Inside Supply Management Magazine

Connected Enterprises

February 01, 2015
By Ron Guido

There is a massive proliferation of online and digital content competing for our attention every day. So what does this age of Internet information sharing mean for businesses, especially in terms of brand marketing, customer interface and supply chain management? Quite simply, in order to be competitive in this highly connected world of the consumer, the business must be equally connected internally and globally with its commercial partners.

The traditional business is a collection of assets and business information linked on a “batch” basis and by “account” rather than using a continuous flow, real-time design. Data are parsed out on a “need-to-know” basis rather than shared seamlessly through integrated systems. In addition, the supply side of the house is not fully synchronized with the demand or intake side.

The Evolution of Commerce

Today companies are being forced to evolve their organizational design to a true end-to-end supply-centric enterprise due to the dynamics of global commerce. This evolution must consider emerging global markets, e-commerce and mobile retailing, increasing and changing competition, the growth of consumerism and the mobility of customers.

Strategic partners are more important today than ever before because virtual operations and outsourcing are more fluid and focused than a vertically integrated organization. The new enterprise relies on highly automated control solutions, integrated enterprise software, validated contract manufacturers, 3PL’s and preferred vendors to deliver quality products and services to customers. The primary difference between the traditional and the fully evolved business lies in the way information is processed and shared.

In order for companies to leverage the changing marketplace, the information-rich customers and the broadening universe of its operations, they must capture, process and curate information in a way that empowers all resources of the enterprise to out-perform competition. This is what is referred to as the connected enterprise.

The remodeled enterprise sports a new set of capabilities and competencies:

Thorough understanding of the new generation of technology-equipped consumers and their service requirements

Customer engagement processes for easy data access and order-entry

Customer service and tech support activities integrated with other business functions including product development

Social intelligence and insights-driven marketing.

The company’s evolution into a connected enterprise is guided by the following information technology objectives:

Seamless access to end-to-end information linking customer preferences/needs to supply management

An unencumbered network accessible across the enterprise

Adoption of serialization technology. (Each resource that links demand to supply — in other words, every component of each product and package is assigned a unique identifier for moving those goods expeditiously through to fulfillment). Interoperable systems are implemented throughout the supply chain to replace the trading, shipping and invoicing of “products” with surrogate “serial numbers.”

A smart and highly secure data infrastructure

Real-time analysis and curation (distribution) of transactional information to inform all business systems for continuous improvement

Provision of new decision-support tools to streamline scenario planning and guide investments

Connecting employees and authorized stakeholders using apps, wearable technology, mobility devices, and more to enrich the customer experience.

Benefits for the Connected Enterprise

The connected enterprise optimizes the “speed and direction” of the company.  All business processes that support revenue-generation are aligned in purpose, recognizing that traditional sales functions are being replaced by “engagement and fulfillment.” Cost improvements are realized by reducing the risks of aged or short inventory, improving cycle and delivery times, scheduling production resources more efficiently and empowering the workforce.

These savings can be passed along to the customer as a pricing advantage and/or converted into higher profits. The connected enterprise becomes more competitive, more operationally efficient and more dynamic in anticipating market shifts. In short, all business activity is conducted in a new world — a serialized world.