Develop a supply chain strategy

By James R. Borck, InfoWorld |  Software

The biggest stumbling block to the adoption of c-commerce is the lack of defined standards. Even early initiatives, such as the Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment project (www.cpfr.org), which targets the consumer goods and manufacturing industry, are still in their infancy.

Companies should be cautious when evaluating an SCM vendor's collaboration-ready components, and they should take the time to fully understand what that vendor's notion of c-commerce actually comprises. There are technological challenges to surmount in exchanging data between disparate data sources. If you come up short on integration, you may wind up leaving your trading partners in the cold.

It is likely that most companies interested in implementing a c-commerce initiative will need to blaze trails that rely on best-practices and forego any trial-tested, interoperative standards for at least another year or two.

Culture shock

The success of even the best-laid supply-chain or c-commerce technologies will ultimately depend on how competently your work force can perform using the new framework.

When embarking on a project as monumental as supply-chain integration, implementing the technology will be easy compared to tackling the behavioral changes needed within your organization -- and within those of your trading partners. (If you thought integrating ERP was difficult, just wait until you try broadcasting it beyond your corporate boundaries.)

Although SCM doesn't involve as many employee touch points as ERP does, do not underestimate the human factor. Change management requires an understanding of the new interdependencies being constructed and of the roles and responsibilities that must be adopted for the enterprise and its trading partners to become more collaborative.

Beyond the requisite technical skills, employees must become comfortable with the new workflow and underlying concepts introduced by supply-chain and c-commerce initiatives before the company will benefit from the analytical intelligence found in products by i2 and Manugistics.

To help speed time to competency, businesses implementing SCM solutions should plan a comprehensive training strategy that offers employees hands-on access to a system that simulates real-world supply-chain environments and provides insight into strategic supply-chain operations.

Supply-chain ROI can be greatly enhanced -- or impeded -- by the way a company addresses the difficult challenge of adapting to an SCM workflow model. Ultimately, it will be the human factor that makes or breaks the success of this new work paradigm within your organization.

Shoring up your weakest link

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