In my first article, a new information sharing model, I looked at how the simple principles of Facebook information sharing could be applied to business to create powerful business networks. These networks generate an impressive amount of data, and there is much more we can learn from Facebook in terms of collecting and analysing this data.
Facebook currently sits on top of the data generated by some 1 billion users, 3 billion daily “likes” and comments, 300 million daily uploaded photos and over 140 billion friend connections. It’s the most comprehensive database of social connections ever created. Advertisers use tools such as Facebook Insights to make sense of the data relevant to their target audience. This data is very powerful and valuable and Facebook is the central place where data about the world’s social connections is being collected, saved, stored, analysed and turned into actionable business information.
If my math is correct, more than 2 million things have been “liked” on Facebook since you started reading this post about 60 seconds ago. And of course those “likes” have already been analysed and stored somewhere in the cloud to enable advertisers to show you better ads before you finished reading this sentence.
During the same time, a lot has happened in your business networks as well. Take, for example, the supply chain – maybe POs have been issued, orders processed, payments authorized or vessels been loaded. Maybe cargo has been moved, shipments cleared, inventory rerouted, goods received, merchandise sold, shelves restocked or replenishment been ordered. In today’s complex global business networks, events and transactions like these happen a thousand times over – every minute of the day.
These actions generate important data in the process – lots of it. If you are in charge of orchestrating such a complex global value chain, the question becomes: How are you collecting, saving, storing and analysing all this data and turning it into actionable information? How are you connecting the dots?
Traditional ERP systems only go so far joining up this information. Why? Because those systems reside inside the four walls of your organisation. An estimated 80% of your supply chain data, for example, is generated outside your four walls and scattered across the various IT systems of your supply chain partners.
ERP systems are great for managing data and processes inside the boundaries of your company – because that’s exactly what they were designed to do. They weren’t built for the data that is generated and the processes that happen between you and your partners. To put it another way, enterprise software systems are very good at connecting internal dots. But their inward-facing architecture prevents most of them from even seeing the external dots that are locked up inside the siloed systems of various partners. And, in all fairness, you can’t expect a system to connect dots that it doesn’t even know exist.
The truth is that companies have known for a while that their business networks chains need something that is good at “outside-the-four-walls”; that they need something that is specifically designed to manage inter-company processes on a massive scale. But for a long time there has been a technology gap.
Cloud technology can fill that gap and the supply chain is a great example of how – where Facebook leverages the cloud to stitch together the fabric of your social connections, a Cloud Supply Chain can leverage the cloud to connect the dots of all the objects, events and processes in your global supply chain and stream information about those to one central place in the cloud – in real time.
The cloud resides outside the organisation, it has agile, scalable computing and storage capacity and is device-agnostic. That makes it ideally suited for collecting and analysing huge amounts of real-time data from widely distributed sources, helping you to piece together a complete value chain picture.
And it’s not enough to compile and analyse this data only once. Today’s global supply chain ecosystems are ever-evolving, living things. It seems like the minute their complete picture is starting to emerge they have already morphed into something else.
You need to turn the data suction dial to “permanent”. That way, the cloud becomes your supply chain’s memory, a comprehensive depository of all supply chain events and transactions that have ever occurred beyond the four walls of your company is captured, organized and stored in the cloud. Once it’s there, it can be sliced, diced and analysed in every which way to discover trends and patterns, run what-if scenarios and selectively share the data with your partners to collaborate on important supply chain decisions.