that Asian values around integrity and respect are very similar to the company’s. And then of course we go beyond respect to actually celebrating our cultures. Each of our ERG chapters and groups, each culture, is a contribution that is valuable to the world.
And these values are actually critical for the work ahead, right? This year, next year and beyond, we want to tackle the biggest problems that divide us as a society. And we’ve got that microcosm of society within our Asian and Pacific Islander community. We can play a huge role in landing the mindset of interconnectivity and learning both within and outside the company. Each person must be committed to driving positive change, be more intentionally inclusive in the workplace and build our empathy. With this, we can build momentum to meet the challenges of the world.
SPS: Well said Jane. As you’re speaking, I’m thinking about my own personal journey as well. Part of my life I lived on a farm in a small village. I experienced a community there where everybody looked like me, spoke like me with a very similar kind of language. When I lived in various cities, that was the first time I’d experienced people looking like me but speaking different dialects.
And then when I started working on a multinational level, I encountered people who had such a range of cultural differences from me. What I’ve learned is whether it is living in a village, in a small community or at the global level, human values remain the same. I’ve realized more recently that as things become more complex, more turbulent, and we do not know what future will hold, the constant is the values that we all stand for. And that is true across the Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and all across Microsoft and our nine ERGs and many dimensions of identities.
JH: You know, I never thought about it in this way but because you shared a little bit about your own background, I’ll share something about when we moved from the U.S. back to the U.K. In his new school, my son felt left out, and suddenly struggled with questions around “I am British, but do they think I am American or Chinese?” He didn’t feel that sense of belonging, and all these new questions of identity came up which he held to himself. Things did get better, but it reminds me that it’s all of our responsibility to help each other understand that while people are different, everybody has something to offer. People need to feel like they’re valued and that they can contribute without being judged.
SPS: It is so true. Thank you for sharing that. Are there any misperceptions about the Asian and Pacific Islander community that you would like to address?
JH: I’ve heard people say things like, gosh Asians are good at math and science, and they have an easier entry to STEM fields and occupations. I don’t know that I would ever categorize it as easier or not easier. There are many Asians who are not good at math and science, right? It’s a generalization, and there are a lot of these.
Another misconception is that because the Asian population is large, there are a lot of Asian leaders. But actually, the statistics have shown that we’re the least likely of all racial groups to become managers and executives. We need more role models and pathways to that senior level, which is where those development efforts we spoke about earlier come in. And of course, some other misconceptions came up during the pandemic around Chinese people.
So again, what combats these types of misconceptions and harmful stereotypes is learning and building our understanding and empathy for one another.
SPS: I absolutely agree. We will continue this work with the Microsoft communities and our leadership. I look forward to the impact we will make in the coming year. Thank you so much, Jane, for the chance to have this conversation. I look forward to our celebrations and recognition this month!
JH: Thank you, Srinivas! Happy Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
3 ways to turn your field service operation into a revenue-generating machine
For decades, companies have relied on skilled technicians to repair equipment and engage with customers in the field. While these technicians were often the only representation that the customer would see, their skills, processes, and systems were seldom seen as critical aspects of the company’s revenue cycle. Until recently, many field technicians or field service…
For decades, companies have relied on skilled technicians to repair equipment and engage with customers in the field. While these technicians were often the only representation that the customer would see, their skills, processes, and systems were seldom seen as critical aspects of the company’s revenue cycle. Until recently, many field technicians or field service teams were merely thought of as necessary cost centers. But like other parts of the organization, even the cost centers must learn to innovate and discover additional revenue–generating opportunities.
Field service is the process of organizing and managing work tasks that need to be completed at a particular location, usually a customer site. The field service process often includes many variables and can be quite complex. It encompasses dispatching, scheduling, skills matching, and route optimization, to name a few. Many people have been in a situation where they’re expected to wait all day for a technician because they’ve been given a broad arrival window time between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM. Well, that’s field service—albeit, a rather inefficient model.
As the field service domain evolves, companies are learning their inefficiencies in the field can quickly cost them revenue as customer satisfaction is negatively impacted and the lifetime value of their customers decreases. And while companies across all industries are realizing the extended costs of inefficient field service operations, those that are innovative have begun to understand how to also leverage field service to generate more revenue. Cost reductions by becoming more efficient can be great, but reducing costs while increasing revenue is pure gold.
Here are three ways to drive revenue through your field service operations and how Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service can help create efficiencies.
1. Lead generation
This may sound odd primarily because lead generation has always been a staple of marketing and sales operations. But who else gets to know your customers better than your field technicians? Here’s a quick personal story:
After a recent move, I called several internet service providers. For starters, I selected the provider that could deliver service in the least amount of time. Upon arrival, the technician asked about other services, particularly mobile phone service. Since I had a different mobile phone carrier, he said they have specials and asked if I would be interested in hearing them. Shortly after confirming my interest and completing my internet installation, a field salesperson knocked on my door and converted me over to their mobile plan. A lead generated and a sale transacted—all originating from the field technician’s simple question.
Field technicians are skilled workers that often have a series of tasks needed to complete the service. By simply including a question or by noting a specific item on their task list, a Microsoft Power Automate flow can be triggered to automatically create a lead and route it to the sales team. This creates a qualified lead for the sales team and a cross-sell revenue opportunity for the company.
2. Expanding business units: Field Service-as-a-Service
To truly turn your field service operations into a revenue generator, the current operation must become efficient. Efficiency requires innovation; that is, innovation of processes, system platforms, and people. When it comes to field service operations, it’s safe to say not all organizations innovate at the same pace and some prefer not to innovate at all. This is where your innovation and efficiencies can become a revenue-generating asset.
For example, a large healthcare facilities provider began as a facilities management operation. They provided facilities management services to the vast and growing network of healthcare providers. Continuing to innovate and drive efficiencies with Dynamics 365 Field Service, the healthcare facilities provider quickly recognized the value they could bring to other healthcare provider networks and began offering their services to other hospitals. By leveraging their efficiencies, they were able to provide great value to more than 160 hospitals which allows their customers to create better patient experiences. The healthcare facilities provider is a great example of how field service efficiencies were used to create a revenue-generating business unit.
3. Connected Field Service: leverage data
Connected Field Service leverages IoT data collected from device sensors and integrates with Dynamics 365 Field Service to create a new revenue-generating service model. Connected Field Service allows organizations to graduate from the traditional break-fix service model to a proactive and predictive service model. This shift creates opportunities for organizations to market and sell new service offerings that yield greater revenue and increase margin.
A connected field service example is a Pacific Northwest mechanical contractor company. The organization specializes in developing energy-efficient buildings. However, by capturing the data from IoT sensors, their connected field service solution enables them to offer post-construction optimization services. IoT sensors capture a building’s energy levels and proactively dispatches a service technician prior to failure—thus, ensuring operational efficiency within their customers’ facilities. Building on their efficiencies, they can conserve and reduce travel costs by performing remote inspections and service with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist. Such efficiency creates opportunities to sell more advanced support offerings thereby increasing revenue and profitability.
Learn more about Dynamics 365 Field Service
The good news is that becoming more efficient in field service operations can be extremely valuable to your organization. The better news is that through innovation, field service operations can even be transformed into a revenue-generating machine.
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