If companies ever needed real-time insights into alternative sources across their supply chains, now is it. COVID-19 is like nothing humanity has ever seen, and leaders are stepping up to protect their business and prepare for a very different world.
Here is a summary of what supply chain and geopolitical experts shared during a timely session of last month's virtual SAP Ariba Live event, spotlighting steps that companies can take right now and for the future.
Develop Worst-Case Sourcing Plans
While running lean is sacred to modern supply chain management, the pandemic challenges long-held efficiency norms, in some cases with life-threatening consequences. Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, saw COVID-19 as the ultimate stress test.
'Sophisticated companies know exactly where every piece [is located] and don't need to overstock. They're incredibly lean and incredibly efficient,' Bremmer said. 'This [pandemic] tells you that actually you need to have a lot more 'what if' capacity, not just-in-time but just-in-case supply chains. We don't have many companies that have done a lot of work around that.'
Bremmer, who intertwined the impact of COVID-19 with geopolitical risks, called on companies to rethink sourcing strategies in a 'radically different' environment.
Sean Thompson, executive vice president of Network & Ecosystem for SAP Procurement Solutions, said this was why the company opened up access to SAP Ariba Discovery, 'to help companies find alternative sources of supply.'
Prepare for Geopolitical Risks
According to Bremmer, the danger businesses face is not just because COVID-19 happened, it's because it has happened at this moment in history.
Bremmer has inextricably linked the impact of the pandemic to geopolitical dynamics. The wide-ranging conversation included his thoughts on the blended - and very much globalized - business and political outlooks of countries like the U.S., China, and India. He also shared his views on the emergence of a fundamentally changed world power order. Overall, he predicted more trade disputes as supply chains localize further and zero-sum strategies become the norm.
'Countries are increasingly going to have to decide who they're aligned with, and that's going to be challenging for many countries in the world that would much rather have a foot in both systems,' he said.
Power in Collaboration
Even as he acknowledged the fast-changing challenges COVID-19 posed worldwide, Bremmer was optimistic about the private sector's ability to alter the path of the threat.
'We'll do it not just because of our government, but because of the private sector, our CEOs…, because our entrepreneurs are among the strongest in the world and they will row together,' he said.
During another virtual session, Bremmer also praised the 'robust' and 'extraordinary cross-border function' among the collaborative response of organizations outside of government.
'Suddenly we're going to get this kind of response from outside the federal government, which does have the ability to move very quickly,' he said. 'It's responding to the coronavirus - in the universities, researchers, as well as the private sector - to get data out, medicines that respond to coronavirus, build a vaccine…[all] in a way like nothing humanity has ever seen.'.
'The response function of the world's talent pool, human capital, is actually only becoming more global, and that truly is something to bank on moving forward.'
We have been talking about real time for a while, but it has taken on a whole new meaning in a world rocked by COVID-19. Supply chain efficiency will be among the thousands of business practices redefined by a pandemic that promises to leave no business norm unscathed. Organizations can and will fix this for the better.
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This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.