How to Implement an Effective Market Scan

Market scan processes enable companies to make regular adjustments to their supply chains to drive further growth, innovation and success.


Where is the hotbed of business innovation in your organization? Is it in the creativity of your people? Is it in your technology? How about your suppliers, customers and competitors?

These are the traditional sources of innovation but they don’t have to be the only ones. Some of the best sources of incremental and disruptive innovation can come from outside a company’s sphere of contacts and even outside its industry. And while the search for cross-industry innovation isn’t new (we witnessed it with Coca Cola’s “freestyle” soda fountain dispensers and FedEx’s overnight package delivery, based on methods developed at Delta Airlines), cross-industry assessment is just not happening, according to some studies. This month, we show you how to implement a cross-industry assessment and break down the market scan steps necessary to achieve higher supply chain performance.

Get past status quo supply chain strategies

Typically, supply chain performance is judged by various attributes such as agility, asset management, cost, reliability and responsiveness. The trade-offs between these attributes tend to be between cost efficiency and responsiveness. The objective is to achieve a supply chain with higher performance—greater responsiveness at the same cost efficiency, or greater cost efficiency at the same level of responsiveness. And the pathway to that higher level of performance is the market scan, which is an assessment process with distinct phases in which each successive part results in greater quantity and quality of innovation. The output of the market scan is then screened and evaluated to produce consensus on which innovative ideas should be tested and deployed.

Most companies are familiar with the market scan process and have used it to make regular adjustments to their supply chains. Chief executive officers know the value of this approach. In a recent Wipro survey conducted with Forbes Insight, a majority of the more than 300 C-level executive respondents said they believe cross-industry examination is an effective way to foster innovation. Yet, too few companies take the first step in conducting a cross-industry assessment. By limiting their search to their own industry, these companies have lost the potential for true disruptive innovation—and in today’s competitive global economy, that’s like wearing blinders while crossing the street.

Breaking down the process

Step one in conducting a cross-industry assessment starts with a series of questions. What are the objectives and scope of the project? What is the plan for formulating a list of the outside industries and companies that are best aligned with your issues? With these addressed you can formulate a master list of potential companies to scan for solutions.

Step two consists of an analysis that has three main tasks:

  • Supply Chain Diagnosis: To understand the existing state of your supply chain processes and functions, you conduct an outside-in analysis using experts in your organization or an external partner who can identify your existing pain points and business challenges.
  • Comparative Assessment: Once the potential pain points, supply chain issues and drivers are known, you then look at your master list of outside companies and industries and develop a short-list of organizations to analyze and learn how they responded to similar challenges. The main question here is: Are the best practices and enablers that these companies have adopted translatable to your business?
  • Hypothesis Development: Once you’ve analyzed the results of the comparative assessment, you develop a set of hypotheses for your business based on the adoption of the identified leading practices. These should include both the perceived advantages of adopting the practices and the potential pitfalls.

In the final phase of your cross-industry assessment, compile a list of possible actions and technology enablers for supply chain improvements that utilize the ideas gleaned from other industries. These should include how to address the potential pitfalls stated in your hypotheses. The list should set the direction for innovation and drive future initiatives in your organization.

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