Mackay: Although I agree with the platform concept, I completely buy in to best-of-breed. Best-of-breed needs to be available, but isn't necessarily the best solution. What you need to be able to do is to enable best-of-breed if [the customer] wants to be able to do best-of-breed.
InfoWorld: What about XML?
Mackay: XML has really helped in the sense that the hype around it has managed to give everybody something to galvanize around. People almost just assume that the technology is going to help. And they go, "Yes, yes. You got XML? Great stuff, man. I need that." So it's helped from that perspective.
And one of the important things about XML [is] if you look at a business process from order to cash, you've got stuff behind the firewall here and there. If you can [agree] on what goes across those firewalls, at least 70 percent [of it can be XML-based] and then letting the dynamics kick in for the other 30 percent, you're going to be able to have a dynamic business process.
InfoWorld: What do you mean by 'dynamic business process?'
Mackay: It's just like going to a marketplace and negotiating with somebody over melons: [It's] the dynamic aspects of the workflow that you need to put in place between a buyer and seller -- you need to be able to respect that [online]. And you can get a lot of those dynamics because XML allows you to fairly dynamically describe not only what it is you're looking for, but to be able to put some level of dynamics around the dialogue that you're going to have between the two.
InfoWorld: Do you use these processes to handle exceptions or for rules that you can build in?
Mackay: Yes. Or even to say, "I want to describe to you what my business process looks like so that you can understand it, and you can respond better to what it is that I'm trying to do." In other words, I'm going to give you visibility, for instance, into not only my end demand, but what's driving my end demand.
InfoWorld: What's the business advantage of building private exchanges around suppliers? How does that affect a company's manufacturing plans?
Mackay: I can modify my supply-chain model based on demand signals. I'm also getting real-time supply signals that I can choose to react to if I want to. In the old days, you'd pull on all this demand and you went chunk-a-chunk-a-chunk and you said, "Here's the plan." Now what you can do is pull demand in and you can say, "I think I can do this plan." Let me ask my suppliers in real time whether or not they can support this plan and react to the signals coming back.
InfoWorld: Why have public exchanges run into so much trouble?