The “Cloud” is Not a Magic Mirror Nor is it Omniscient

Quotes like this one:

Organizations need the visibility of their supply chains because they never know when they might be required to make a change to respond to world and market events. They have been actually talking about this kind of visibility for the past two decades, but now with new Cloud capabilities they are advancing into that environment

from a recent article in World Trade that purported to describe a smarter supply chain really bug me. Not only can one argue that the speaker is implying that the Cloud is necessary for good supply chain visibility, which it’s not, but that the writer, who notes that there has been greater company acceptance of the Cloud because the Cloud … can provide answers to new and existing problems, also appears to be arguing that the Cloud is necessary for greater visibility as well as smarter supply chains. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Cloud is Not a Fluffy Magic Box (and there are more reasons and yet more reasons that this is the case) and simply throwing an application into the Cloud does not make it better. The nebulous Cloud does not enable applications that cannot be delivered over the traditional internet from a traditional data center. For most providers, the Cloud just happens to be whatever they have — multi-tenant SaaS in a redundant data center if you’re lucky, single-tenant ASP if you’re not. There’s nothing special or magic about it. And there’s no visibility inherent in it. The visibility is in the applications it is hosting (whatever it is).

Similarly, there is no “smart” in Cloud. Any “smart” is again in the application that is being hosted. And there is no magic data connector in the Cloud either. It’s not Cloud-based solutions that provide more affordable ways for suppliers to link to a common database — it’s more efficient providers that use economies of scale to offer good ETL solutions at fair prices to a large customer base.

Finally, the “Cloud” is NOT a Supply Chain Solution. e-Sourcing. e-Procurement. Inventory Management. Demand Management. Spend Analysis. Optimization. Those are Supply Chain Solutions. The Cloud? It’s just a delivery mechanism. Nothing more.