Advisor to Top Executives Michael Massetti Speaks About Supply Chain Trends and Talent

May 4, 2016



Here’s the latest entry in our Supply Chain Executives interview series, where we speak with movers and shakers from all over the world of Supply Chain about trends, talent challenges, and what makes them passionate about the field.

This is a good one.

In this installment, we interviewed Michael Massetti, an Executive Partner in Supply Chain at Gartner. Michael has a strong background in the tech industry, getting his start in Product and Project Management before moving into Supply Chain leadership at some of the world’s top tech companies, including Dell, IBM, AMD, and Lucent. Now, he works at Gartner – a leading technology research company – as an advisor for Supply Chain Executives in a variety of industries. He’s also a provider of thought leadership through LinkedIn Publisher, offering a lively and often humorous take on a number of common Supply Chain issues and approaches.

We had a wide-ranging conversation touching on everything from big picture trends in Supply Chain, to the rise of the “Chief Supply Chain Officer,” to issues companies face in terms of recruiting the best talent in the industry.   

Could you start by telling us a little about your background and how you got into the Supply Chain field?

I often say that if I look at my career, I don’t know how I could have planned to get to the job I have today. One of my early blogs covered taking a totally different track from what you expect in your career, and how that can be so rewarding. I’d spent 23 years mostly in Product Development and Program Management at IBM and Dell. About 10 months after I had left Dell, the leadership at Lucent contacted me and said they wanted me to be their Purchasing Director. I said I’d never done Purchasing in my life. They had just integrated their Supply Chain and were driving a strategic sourcing program. They used to have 5 business units with 5 different Supply Chains, and a year before I got there they had started integrating them. They were struggling with sourcing from the perspective of integrating all the business units, building an approved supplier list, vetting the right suppliers, and they realized that having a tech person who understands the technology side would help.

How about your work with Gartner today?

It’s very exciting. I get to work as an executive partner with the highest-end clients who ask Gartner to work with them to continually improve and develop their Supply Chains. I get to work across multiple industries as an advisor. I work with Supply Chain Executives at multiple companies, in multiple industries, multiple functions, all across North America. It’s a wonderfully diverse job that keeps you on your toes.

Titles aren’t everything. But are you finding an uptick in companies referring to their heads of Supply Chain as “Chief Supply Chain Officers”? If so, is that change meaningful or cosmetic in your eyes?

We find many VP of Supply Chain, Senior VP, Executive VP titles. There are myriad titles being used in the industry. But yes, I’m seeing more companies with Chief Supply Chain Officer titles. I believe that it’s not just a cosmetic change. My sense is that companies realize that they need to elevate the Supply Chain. They need to raise the visibility or the prominence, or they find themselves in trouble and they look around and say we’ve got to get better – this is the title, this is the importance that market leaders are using to make sure they get the right-level person with the right focus. It’s truly become a business-level role for the company.

You advise Supply Chain leaders at some of the top companies in the world, so you definitely have your ear to the ground about developments in the field. What are some big picture trends you’re noticing in Supply Chain?

The biggest one, although it might be a big cliché, is Supply Chain going digital. What isn’t digital at this point? But it’s huge in Supply Chain. The rise of big data, analytics, and business intelligence, in the Supply Chain is one of the biggest trends that we see. And I get to see it at different levels. Some companies are leaders in this space, especially in Retail or other high-volume industries. Or, you start seeing companies that recognize they are lagging in those areas and start working with us to put in much better intelligence in their analytics and end-to-end planning processes. They’re swimming in this lake of data but they don’t have the goggles to keep from getting blinded by the flow of that data. Big data, intelligence, and analytics are really a key to staying competitive. The rise of the Internet of Things is also really creeping in there.

Overall, process maturity is another thing. There’s a lot of discussion of Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) and Integrated Business Planning (IBP). What I’m seeing with recent companies prior to Gartner is work on S&OP and Demand Planning, as well as integration with Finance – having S&OP being part of the corporate financial process and not separate. It’s among the most popular topics that we address. And we have over 500 clients to base that off of.

The third thing is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). You constantly see that expanding. In the past, it’s leaned more on the Purchasing side. You get your suppliers to be responsible. Now, it’s becoming more prominent for the head of Supply Chain to play an important and critical role. I was talking to a top semiconductor company during our interview process, and one of their people said that Supply Chain became really big for them in the mid-2000s, with a number of European Union environmental initiatives. It’s not just purchasing anymore. The whole Supply Chain recognizes a number of internal and external contributions to the Corporate Social Responsibility space.

As recruiters, we’re particularly interested in the talent market in Supply Chain. What particular sub-areas or skillsets are taking off? On our end, we’re noticing lots of demand for Demand Planners in Consumer Goods, for example.

I’ll echo your sentiment there. I think what happens is that we burn out Demand Planners for some reason. Maybe it’s indicative of how immature those processes still are, and how much they require human grit to tie the processes together. The ongoing pursuit – tying back in to analytics and data – is to bring in more data-savvy people. “Data scientists” is the phrase. Folks who don’t necessarily know about the innards of the model or are SCMP certified, but are people who know how to rip data apart and pull valuable insights out of it. They may have Supply Chain experience as well, but that ability to work with data is so valuable because it lets the rest of the organization use that information instead of drowning in data.

The other major skill that’s in demand in Supply Chain would be financial acumen. People with good business skills. I’ve seen tech companies who have promoted and moved engineers into their Supply Chain space. Those people are starting to realize that, as you look at a fully integrated end-to-end Supply Chain, those people require a financial business acumen to understand the financial implications of the decisions they make. I see people pushing for that.

The last major thing is this: we use this expression, “masters of discipline vs. masters of orchestration.” A Demand Planner or a Supply Planner or a person who manages transportation are masters of discipline. The masters of orchestration tend to be people who have the skills to manage cross-functionally. They might not be deep in each area, but they see end to end. My clients keep saying that they need more people who can see end to end. If you don’t see what’s happening upstream or downstream, across various Supply Chain functions, it’s not likely to be what you were expecting.

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Thanks very much to Michael Massetti for the interview! We hope you enjoyed his take as much as we did.

Stay tuned for the second half of our interview with Michael Massetti where we talk about whether Supply Chain needs an image makeover, how automation might impact Supply Chains, as well as various challenges that Supply Chains face in high-growth, mature, and turnaround organizations. logo_icon

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