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Connecting the World
We know about visibility within the supply chain. The lack of visibility can lead to errors, missed deadlines, and other misshapes that lead to financial loss. But how far that visibility should go is still a topic for discussion. Should the supply chain be continuous from the worksheet that your buyers use to calculate quantities and discounts all the way through to your company's Facebook page? And what information should be available at each point?
The question is a mixture of elements that include philosophical, security and privacy, competition, and practicality. But overriding all those issues is the issue of simply having the resources to get all the systems connected, and then keeping them functioning on an ongoing basis. This is likely to become even more of a challenge as you integrate more systems. In fact as complexity grows, supporting the demands put in place by exponentially more users can become a real burden. One that may not have been factored into your initial cost projections.
Integrations have become available for nearly every ERP system to connect with EDI/supply chain automation systems. In addition connections between Salesforce.com and even social media are cropping up. This hyper-connected environment can make a lot of sense in terms of being responsive to customers. But companies that are getting started on one of these projects should consider how they will determine an ROI for the effort.
One consideration is to rely heavily on cloud-based services that can maximize the efforts of a group of programmers, technical staff, and support people. These companies can leverage the efforts they put into supporting their connectivity among multiple customers who all use the same kinds of connections. While the businesses and the data each uses are certain to be different from each other, the EDI systems, CRM, ERP, and social connections are identical.
Whether you've started to move toward a cloud-centric environment or are just now thinking of a move in that direction, consider the longer implications of opening your supply chain from end to end, and add the increased support that will be required to your calculations.