Open Up Your Supply Chain With E2Open

Today is the official launch of E2Open‘s new Collaboration Center, E2Open Version 8.0. The focus of this release are their new supply dashboards with real-time KPIs, predictive analytics and exception notifications designed to allow an organization to manage its global trading network across multiple supply tiers.

E2Open was founded in 2000 with the vision to provide supply chain managers visibility into their entire supply chain network — beyond just the first tier of suppliers because problems often start with your suppliers’ suppliers and your suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers. Getting visibility into a late shipment or raw material shortfall as soon as it happens gives an organization time to find an alternate supply or alternate go-to-market strategy, as opposed to finding out the day after your supplier was supposed to ship. Since then, E2Open has gone through multiple versions of its platform and its E2open Business Network (8 to be precise) and now offers solutions in Collaborative Supply Planning, Demand Management, Logistics Visibility, Order Management, Inventory Management, and B2B Managed Services with a customer list that includes Blackberry, Dell, FoxConn, Hitachi, Motorola, and Seagate to name a few.

However, today we are only going to focus on its new collaborative platform and its supply management dashboards to be precise. Why would I do such a thing, especially since I repeatedly claim that Dashboards are Dangerous and Dysfunctional in full agreement with Robert D. Austin? Because the reason they are dysfunctional is that they lull you into a false sense of security when you see a lot of green. As I said in SI’s now classic post:

a dashboard can not tell you how well you’re doing … the best it can do is capture the data it’s been programmed to capture, roll-up the metrics it’s been programmed to roll up, and do the built in calculations of efficiency based on those roll-ups.

As a result, even if it tells you that 90% of spend is “on contract”, that doesn’t mean it is. It won’t tell you that 10% of spend has been misclassified under the wrong code and is being reported as on-contract when it’s really, really not. The truth is that:

a dashboard can only provide an upper bound on how well you’re doing, and this is useless. Reporting that my efficiency is at most 98% when it is in fact 92% is useless and unactionable.

However, if the goal is reversed from trying to tell you how well you are doing, and giving an inaccurate upper bound, to how poor you are doing, and give an accurate, minimal lower bound, it becomes useful. And if you can then define metrics such as inspected orders, reviewed invoices, verified shipments, etc. and report on the uninspected orders, unreviewed invoices, and unverified shipments (etc.), then you not only know everything that’s wrong but how many dark corners could be holding problems waiting to materialize but where to look when the problems you know about have been solved.

And that’s why E2Open’s new dashboard, developed in HTML5 and available through your browser, is useful. Not only does it provide deep, near real-time insight into your global supply network, with data aggregated across the multiple tiers of your supply network as fast as the platform can get access to it (which is real-time if the suppliers are using a modern supply management system with real-time query / export capability or once a day if the supplier is still on an old ERP/MRP that does a daily export in CSV to a secured FTP directory), but the drill-down dashboard can be configured to display whatever KPIs and metrics you want, however you want.

You can choose the standard indicators that show that 98% of your orders are expected to ship on time, based upon tier-1 and tier-2 suppliers shipping their components and raw materials on time, or you can invert it and show that 2% of your orders are late. Every metric can be reversed and you can filter what is displayed. So, if you want, you can set it up to show ALL RED and just show you

  • all the problems the system has identified that need an investigation and/or resolution and
  • how many records, products, shipments, etc. have not been manually reviewed, tested, verified as this will tell yo exactly where problems could be lurking and, if the count is high, where more oversight might be required to prevent new problems.

It’s not the standard configuration, but it is supported — and the ability to razor sharp focus into issues two levels down into your supply chain within 24 hours of your supplier’s supplier reporting a delay is fantastic. And, unlike most “dashboard” products, they support the creation of multiple public and private “dashboard” pages, at different levels of visibility and granularity, to allow each user to track all KPIs, metrics, and issues relevant to them. It’s not trying to be a one-size fits all solution because E2Open recognizes that, in supply chain, one size does not fit all.

Furthermore, 90% visibility at each tier is possible very quickly as they have done over 400 ERP / MRP / Supply Chain system integrations to date and can on-board suppliers on all of the major platforms very quickly. And they even have the ability to do trending and predictive analytics to identify where problems might occur — which is useful when you know that somewhere in a certain data blackhole there is likely an issue but are unsure where to start.

E2Open‘s new release is worth checking out. The platform strives to give you a single version of the truth across your supply network and does a good job at doing it. And the inventory management / collaborative forecasting drill down capability is just as detailed as some of the best inventory solutions on the marketplace.