Daily Archives: November 5, 2010

Where Are The Intelligent Networks?

In a recent piece from ChainLink Research on Remapping the Supply Chain Universe, the author suggests that there are intelligent networks [that] are truly unique, yet little understood. What I’d like to know is, where are these intelligent networks. As far as I’m concerned, an intelligent network is as real as a griffin or a chimera.

The author suggests that they are a trusted source to synchronize the mutual data and processes between trading partners using a shared model based on agreement in policy, process, [and] security. Supposedly they separate the physical supply from the logical supply chain to enable mobility by providing peer-to-peer access and a single version of the truth.

Working backwards, the only system I’ve ever seen give a truly single version of the truth is a spend analysis system after an expert has merged all of the disparate data sources using hand-mapped rules. (Now, there are half-a-dozen companies running single instance Oracle systems that also provide a single version of the truth, but since these white unicorns are rarer than black swans, we might as well pretend they don’t exist.)

Peer-to-peer access has been around for decades, and hit the mass market on the web back in 1999 with Napster. Don’t tell me that was intelligent.

Every system separates the physical supply chain from the logical one. After all, software is an abstraction. And it’s not intelligent. It’s just code.

Marketplaces have been providing a shared model based on agreement in policy, process, and security for over a decade as well. It’s framework, not intelligence.

Finally, there’s no connection, or even correlation, between a “trusted source” and intelligence.

Plus, if you look at today’s “social networks”, there’s a good chance that you’ll wonder if there’s even any intelligence in the user base!

The reality is that “intelligent” networks don’t exist because “intelligent” systems don’t exist because there’s no such thing as “artificial intelligence”. Take it from a CS PhD who knows. If someone is trying to sell you an “intelligent network”, they are bs-ing you. Don’t fall for it.

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Will the Force(.com) be the Glue that Binds BoB to PoE?

As per a recent post, Best-of-Breed ( BoB )┬ásolutions alone are not enough, you need an end-to-end enterprise platform operations engine ( PoE ) that consolidates all of your spend and provides you with one version of the truth. Otherwise, you’re working with blinders on and a seemingly good decision, like going with a lower cost provider, can cost you more in the long run, because their shipping costs and their defect rates are higher.

And as per another recent post, the time of niche is (almost) here, and best-of-breed solutions will be needed for certain verticals, departments, and / or categories. Generic platforms with generic processes will not be complete enough, or useable enough, for the sophisticated buyer of specialized products or services — who expects an ease of use and power that goes beyond Amazon.com and today’s social networks. As a result, the base systems will be bypassed and critical spend will escape management.

Both BoB and PoE solutions are required, but unless they are integrated, a user will not be able to realize the full benefits of either platform. But as there is still no common supply chain language, and no magic middleware that can connect any ERP or transaction engine to any BoB front-end, how can you insure that your systems play nice?

In a recent post I noted that, these days, it seems that everyone wants a piece of the Force. I’m still not entirely sure why, since it was built to serve CRM (and not SRM), the ecosystem is new, and it’s still not a proven enterprise platform for the supply chain, but vendor after vendor is taking the leap, so we have to acknowledge that, until something more exciting comes along, it’s where the supply chain market is going.

Given that the Force is cloud-based, that, for better or worse, it’s becoming the new ERP of (small and) mid-sized business in particular, and that it won’t be long before every vendor and its mascot has a Force.com app, it would appear that it won’t be long before you can use the platform as your data store and different vendor apps as your BoB applications. Now, it’s probably going to take a while for most vendors (who haven’t been training with the Force since day one) to port the bulk of their functionality, but with development timeframes compressing by the year, probably not as long as one may think. Which begs the question, is the Force going to be the glue that binds BoB to PoE and bring us the next level of supply chain efficiency?

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