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The cloud solves those lingering supply chain problems

Greg Kefer, director of marketing, GT Nexus | Oct. 31, 2011
When consumes ship FedEx packages they get a reliable, impressive IT experience as part of that $10 service. Yet many of the world's biggest corporations still only dream of having FedEx-like technology to support their global supply chain operations, but cloud-based services promise to change that.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

When consumes ship FedEx packages they get a reliable, impressive IT experience as part of that $10 service. Yet many of the world's biggest corporations still only dream of having FedEx-like technology to support their global supply chain operations, but cloud-based services promise to change that.

Despite massive investments in infrastructure, software and networks to automate the supply chain, there have only been silos of success. The majority of companies have failed to produce a system capable of providing a real-time monitoring and control system that stretches across their supply chains, incorporating every partner in their network.

RESEARCH: Network World Enterprise Cloud Services Archive

In today's globally outsourced business environment, most of the data that companies need to run their supply chains resides with partners, and typically in the systems of those partners. These partners are often very large companies with their own proprietary technology.

Companies struggle to get a get a unified picture of their supply chains because the information systems they have been buying for the past several decades were designed to operate within a single company, not across a network of companies.

Cloud is changing everything. Virtually every traditional software company is racing to deliver cloud versions of their on-premise software to meet exploding customer demand for better IT economics, faster path to value, without the headaches and risk that have come with traditional software deployments. Cloud is no longer fringe. It's proven and it's big.

When it comes to supply chain, however, where the focus is on intercompany coordination and collaboration among hundreds of companies on a global scale, cloud becomes more than just very good IT economics. It becomes the means by which entirely new information sharing models become possible.

In the same way that social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook inverted the traditional models of personal contact systems by giving each person in a network just one profile page to which all friends could point (and thus allow everyone in the network to be updated immediately the moment that single page was changed), next-generation collaboration platforms are designed to support trading partner networks that must operate on a daily basis around "single page" instances of common supply chain objects like purchase orders, or shipments, or SKUs, or milestone events, or commodity codes and city names. Imagine the power of an information model that allows an object to be updated once, in one place, for everyone who cares about that object to get the full news immediately.

In some circles they call that a Single Version of Supply Chain Truth. A platform that makes that truth available to an entire trading community in an economic and scalable way is transformative.

 

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