Workers scan products using Zebra devices as they move product at a cross-dock
By Deanna Self | April 4, 2024

On a Mission to Improve Your Global Supply Chain Operations? So Am I.

It’s my (new) job to bridge technology and business in a way that benefits our customers, partners, and employees. Here’s what that means in actionable terms.

I’ve held many supply chain roles throughout my career, but I may be most excited about the one I just transitioned into because I will have the privilege of steering Zebra’s Global Supply Chain and Repair Operations toward an innovative digital future.

Together with my supply chain and IT partners, we'll unlock new technological possibilities to enhance our operations, customer service, and supply chain efficiency, an ambition I know many of my peers across the industry share. I feel like all that we’ve talked about at conferences, committee meetings and collaborative social networks since the start of the pandemic is how we can and should be bridging technology and business across supply chains.

In my new role at Zebra, I'm thrilled to lead the charge in shaping our digital future. My mission is to orchestrate a symphony of collaboration across departments, crafting a digital strategy that resonates with our core business objectives and sparks innovation.

The significance of a robust digital strategy in today's business environment is immense as technology increasingly fosters innovation and efficiency, the collection and utilization of data-driven insights and operational sustainability. Think about how much the world has changed in the last 15-20 years, especially in technology.

Now, consider how this impacts businesses. The reality is, many of today's business processes were designed for a world that no longer exists. That's why a solid digital strategy is more than just a good idea – it's essential. By embracing digital tools, we can revolutionize our traditional processes to be more efficient and responsive.  We can leverage analytics and advanced technologies like AI to make informed decisions, enhancing our operational capabilities. And implementing digital strategies to foster sustainable practices thereby contributes to environmental stewardship.

Collaborating Towards Digital Mastery

Reflecting on my background in supply chain and IT, it's clear to me that digital transformation is fundamentally a collective effort. It's not about one person directing from the top, but rather about the involvement and collaboration of diverse stakeholders. This includes people within our business, our global ecosystem, and across the entire industry. The key is in engaging effectively with each other and those outside our immediate sphere, fostering a network of ideas, expertise, and resources. Such collaboration is vital to transforming plans into impactful actions. These are not just methods but best practices crucial on a global business scale. They are essential for anyone, in any role, looking to drive meaningful digital and operational progress. Here’s why (as I’ve realized through personal experience):

1. Championing Continuous Learning and Cultivating a Culture of Digital Education and Skill Advancement: As humans, we understand the ease with which daily routines can become ingrained, sometimes making it challenging to envision new and innovative ways of working. That’s why, as leaders, we must emphasize the importance of stretching beyond our comfort zones to the people we’re aiming to motivate – our key project contributors. It’s essential to dedicate time for learning, contemplating future skill requirements, identifying any gaps, and devising a strategy for development. By prioritizing continuous learning and skill enhancement, we not only enable ourselves and our team to keep pace with the evolving digital landscape but also empower ourselves and our teams to excel in an ever-changing environment.

This commitment to ongoing education and self-improvement, or rather this “growth mindset,” is a cornerstone of Zebra’s organizational culture. It helps ensure we are always prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead, and I recommend you make it a cornerstone of yours as well if you, too, are embarking on a transformation journey.

2. Fostering Open Communication and Cultivating an Environment for Idea Sharing and Feedback: At Zebra, we are committed to creating an inclusive atmosphere where everyone’s thoughts and feedback on our digital initiatives are not just welcomed, but also highly valued. To facilitate this, we have established multiple platforms for open dialogue. Whether it's through submitting ideas for improvement through our internal inZpire platform, participating in Agile processes, or engaging with Lean Six Sigma methodologies, I encourage employees to actively share their insights and feedback. We also solicit feedback from customers and partners in quarterly business reviews and through other direct communication channels. Their contributions are essential in shaping our digital journey. I hope you will also let your stakeholders’ voices be heard and enable their ideas to shine.

