Mountains to molehills

There is a sizeable disparity between recognising the need for collaborative supply-chain enhancements and knowing where to enact those changes.

There is a sizeable disparity between recognising the need for collaborative supply-chain enhancements and knowing where to enact those changes.

Extending the supply chain, a system with many integration touchpoints, into enterprise systems and business processes is a procedure fraught with complexities.

In addition to a heap of internal considerations, companies must thoroughly gauge issues such as partner collaboration potential to ensure common goals and avoid the consequence of being locked out of future opportunities.

But recognising e-collaboration as a vital component of competitive operation is the easy part. Many chief executives, stymied by caution and tightening purse strings, balk at launching a project that may be prone to missing budgetary and deadline targets.

Traditionally, success comes from the ability to bridge gaps in as few steps as possible.

But with so much at stake, why undertake the entire project all at once?

Try instead to implement supply-chain projects in bite-sized chunks. Identify key components ripe for moderate migration rather than making a colossal leap to a new model. This will help balance capital expenditures with benefits and will mitigate the risks of such a heavy undertaking.

Moreover, transactional data integrity faults and employee comprehension and training can be two of the biggest stumbling blocks in such a large-scale project. So to reduce complexity, gradually ramp up implementation.

There will, no doubt, be naysayers with advice to the contrary, offering incentives for long-term commitment. But these contrarians will likely be vendors and consultants whose livelihood depends on your long-term, wholesale buy-in.

Supply-chain automation and partner integration require a solid plan that can be implemented in stages and evaluated by established metrics to accurately assess your return on investment and conformity to business objectives.

You’ll want pre- and post-implementation monitoring not only for in-house processes but also for partner interactions, including supplier performance, response time and delivery accuracy.

Use models like the supply chain operations reference (SCOR) developed by the Supply Chain Council as a guideline for comparative figures. Such resources may help streamline your labour-intensive and complex benchmarking supply-chain integration process.

Streamlining the enterprise and building business partnerships isn’t going to be easy. But then achieving success never is. So why not start by undertaking yours a little at a time?

What changes are in store for your supply chain? Write to me at

James Borck is managing analyst in the InfoWorld Test Centre. He reports on issues of e-business.

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