Are “social” technologies in supply chain a waste of time, or are they a potential new source of productivity improvements?
This is the question that a number of our customers raised during our annual Leaders Forum event in September 2011. Since then, we have been working collaboratively with a key group of our customers and their trading partners to research the topic and determine if and how social technologies can bring real value to the supply chain.
The short answer from our research was a resounding “Yes.” We were also able to put together a list of business and technical success factors that need to be addressed in order to actually capture potential productivity improvements.
Spurred by the results of this research, we were excited to announce our new Social Supply Chain initiative last week. The aim of the initiative is to validate the value of bringing social to the supply chain by integrating social technologies across the E2open Business Network, as well as to extend the reach of our Network by leveraging information relevant to supply chain that exists in social media. The initiative is a natural extension of the core values of the E2open Business Network: namely, collaboration and exception-based visibility.
Working in partnership with our thought-leading customers, the initiative will explore the opportunities and challenges associated with incorporating today’s social revolution into the collaborative execution capabilities of our customers and their trading partners. The result could be innovative capabilities that generate significant business performance improvements.
Our customer research revealed three distinct areas in which social technologies could generate business value:
- Issue Collaboration: Traditional communication tools used to resolve supply chain issues include email, instant messages, phone, war rooms, and in-person meetings. New social technologies and modes of communication—popularized by applications like Facebook and Twitter—have the potential to improve the speed and effectiveness of collaboration across network participants to make time-sensitive decisions and resolve supply chain issues.
- Demand Sensing: Inaccurate demand forecasts pose a chronic challenge to global supply chain operations. Social media is a potentially powerful source of real-time demand information, and could serve as a new leading indicator of actual customer demand. What we at E2open are calling social demand intelligence may provide relevant stakeholders with a more accurate, holistic picture of global customer demand, empowering them to respond more quickly and profitably to changes across the trading network.
- Supply Risk Monitoring: Unplanned events—from an isolated problem at a supplier to a broader problem affecting shipping lanes across an entire geographic region—are a constant challenge for supply chain practitioners. Many companies have not implemented systematic solutions to monitor supply risk because the systems have traditionally been too costly. The combination of social media monitoring and cloud-based predictive analytics could change the economics of systematic risk monitoring, making these solutions available and affordable to companies of all sizes.
Let’s revisit my opening questions: Can social technologies applied to these three areas improve productivity? Can they generate opportunities for higher revenue attainment and lower operating costs through improved supply chain responsiveness? If you have insights to share or would like to participate in the conversation, please join our LinkedIn Group, “E2open Social Supply Chain.”
To learn more about the E2open Social Supply Chain initiative, visit www.e2open.com/social-supply-chain or feel free to contact me directly at Lorenzo@e2open.com.