3. Fostering Collaborative Cross-Functional Teamwork to Align Digital Strategies with Broader Business Goals: When leading a digital transformation, my approach to digital strategies involves more than individual perspectives; it requires a unified effort that aligns with our organization’s overarching business objectives. In our collective endeavors to innovate, it's easy to focus on ideas that serve our immediate needs or those of our direct team. However, it's crucial to recognize the broader impact these initiatives may have across various functions, both upstream and downstream. By adopting a comprehensive, holistic perspective, we help ensure that our decisions and strategies as supply chain or digital transformation leaders are not just beneficial in isolation but contribute positively to the organization. It steers our digital transformation efforts in a more cohesive and strategic manner that is ultimately in the best interest of our entire company's progression.

Looking Ahead: Enhancing Organizational Performance

At Zebra, the path to integrating digital strategies into our business goes well beyond simply adopting new technologies. It's about a deeper commitment to reinforcing our core corporate values: “lead through innovation,” “deliver excellence with agility,” “think and act customer first,” “succeed as one,” and “make a positive impact.” This commitment to digital integration is pivotal in significantly enhancing our company's performance, positioning us to stay competitive and propelling us toward sustainable growth. I suspect the same applies to your organization.

So as a (new) Director of Digital Strategy and career supply chain leader, this is what I want to stress to you, my colleagues, and all my other peers across global industries:

Embracing digital transformation is not just about the technology; it's about people, processes, and a shared vision. To truly succeed, we need to build a culture that values innovation, encourages risk-taking, and fosters a spirit of continuous improvement. It's about creating an environment where experimentation is the norm, and failure is seen as a stepping stone to success.

In my journey with Zebra, and in the broader scope of global supply chains, I've learned that the key to successful digital transformation lies in the ability to adapt quickly to change, to learn from every situation, and to always keep the customer at the heart of everything we do. As we continue to navigate these challenging and exciting times, I encourage you to join me in this mission. Let's be bold in our ambitions, collaborative in our efforts, and relentless in our pursuit of excellence.

Remember, the future of our industries is being shaped by the decisions we make today. So, let's make those decisions count. Let's be the pioneers who dared to think differently, who embraced change, and who led the way in transforming our organizations for a better tomorrow.

I am excited about the journey ahead and I am equally excited to share it with you all. Let's embark on this path of digital transformation together, with a commitment to excellence, innovation, and above all, to the betterment of our global supply chain operations. The future is ours to shape, and I can't wait to see what we can achieve together.

P.S. Stay tuned for more updates as we start to make progress (and learn more best practices). In the meantime, if you want to share your experiences, or if I could serve as a sounding board for your ideas or concerns, you can reach me on LinkedIn here.


Related Insights from Deanna and Other Supply Chain Leaders

This Almost Mythical Tool Helped Us Finally Get a Grasp on Technology-Related Downtime in Our Distribution Centers – And No, It’s Not Something We Developed

This is What's Helping Us (as a Manufacturer) Manage Supply Chain Shortages and Slowdowns

What I’ve Come to Expect from 3PLs (and Other Supply Chain Leaders Have, Too)

The Real Reason Why So Many Companies See “Big Changes” Fall Flat – or Completely Fail to Deliver Benefits

Navigating the Crossroads of In-House vs. 3PL in Distribution

The Path Less (or Never) Traveled: Why We Should Stop Scripting Careers as Employees and Business Leaders and Embrace Unconventional Talent


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Deanna Self
Deanna Self

Deanna Self is a supply chain executive with Zebra Technologies, responsible for the oversight and management of Zebra’s largest order fulfillment distribution center. She is an industry veteran with over 25 years of in-depth knowledge and experience in sales, operations, and information technologies. Deanna’s passion and focus is to transform business with new and sustainable solutions that drive efficiency and customer satisfaction. 

Prior to Zebra, Deanna spent over two decades in the food and beverage industry. She started out owning and operating her own distributorship to most recently as an IT executive for Nestle USA.  

She holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Queen’s University of Charlotte and was most recently named one of Supply and Demand Chain Executive 2021 Pros to Know. She is also a winner for Supply and Demand Chain Executive 2021 Women of Supply Chain award.   

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