Daily Archives: January 11, 2009

Supply Chain Application Sustainability

Business applications that are not continuously maintained and updated go stale … and this is doubly true for supply management applications. After all, as a recent i2 article on synchronizing supply chain applications with continuous change notes, the value of an efficient supply chain and its use as a competitive lever can only come when it is in continuous alignment with changing business conditions and market trends.

These days, more and more companies are selecting out-of-the-box solutions since they provide access to best practices and the latest technological innovations. In particular, many companies are selecting modern, SaaS-based, applications that provide them with the flexibility they need to customize the user interface, workflow, data modeling, and other components they need to align more closely with business needs. But, these applications, however, can only deliver high value continuously if they are flexible and easily maintainable to achieve high-level responsiveness.

Specifically, such a system needs to be able to:

  • integrate existing legacy systems until their functions are replaced
  • allow rapid prototyping of business ideas through what-if modeling
  • enable procurement users to define and adjust process flows without IT intervention
  • link multiple disparate applications in a business process flow
  • provide for data synchronization and harmonization across existing systems

And this will require constant maintenance and regular updates because business continually face the following challenges:

  • operational
    all businesses experience turnover and all business need to retain operational knowledge despite the turnover
  • evolutionary
    dynamic business conditions spawned by continuously changing demand requirements, competitive pressures and supply arrangements require applications that evolve in parallel
  • organizational
    business needs change as market dynamics change
  • infrastructural
    new hardware and middleware is continually introduced to the environment as the business tries to capture the new innovations they bring to the table

So how do you make your applications sustainable? Start by:

  • Following a Standard Maintenance Program

    Out-of-the-box applications — be they traditional behind-the-firewall or modern SaaS — come with standard maintenance, and update, programs. Be sure to use them to their full advantage as they will help you overcome many of the operational and infrastructure challenges you’ll face on a regular basis.
  • Regularly Reviewing and Tuning Your Solutions

    Applications will inevitably get out of synch with business requirements as small changes accrue over time. Applications should regularly be reviewed by subject matter experts who can identify misalignments, gaps, or missing opportunities and the best way to address them. Often, simple tune-ups result in 20% improvements in key metrics.
  • Synchronizing with Business Changes

    If you select a well-designed application platform with a loosely-coupled architecture, it will be possible to make adjustments economically to keep the platform tightly aligned with business changes.
  • Conducting a Strategic Impact Analysis

    With every deployment, key metrics and targets for improvement need to be identified and tracked against a well-defined baseline. This allows the organization to monitor the health of the application and determine when it needs to be tuned and when it needs to be replaced to keep the procurement operating at peak productivity … which it needs to do to achieve peak savings.