If I was 25 and just came off of a job rotation in a full time role, I would start thinking about a graduate degree (assuming I had an undergrad degree in SCM with already a strong data analytics foundation via a Business Analytics minor). Of course, do what is rewarded in the culture of your organization. Look at your boss’s resume and your boss’ boss’ resume. In general, I would not do a general MBA or even an MBA with a general SCM concentration. I like certifications associated with ISM, APICS/ASCM, CSCMP, etc., but I suspect that I would not actually learn much from the process of getting certified. These certs however would externally validate me a SCM subject matter expert and that is worth a lot in industry.

However, I would get a graduate degree in something that is quicker than the traditional 12 classes (i.e., a mini MBA or MS degree). I would also get it in something I am weak in and is likely to be important. So as of 2021, what would I do? I would do something like a mini MBA (9 classes, not 12) at Rutgers (high profile SCM school, great brand) in “Digital” Supply Chain Management.

Note, their mini MBA has an entire course dedicated to SCM Finance. Good luck climbing up the corporate ladder if you cannot talk to your CFO. I like SCM Finance so much, I encourage my students to get a graduate degree in Finance if they already have world class technology skills. The “Digital” transformation is getting VERY popular these days. We have heard of Industry 4.0, but in reality it is Supply Chain 4.0, because nothing happens without the supply chain HEAVILY involved. For digitization to work, manual processes have to be digitized/automated and eventually analyzed. That is what companies are doing right now. Converting manual to digitized versions requires someone with a good knowledge on systems analysis and design, data storage and information retrieval. These are the topics usually covered in IT/CIS/CS majors. A lot of companies have gone past this stage, but they are facing the next problem – data analysis. Data are collected, but no one knows what to do with it. That’s where our Business Analytics minor comes in as an undergrad. If you lack these skills, go get your MS in Data Analytics before you miss the boat. These skills would include: big data/analytics, database management, data mining, project management, SQL, Python, PMO, Tableau, Power BI, etc. Fortunately, most of my undergrads walk away with these skills. Just like AI, the boundaries of what is and what is not Industry 4.0 (supply chain 4.0, digital transformation, digitized supply chain, etc.) is quite blurry. These days any product with even a tiny element of AI/ML is claimed to be an AI product.

As a new field like supply chain digitization evolves, people are still trying to figure out the essential components that characterize it. This is the reason that people offer certificates in digital supply chain in all kinds of flavor. For example, Rutgers takes a high-level managerial approach, Missouri S&T takes an ERP+BI+PM approach, and NUS takes an analytics+strategic planning approach. One issue with the mini MBA in the Digital Supply Chain at Rutgers is not their high level managerial approach per se, but perhaps the usefulness on what they predict will be super useful. They could be wrong for example on dedicating an entire course to Robotic Process Automation.

This reminds me a lot about the Business Process Reengineering or Business Process Automation course that people used to offer years ago. On RPA for example,… • Will there be a continuous or frequent demand for RPA at a company? • Will new RPA need to be created or existing RPA need to be tuned often? • What kind of robots are involved? Consumer robots, manufacturing robots, or a mixture of both? • Will the course need to teach realistic applications or BPR? What technologies? What kind of robots and for what purpose? If the answer is no and no to the first two questions, the skills will likely be taught and then forgotten. This is not to say that there is no environment that needs a constant or frequent RPA design and tuning, but I wonder what kind of environment that would be and how much a company would sustain doing that for long. If the RPA is done once in a few years for example, I am not sure of the utility/usefulness of such a graduate course other than showing people that they are teaching leading-edge topics.

In conclusion, get a graduate degree because the data says it will make you more successful (in general). I would do it in something that you are bad at and will be very important. SCM Finance will always be important. In the near term, Industry 4.0, Supply Chain 4.0, and Supply Chain Digitization will transform SCM orgs and the skill sets required of them.

Thank you. Sime

Sample Lectures & Should You Major in Supply Chain Management?


Dr. Sime (Sheema) Curkovic, Ph.D., Professor, Operations/Supply Chain
Western Michigan University, Haworth College of Business

E-Mail: sime.curkovic@wmich.edu

“WMU Integrated Supply Management (ISM)…Nation’s best undergraduate SCM program (Gartner); 2nd in SCM technology (SoftwareAdvice);  2nd in top global SCM talent (SCM World)”