Cloud software: Managing what you can't see

By Freddie Pierce
Written byPatrick Lemoine,E2open(pictured, right) Its no wonder that brand owners are losing billions of dollars each year due to poor supply chain vi...

Patrick Lemoine_E2open.JPG

Written by Patrick Lemoine, E2open (pictured, right)

It’s no wonder that brand owners are losing billions of dollars each year due to poor supply chain visibility. You can’t manage—much less profitably manage—what you can’t see. And in today’s circuited and circuitous global marketplace, that boils down to a lot of blind spots, information gaps, and missed opportunities to keep your business ahead of the curve.

With margins and service levels hanging in the balance, enterprises simply can’t afford to keep customers waiting as they scramble to correct the errors created by poor forecasting or inflexible supply chain operations.  The ability to respond quickly and intelligently to unexpected changes in demand is paramount to sustained success in this new environment.

The challenge is that, for the most part, supply chain technologies haven’t kept up with the changing needs of today’s global companies and consumers: namely, access to accurate, timely information; the ability to collaborate and make fast decisions across multiple geographies of trading partners; and advanced business analytics that help you work smarter and develop more strategic partnerships. 

Poor visibility across the make, source, and delivery processes of multiple product offerings is the root cause of many of the most common supply chain challenges. A significant number of global enterprises are still struggling to move beyond a handful of one-to-one connections with their most strategic partners, making it nearly impossible to synchronize systems and processes to achieve a true (that means timely and complete) picture of end-to-end operations. 

To succeed in a world where demand volatility is the new norm, brand owners must shift their focus away from vertical planning and decision making based on static information inside the four walls of a company. Imagine a supply chain in which you are able to: (1) identify opportunities or problems as they arise (e.g., a demand spike or a part shortage); and (2) work collaboratively with partners to respond in real time.

How much could you improve your efficiency and bottom-line profitability by being able to determine the best outcomes within the timeframe it matters most? What if you could make a strategic decision, based on complete information, faster, to get a jump on your competition? What impact would this level of intelligent responsiveness have on your customer service levels?

The good news is that a new class of supply chain solutions is finally making it possible to start answering these questions thanks to cloud computing. By providing a shared space for communication, collaboration, and business process execution, a cloud-based platform allows trading network participants to see, share and act on the best possible information—in real time, when plan deviations can still be turned into cost savings or revenue opportunities.

Cloud-based supply chain solutions are changing the game from the inside-out, making it possible to bridge multiple tiers of information silos and process gaps with a ‘single version of the truth’ that is accurate, intelligent, and actionable. They are also introducing a level of operational efficiency, flexibility, and scalability never before believed possible.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg—that is to say, cloud—but the next chapter will have to wait until I tackle the question: How do I manage demand I can’t predict and supply I don’t control? Stay tuned.

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