There have been extensive supply chain disruptions caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. These disruptions have elevated the supply chain function to the boardroom level. It is now understood that supply chain agility is imperative. Supply chain collaboration networks, which provide wide ranging visibility to events occurring upstream and downstream in supply chains, can help companies be more agile.
I am updating writing and research on the supply chain collaboration network market. OpenText was the largest vendor in this market the last time ARC did the study. As such, their offerings warrant attention. Mark Morley and Pratik Parikh, directors at OpenText, argue that OpenText is differentiated by what they call “Business-to-Anything” (B2A) integration.
What is a Supply Chain Collaboration Network
A supply chain collaboration network (SCCN) is built on a public cloud, many-to-many architecture. These solutions support information exchanges with a community of trading partners. An SCCN can also access pertinent third-party data feeds. There is much better access to all sorts of information that can be used to improve supply chain processes then there was even a few years ago. Solutions that fall under the definition of SCCN would include EDI VANs (electronic data interchange value added networks), industry marketplaces, and collaborative supply chain applications that are built on public cloud architectures.
SCCN solutions provide a wide variety of benefits, and a solid return on investment. The acronym “SCCN” contains the word “network.” Networks have several distinctive advantages when it comes to collaboration. One advantage of a network is to facilitate collaboration with everybody that is already doing business on the network. Supply chains can be quite dynamic with customers, carriers, suppliers, and other partners joining or exiting a particular end-to-end supply chain on an ongoing basis.
Beginning to collaborate with new partners entering a supply chain can be time consuming. But in a collaboration network, if a company connects to the network to serve any member of that network, then all members of the network will find it much easier to collaborate with that company. The bigger the network, the more likely it is to find that a trading partner you want to do business with is already on the network. This is the network effect.
The OpenText Business Network
The OpenText Business Network is massive. OpenText has the world’s largest EDI VAN: 33,000 of their customers use the network to exchange messages with 1 million preconnected trading partners (suppliers, logistics service providers, and contract manufacturers, for example); $9 trillion in commerce and 26 billion transactions occur on the network annually. An EDI VAN enables the secure exchanges of electronic business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices, with trading partners—via electronic data interchange format. EDI VAN providers offer a quick and effective way to connect with customers and suppliers. The information exchange is supported by data centers that the company owns and runs. The network is also connected to thousands of applications and this has been enhanced recently with the availability of over 200 API connectors that allow companies to connect to even more business applications.
Many companies working to improve their supply chain agility find it necessary to gather data from multiple sources and cannot get all the data they need from just one source. The other advantage of size is that larger SCCN suppliers are inevitably able to exchange collaboration information across a larger number of supply chain processes.
The exchange of messages by itself does not provide robust visibility. A warehouse worker that receives an advanced ship notice (ASN), for example, can use that information to make sure a dock door is ready to receive an inbound truck. That improves warehouse operations.
But a more holistic visibility solution requires the ability to access the various transactions and aggregate them to provide additional insights. For example, the information flows captured in the network can be used to build dashboards that allow analysts to see if shipments will arrive on time, and drill down to shipments that are flagged as being late and then work to resolve these exceptions.
The Need for Business-to-Anything Integration
When it comes to accessing useful information, OpenText does not believe SCCN solutions are sufficient. In today’s disruptive world, companies need a flexible and adaptive integration platform to connect with trading partners and internal systems. For many companies, there are internal applications that they do not want to connect to any outside entity. OpenText offers hybrid integration solution that are based on exchanging messages through the network, but network information can be augmented with unified integration of internal or partner applications, as well as the ability to access internal or external Internet of Things (IoT) data.
The company also offers an extensive Integration Managed Service offering which provides the people, process and technologies to help companies implement their cloud integration platforms. This service from OpenText augments a company’s existing IT resources. In addition, companies can take advantage of an extensive canonical map library that provides over 6,300 pre-defined data integrations that helps companies to accelerate the deployments still further.
SCCN solutions provide information that improves a variety of supply chain processes. The electronic exchange of information improves the quality of the data and improves the process. There can be good ROI for these solutions even when the messages exchanged, and partners involved in collaboration, are limited. But increasingly, SCCN is being used to improve supply chain agility. This requires connection to a greater number of partners and applications and a broader set of message types. Business-to-anything integration also contributes to more complete information exchange and agility.