Essential Team Tools for the First-Time Supply Chain Manager

So you've climbed the rickety old corporate ladder and made it to the top. Congratulations. Now the real work begins. If you're a first-time manager, you probably have a thing or two to learn. Switching from producing to managing production is quite a stretch.

Obviously, you're already equipped with many skills, abilities, and experiences needed for the job. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been promoted. However, it's always good to add proven tools to your repertoire. Read on to learn about the essential manager tools that will keep you evolving in helpful ways.

Whether you're in supply chain management or not, you would benefit from each of these tools.

Communication tools

(Source: Flickr/Kris Krug)

(Source: Flickr/Kris Krug)

Communication skills are essential for first-time managers, but what about modes of communication? In a multitasking, fast-paced office environment, email isn't always king.

Aside from using email for concrete communication (such as policy changes), there are several quicker ways to collaborate on projects and distribute information among employees. Supply chain managers benefit from fluid communication channels that will make it easy to assess their company's inventory needs through direct correspondence with department heads.

To send hurried requests to employees and peers, consider the following pinging or instant messaging services. Many of them allow group chat and video functionality.

For collaborating or communicating in a dynamic thread, the following tools are also effective. This software is exceptional for project management and assigning tasks.

  • Google Docs/Google Drive: Google Docs allows users to create documents that others can view or edit. Google Drive offers cloud-based storage for these documents and more. Both are free.
  • Podio: This web-based project management and tasking software is also free.
  • Basecamp: This web-based project management and tasking software is similar to Podio. Prices start at $20/month.
  • Flow: This is another web-based project management and tasking software similar to Podio. Prices start at $19/month.

Benchmark tools
Many project management tools allow you to benchmark employee project performance and set goals through assigned tasks. Podio, for example, allows managers to create a workspace (project), add users (employees) to the project, and assign tasks (goals). As tasks are completed, you can set the workspace progress slider to reflect the project's development. If certain employees are not meeting benchmarks or goals, it will be clear based on incomplete tasks.

Benchmark tools are key performance indicators. Furthermore, they let managers tackle problems as they arise. This prevents surprise issues and deadline disasters. Furthermore, your employees can add tasks to your workflow, which can alert you to any issues that could come up in any forecasts.

Of course, there are lots of tools to manage projects and performance. Let us know your proven strategies for keeping things on track.

13 comments on “Essential Team Tools for the First-Time Supply Chain Manager

  1. ITempire
    February 28, 2014

    Jane, supply chain manager must have good adaptibility skills. Most remain focused on operational issues which are many by the way in the supply chain. Further, what I have seen in my organization is that IT does not participate in providing these applications proactively. Managers have to follow up and give the name of the application that they need to communicate. In that case, for a manager, for instance, who does not know what Lync is all about, he cannot take benefit from the tool.

  2. ITempire
    February 28, 2014

    About your point on email, I totally agree that email isn't always king. Instead, often it results in misunderstandings betweeen people. However, you can't set this feature aside because to keep things documented, this is necessary.

  3. Jane Miller
    March 1, 2014

    Yes you are right. Suplly chain managers thrives in a dynamic work environment. Chnage is happening al around and that includes tools or applications necessary to conduct business. 

    I alsow think that it's a must for supply chain managers to educate themselves in these tools. Attending IT workshops forexample. 

  4. t.alex
    March 1, 2014

    How about whatsapp and similar apps? I saw lots of people using nowadays.

  5. SCM Ranger01
    March 1, 2014

    I see both your points as being very valid.  I have adopted the messenger Lync for quick communication between sales and operations.  However, anything that needs to be documented needs to be in the email format.  And as always SN Guru, I agree managers must do the follow-up.  I would say it is the key communication skill that many are lacking.

  6. Daniel
    March 3, 2014

    “So you've climbed the rickety old corporate ladder and made it to the top. Congratulations. Now the real work begins. If you're a first-time manager, you probably have a thing or two to learn. Switching from producing to managing production is quite a stretch.”

    Jane, I won't think it's a big issue because in most of the companies employees are getting promoting gradually in a step by step manner. This is just like equipping themselves or on the job training for this gradual shift. Moreover in most of the companies they used to handle/play multiple roles and hence somewhat familiar with their new assignments and responsibilities.

  7. ITempire
    March 6, 2014

    Jane, yes. That's the way to go because these days no matter how good you are at your work, if you are weak in IT, you can face many problems. To conduct business effectively, it is important to learn new skills. Nevertheless, if inhouse IT assists in that area of IT skill improvement, then there is nothing like it.

  8. ITempire
    March 6, 2014

    SCMRanger01, true. Emails won't die easily as far as I visualize the next few decades. Smartphone messaging, skype and other methods can't just replace the effectiveness of emails when it comes to understanding of words.

  9. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 9, 2014

    @WaqasAltaf, email does have pitfalls. I think the solution around email is around changing the way people use it. Keep it factual (Since as you said, documentation is a useful capability), and if you have an issue that needs to be discussed, pick up the phone or, ideally, meet face to face to discuss it.

  10. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 9, 2014

    @Jane, You are right, education is key. A recent EBN poll found that most organizations help supply chain managers get training, so that's good news. It's not too late to weigh in if you want, dear readers: Career Advancement

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 9, 2014

    @SCM Ranger01, thanks for letting us knoe the real-world ways that you are using some of these tools. I agree that they are only as good as the people that use them. Organizations need to provide training on how, specifically, tools can be used to do a better job. What does yoru organization do for you to help employees make the most of tools, if anyhting? What would you like them to do?

  12. ITempire
    March 16, 2014

    Hailey, in corporate environment, there must be one acceptable medium through which communication is made. Today we have skype, lync, whatsapp, facebook and viber and some use one service and others use other. So a common factor is not found still as far as I have seen. Email does that job. No doubt that emails don't bring indepth clarity as telecons and in-person meetings do.

  13. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    March 25, 2014

    @WaqasAltaf, your point is well taken… and most users are using multiple mediums rather than just one or two. I don't think we'll ever find one tool that provides all the necessary communication.

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