As individuals, we all share an inherent need to connect, share and network, because it has been written into our DNA by the forces of evolution. Social networks such as Facebook have found a way to address that need by connecting one billion of us around the world.
For corporations, the necessity to connect, share and network is even bigger than for our personal reasons – a need that has been written into today’s corporate DNA by the forces of globalisation.
Businesses can no longer succeed on a global scale operating in a silo. There’s no place where that’s more apparent than in the world of business collaboration, in environments such as the supply chain, where the need to network and collaborate with other companies is key to success – and quite frankly, to survival.
There are many aspects of the meteoric rise of Facebook that have been rightfully criticized. From controversial interpretations of privacy laws and a botched IPO to a lackluster stock performance, there are many things you don’t want to learn from Facebook.
But in just a few short years, Facebook has managed to completely disrupt and revolutionise the way we manage our social connections. And it has done so by virtue of a small number of key principles that are worth taking cues from when it comes to managing relationships across business networks.
A New Information Sharing Model
Consider for a second how Facebook changed the way you can share information with your friends. Post a new baby photo to Facebook and all of your friends can see it instantly. Regardless of where they are or what devices they are using – whether desktop computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets or even cars now.
No need to send files and messages back and forth with each friend individually to share the news. You don’t even have to visit a website to pick up the information either – it comes to you. This post vs. send approach has been made possible by the cloud.
The key to the Facebook information sharing model is that the information can come from many different places and sources around the world, but it is posted and stored in one central place that all of your friends are connected to – in the cloud. And this way of communicating has caught on quicker than anything in recent memory.
Cloud-based services like Facebook make it extremely easy for you to get started. There’s no software to buy and install on your own computer. Facebook’s software runs in the cloud. No need to have huge hard drives to store all the photos, video or messages you want to share. Facebook’s storage runs in the cloud too.
It’s important to note here that the cloud is not just a new buzzword for the web. Sure, Facebook is also a website. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a device-agnostic collaboration platform that brings everyone in your network of friends instantly “onto the same page”. Now imagine that same principle applied to a business network such as a supply chain.
Just like Facebook completely changed the way you can share information within your circle of friends a supply chain, built on the Facebook information sharing model, completely changes the way you can communicate information throughout your circle of supply chain partners because, for the first time ever, all of your supply chain partners are connected through one central platform in the cloud.
Instead of baby photos, thousands of supply chain events get automatically posted to the cloud and new ETAs are shared with every supply chain partner and stakeholder who needs to know in real time. Whenever there is a major supply chain disruption, like a natural disaster for example, every supply chain partner affected can get updates on contingency plans immediately.
There doesn’t need to be an emergency for a cloud platform to deliver value to the business ecosystem though. The rate at which global companies are now racing to move their business networks to the cloud is a clear indication that they are in much need of a new information sharing model to improve everyday inter-company collaboration.
During pre-cloud days, sharing business information was all about sending, mostly through one-to-one communication using letters, phone calls, faxes, emails or EDI connections – highly inefficient in retrospect and not scalable to support information sharing on a massive scale. The new information sharing model, just like Facebook, is all about posting.
The simplicity of this principle tends to mask the powerful impact it can have once it’s applied to the world of business, particularly across networks such as supply chain. But the impact becomes clearer when we examine what happens to all this information generated in a Cloud Supply Chain and how it can be tapped.