Digital Supply Chains Seek to Fill Information Black Holes

“Digital” is a term that means different things to different people.  To some it just means automation, particularly when the automation is based on newer or emerging technologies. In other cases, it means getting digital data, to replace manually entered data, or even worse – no data, in the places in a supply chain where these information black holes exist. And in many companies supply chains, it is the end-to-end portion of the supply chain, knowing what upstream and downstream partners are doing and how well they are doing it, where there are the most black holes.

Digital Supply Chains

Digital Supply Chains Seek to Fill Information Black Holes

A solution set getting increased attention in the digital supply chain area, is what the industry analyst firm ARC Advisory Group calls Supply Chain Collaboration Networks, Gartner calls Multi-enterprise Supply Chain Business Networks, and IDC calls Multi-Enterprise Supply Chain Commerce Networks. In this article, we will call them Supply Chain Collaboration Networks (SCCN).  It was bad enough when our field was cluttered with three-letter acronyms, now we have four-letter and even five-letter acronyms.

ARC’s definition of SCCN it that these are collaborative solutions for supply chain processes built on a public cloud, many-to-many architecture and facilitates better decisions and collaboration.

In short, these are networks. A party integrates into the network and it becomes much easier to collaborate with other parties and access critical information. Where ARC’s perspective departs from Gartner’s and IDC’s is in how we look at many-to-many. For us many-to-many is not just easier communication with a community of trading partners, but easier access to critical information that may or may not be supplied by the partners.

For example, Resilinc has a product called EventWatch that monitors over 40 types of news with relevance to supply chains, across more than 50 languages, and MILLIONS of sites. Those sites include social media, news, and regulatory agencies. Companies get real time alerts and then map those alerts to their end-to-end digital supply chain. In order to make sense of this mass of information, Resilinc is using artificial intelligence as one of their tools. So, in this case, many companies are connected to the Resilinc network hub in order to get risk information from many, many sources. The connection to Resilinc’s hub does not allow companies to communicate with their community of supply chain partners.

The other difference in how ARC is approaching the digital supply chain is by tying solution providers capabilities to the SCOR (supply chain operations reference) model so many supply chain professionals are familiar with. But in the market study we are working on we want to go beyond just identifying market share leaders across PLAN, SOURCE, MAKE, DELIVER, and RETURNS.  ARC also wants to include supply chain processes where these networks have distinct advantages – supply chain RISK and FINANCE.

IDC and Gartner provide vendor assessments of this market. I’m uncomfortable with an analysis that says these are the best vendors in the SCCN market. In this market, there are niche solution providers who are providing innovative solutions for a limited set of industries. One example is ArrowStream. They are all intriguing company providing a targeted supply chain solution for the food service industry. But suppliers with targeted industry solutions will never make the leader’s board in any vendor selection guide. In short, in the supply chain collaboration network solution market there are riches in those niches; much more so than for other enterprise software applications.

ARC first did a version of this study in 2015. It got no traction. But since then digital transformations, including projects aimed at enhancing information visibility across digital supply chains, has become a hot topic.

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