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Gartner: operating with a customer-centric approach in the research and advisory sector

Supply Chain Digital speaks with Mal Jones, Head of APAC Sales at Gartner, and discusses how the research and advisory firm conducts business in Asia.

As a leading research and advisory company, Gartner operates with a firm customer-centric approach and serves leaders of every major function in all industries and market sectors. Offering expertise in supply chain management to executives across various enterprises, the global firm caters to more than 15,000 client organisations from 100 different countries worldwide.

Having worked for Gartner since January 2015, in roles such as Business Development Director in Sydney, Australia and Director of APAC Supply Chain, Mal Jones is well-experienced in understanding the supply chain industry in Asia. Originally emigrating to Australia from the UK in 2008, Mal moved onto work in Singapore in May 2017 and remains responsible for launching Gartner’s supply chain business across Asia. Despite the task of negotiating challenging and diverse markets in Asia, Mal believes that there is a great opportunity for Gartner to experience growth and achieve success in the region. “It’s a different way of working here, and there are massive opportunities for us in Asia. We’re quite new in this region and have only been operating in this market for a few years. However, we’re one of the fastest growing divisions in the business and it’s a great place to be.”

As a company with $4bn in revenue and a member of the S&P 500 with clients in 73% of the Global 500 and organisations of every size, Jones believes Gartner’s ability to consistently disrupt the consultancy industry enables it to stand out from its rivals. “We're a retained partner for clients and work on an individual level. We work with chief supply chain officers and their direct reports, but our engagement is very practical, and we generate value through on the ground support through our research, toolkits, ongoing discussions with our industry experts (end to end coverage /cross industry) and peer connections,” explains Jones. “The change management journey isn't easy. It's the individuals in the company who are driving it and often our clients tell us that building internal capability is one of the hardest parts. If you get somebody coming in and driving it for you; you're not really building skills for the medium and long term. Our aim is to add short, medium- and long-term value for our clients over time. The world for customers is becoming increasing challenging, as supply chain leaders continue to try to balance, cost, cash and service priorities for their customers and market segment.”

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“Customer expectations of faster fulfilment and increased supply agility continue to grow, driving significant challenges for businesses with rigid legacy fulfilment networks to cost effectively respond,” says Thomas O’Conner, Senior Research Director at Gartner. The key success factors that will ensure the sustainability of strategic supply chain transformations include active C-suite level engagement and sponsorship of supply chain transformation initiatives. “There needs to be clear alignment with broader organisation goals and objectives, including an understanding of the capabilities required to deliver and succeed in these objectives,” says James Lisica, Senior Director at Gartner. “Our own research shows that 75% of digital supply chain projects fail to align with broader digital business strategies. It’s important there’s effective communication and change management skills within the supply chain that go beyond analysis and return on investment (ROI), instead focusing on employee engagement, feelings and actions associated with the transformation.”

With a drive to build long-term, sustainable relationships with its clients, Gartner maintains a client retention rate of 90% in Asia, in addition to operating with a multi-year engagement and partnering with clients over three years as standard. “Supply chain transformation and building capabilities inside an organisation doesn't happen overnight,” explains Jones. “Our high retention rate is testament to the value that we can help our clients generate; they come back year over year and renew. We really want to foster long-term partnerships by delivering value and ensuring we align with the business’ overall strategy. Our clients’ immediate supply chain priorities can sometimes change, but usually the critical priorities that CEOs lay down tend not be disrupted too dramatically. For example, it might be that our clients want to grow market share in Asia and double their volumes, but our clients always want to make sure they're delivering profitable growth to their shareholders. The supply chain is critical to delivering this and the strategies and execution from those executives and their teams running the supply chain must be aligned because the supply chain doesn’t operate in a bubble. Our job is to really understand what's happening in the business and then help our clients translate that into effective supply chain transformation strategies and execution in the most efficient way.”

As the rise of technology necessitates the digital transformation of companies worldwide, it has become progressively more important that Research & Advisory firms such as Gartner move away from traditional models and begin to leverage technology in new ways. “Today, our model consists of operating in a digital format in many ways,” explains Jones. “Gartner.com is where all of the research sits and we don't fly experts all around the world; we use technology to connect our clients to our experts to have those conversations. From the client's perspective, digital transformation is coming at them at a rapid rate. Our job is to try and help cut through the noise and figure out which technology is appropriate at each stage of the journey. One person’s AI is another person’s attempt at transitioning away from spreadsheets. Digitalisation can mean lots of different things to a range of different companies.”

Looking to the future, Jones has a clear idea of how success can be achieved long-term in the supply chain space. “The supply chain is one of the key levers for successful growth for a company,” notes Jones. “If you're not transforming your supply chain and not continually looking at efficiencies and maturing the processes, you're going to be going backwards versus your competition. CEOs know that they have bright people in the organisation. They also know that they haven't got time to go and research best practice and figure out the right things to do in the correct order. Therefore, there's a role for partnerships with us to be able to help plug that gap and build that capability up. I would expect our double-digit growth to continue into the future – there's no reason why not.”

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