Where is the Knowledge Network?

Supply Network. Invoicing Network. Payment Network. Risk Network. It’s network frenzy out there. But where’s the knowledge network to make sense of it all?

It’s not the internet. It may be the information highway, but with all the marketing billboards, the best you can get is an obstructed view of the signage intended to give you directions.

It’s not the supply management organizations. While they collect a lot of data points from their members, they don’t necessarily distill down to the underlying wisdom, and when they do, it’s usually specific to the membership base they serve — which is typically restricted to a single country or geographic region.

It’s not the for-profit training organizations. They may do a good (and sometimes great) job of training you to be effective at a set of supply management tasks, but don’t expect any wisdom beyond what they promise in the fine print. The purpose of their existence is to take your money, so they’re not about to enable the market at large.

It’s not the new vendor wikis, forums, or knowledge exchanges. These exist to serve their members first and you second, as clearly evidenced by the restrictive nature of many of these network. And even though a few of these have opened the doors to anyone who wants to join, they exist first and foremost to deliver the education most relevant to the vendor. If the vendor is focussed on selling e-Sourcing, they don’t really care about certain aspects of e-Payment or the 3rd party logistic’s you’ll need to deliver your products. And forget about these networks playing nice with the competition.

It’s certainly not the analysts. We all know that the greatest influences on an analyst firm are the vendors who get the most face time, which, in turn, are the vendors who pay the most to get that face time. As a result, most vendor reports are simply repackaged vendor marketing. A few go deeper, but even then, the vendors that get the most focus are the ones that pay for it.

And we don’t even have our own supply-o-pedia! And even though, back in 2007, it looked like the independent blogs would be plentiful and collectively serve as our guideposts when we wandered off the path, at this point in time, we’re a dying breed. There might be dozens (and dozens) of blogs currently active in the space, but almost all of them are authored by vendors or analyst firms, who are using them as part of a core marketing strategy. And while a few of these do a great job of education, the education is focussed on the processes and practices you need to know to make the best use of the platforms and services offered by the company or firm.

And with all of these vendor blogs augmenting the traditional publications, supply management organization reports, and analyst briefs that are now focussed on online distribution, we’re drowing in a sea of infomation without a life vest. We need a knowledge management network to keep track of it all, but given that we don’t even have a common language for supply management information interchange, it’s probably a long way off. So what’s an aspiring supply management professional to do?

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