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3 Buzzwords to Be Wary of & Why a Dose of Skepticism Is a Good Idea


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed that the industry is saturated with certain jargon. These ‘buzzwords’ soar to fashionable stardom and contain a certain, undeniable ring that excites hope the way a Pavlovian bell triggers hungry pups to salivate. These words are plastered everywhere: proselytized as a panacea for all, and they’re quick to become the staple of everyone’s brand – though everyone seems to define them differently.

If you’ve been buying into them, fear not. You’re not a dilettante and you’re far from alone. Hope and utopia are powerful platforms to run on, and in this increasingly complex and pressure-filled moment that’s glutted with choice, it’s absolutely understandable to want an easy, shiny answer to your biggest problems.

While not all answers are necessarily easy, getting down to the root of where buzzwords have gone astray can be. Here are a few of the most salient examples of jargon-gone-awry and how to see through the fluff.

What Do You Really Want & How Do You Find It?

Buzzwords typically stem from a meaningful and sincere place: they refer to a real purpose or solution to a significant problem. Issues arise only when too many people begin to broadly apply them, stretching their definitions further from their original form, render its meaning loose and too open to interpretation.

supply-chain-buzzwords-debunkedNo one wants to exclude them, and risk being left out of the conversation. Rewriting language and gaining consensus is too tall a task for the time being. Instead, let’s look at what it is about the word that grabs our attention – the needs we have or promises the word offers that continuously makes it such a potent lure on our sensibilities (The hook). Based on this promise, let’s then determine how to be skeptical to weed out the imposters and re-anchor ourselves around the word’s core intention.

Control Tower

The Hook: The need to see what’s happening across the supply chain to catch exceptions and inefficiencies and be able to act on these as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Where to be skeptical: At their inception, Control Towers were exclusively about visibility. They’ve since advanced to incorporate actionability. However, because of their origins, many statistics dashboards are still being labeled as Control Towers. Further, not all visibility and action are end-to-end across the supply chain, which limits opportunities to optimize, and not all solutions allow users to act within the app, which thwarts speed and introduces room for error.

Bonus: Beware of the term: “actionable visibility” which deals with the same issues as the control tower. How vast and detailed is the visibility and where does the so-called action take place?


The Hook: To boost your brand’s public image and leverage guilt-free solutions that help the planet by reducing your imprint.

supply-chain-sustainabilityWhere to be skeptical: It’s true that every little bit helps and opting for eco-friendly products is certainly a step in the right direction. However, if you’re serious about a green initiative, there’s greater impact in thinking big and outside the box. Rather than choosing less harmful fuel, why not try to cut out more of the physical supply chain? iTunes and Spotify were not only lucrative and consumer-welcome, they were pretty great for the environment. Think also about all the half-empty trucks out there on the road. Better optimizing your supply chain via consolidation and inbound, outbound, and aftermarket flow integration not only saves you time and money, but it minimizes carbon emissions.


The Hook: You want to consistently deliver on the perfect order by making the best and most cost-effective use of your multi-party network, given the geopolitical, etc. etc. situation.

Where to be skeptical: Everyone claims they optimize. It’s like the Control Tower conundrum all over again. It’s not that anyone is lying, it’s that you have to be much more diligent in defining your needs and spotting providers’ limitations. Think about the hook and how the provider is actually enabling the perfect order and the best use of your network and circumstances. Is the solution global and multi-enterprise-centric? Does it treat every order as unique, or are you only optimizing in bulk? Are you optimizing every stage of the order – from sourcing to planning to executing – or just a fraction of these components? Are you dynamically modeling every flow for every order and leveraging every opportunity to perfect every inbound, outbound, and aftermarket flow? In other words, always be skeptical about how flexibly and comprehensively an automated tool factors in all the exhaustive, and ever-changing variables you deal with.


The need for everyone to differentiate themselves and their offer has confounded the terms we find familiar and take for granted. Some have even lost their potency (optimization) from over-saturation, though they are, perhaps, more important than ever.

Make the most of your investment by always taking a critical eye to every solution you come across. Business processes are increasingly informed by technology – and that’s a good thing. But only if you first define the terms for yourself and seek out the versions that rigorously fulfill on the promises you need most.

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