‘Purple People’ and the evolution of supply chain talent

As the use of AI increases, companies need a more integrated approach to decision-making

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In this era of the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), companies face a pivotal moment in their organizational evolution. The integration of AI and other emerging technologies within supply chain operations is reshaping the landscape of talent acquisition, development, and deployment. As senior business leaders, and especially chief supply chain officers, navigate this transformative period, it’s crucial to understand the newly emerging organizational possibilities and the need to align talent with technology.

Applying AI within supply chain organizations represents a profound shift in how companies operate. Traditionally, supply chain management relied heavily on specialized roles focused on specific tasks, such as transportation or scheduling. With the evolution of AI, organizations are beginning to ask employees to make decisions that encompass multiple disciplines, such as demand forecasting and risk management, requiring a broad understanding of the supply chain ecosystem.

The ’Purple People’

Converging supply chain disciplines is driving a need for professionals that some refer to as “purple people” or unicorns—those who possess a blend of expertise across different disciplines. These individuals have the multidimensional expertise to analyze complex problems and leverage technology to streamline execution. As a result, companies are moving away from siloed task-specific activities toward a more integrated approach to decision-making.

As organizations upskill their workforce, they must consider the evolving capabilities of AI and its impact on future job functions. Supply chain leaders must anticipate the skills and competencies required to leverage these emerging technologies effectively. They must also encourage cross-pollination among employees to develop expertise across disciplines to foster creativity and innovation within the organization.

Leaders need to be patient and flexible—remember we are still navigating uncharted territory, and there are bound to be successes and failures along the way. Organizations must be willing to pivot and iterate, learning from experiences and adapting accordingly. Avoiding “solution fatigue”—where the organization concentrates more on the problem and not necessarily the solution—is paramount, as we focus not just on efficiency but also on enhancing the employee experience.

Employee experience first

In this context, employee experience takes center stage, mirroring the emphasis placed on customer experience in commercial settings. Just as companies prioritize delivering exceptional experiences to their customers, they must also prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of their employees. This involves rethinking how new technologies and capabilities are introduced, ensuring changes are implemented thoughtfully and consider organizational impact.

AI’s emergence and evolution are reshaping supply chain management. By embracing interdisciplinary approaches, aligning talent with technology, and acknowledging the benefits and potential challenges of technology deployments, companies can unlock new levels of efficiency and innovation. Success requires a commitment to continuous learning, agility, and consideration for organizational impact. As we navigate this transformational journey, we must remain adaptable and people-centric, keeping the concept of "purple people" at the forefront of talent development.

About the author:

Sasha Koff is senior vice president, supply chain data analytics & automation at Dell Technologies and serves as co-chair of the Digital Supply Chain Institute (DSCI).

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AI’s emergence and evolution is reshaping supply chain management. By embracing interdisciplinary approaches, aligning talent with technology, and acknowledging the benefits and potential challenges of technology deployments, companies can unlock new levels of efficiency and innovation.
(Photo: Getty Images)
AI’s emergence and evolution is reshaping supply chain management. By embracing interdisciplinary approaches, aligning talent with technology, and acknowledging the benefits and potential challenges of technology deployments, companies can unlock new levels of efficiency and innovation.
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