Business consultancy Gartner has launched a supply chain innovation mapping tool to help organisations prioritise their technology investments and avoid losing money on those that never reach their full potential.

The firm has mapped the status of several innovations in supply chain technology to help differentiate between those that have become standard practice, and those which are less relevant.

In order to balance the pursuit of innovation with the need for continuous, incremental improvement, Gartner’s Hype Cycle report analysed the maturity, adoption level, business impact, and associated risks of various capabilities.

Gartner explained how innovations follow a series of phases. Firstly, a capability enters the cycle, triggered by an innovation or industry focus, and then progresses towards the “peak of inflated expectations”, where it faces unrealistic expectations which, if unmet, will push it towards the “trough of disillusionment”.

In this period companies may question the innovation’s value. If it survives the trough, the capability progresses to a period of broader adoption and consistent returns – the “slope of enlightenment”, and then the “plateau of productivity”.

For example, blockchain, machine learning (ML), and advanced analytics are all on their way into the “trough of disillusionment”, the report found, as they have not yet fulfilled their expectations.

So when considering whether or not to implement them fully, Gartner recommends companies “re-examine these capabilities anew to determine their fit for digital priorities”.

Machine learning, for example, can identify patterns, generate insights and predict future outcomes from massive amounts of data. However, lack of good quality data can deteriorate the output of ML algorithms, thereby limiting its adoption.

Low levels of staff data literacy have also been barriers, a theme affecting wider adoption of advanced analytics as well.

In contrast, capabilities still in their early stages but displaying significant promise include the digital twin of a customer (DToC), machine customers, and generative AI. These technologies have the potential to “quickly accelerate the digital transformation journey”, according to the report.

DToC technology creates a “virtual mirror” of a customer that helps to simulate, emulate and anticipate that customer’s behaviour, whether they are an individual, enterprise, persona, or groups of people or machines.

Machine customers, meanwhile, are IoT-connected devices or assets that place orders without a human direction, using “intelligent replenishment” algorithms which maintain the availability of products while intelligent assistants suggest deals to consumers.

For generative AI, Gartner suggested it could improve content discovery, creation, authenticity and regulations, automate human work, and enhance customer and employee experiences. In the supply chain, it can create tailored customer and supplier communications.

Despite its mapping insight, Gartner recommended organisations carry out proof-of-concept projects to better understand feasibility before committing funds to implementation. And for technologies well on their way to “maturity”, it recommended conducting pilots to fully understand the challenges they may encounter, such as being too immature, to cultural unreadiness or misalignment with existing processes.

Finally, the report emphasised the importance of continuously refining and clearly communicating a strong supply chain digital strategy alongside any new technology roll-outs..

It stated: “A digital supply chain strategy aligns supply chain stakeholders behind an integrated set of principles, digitally enabled capabilities and governance models to support the enterprise’s overall digital transformation.

“The strategy underpins a roadmap that balances the supply chain’s short-term optimisation goals with long-term vision.”