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Collaboration in the Supply Chain, Where is it?


Posted by on January 7, 2011

My previous (and first) post on social supply chain management was surprisingly popular so I thought I’d continue with that topic and talk about something that I learned (and am continuing to learn) thanks to Trevor Miles.  Again, keep in mind I’m no supply chain expert like Trevor but we’re both very interested in how social media impacts and can be integrated into supply chain activities.  The image below was created by AT Kearney.

I know there’s a lot going on in the image above but at the very heart of what we are talking about here is collaboration, a common theme of Enterprise 2.0 that has been shown to increase overall business performance (also read: The networked enterprise).  I don’t think enough attention is being given towards the notion of collaboration in the supply chain and/or social supply chain management. In fact most of the information we read about collaboration today talks about things such as the ability to find information quicker, connect with customers, improve sales, reduce support costs, etc. However, there isn’t much mention of how collaboration impacts things such as relationships with suppliers, product development, inventory management, and forecasting.  As Trevor aptly mentioned in his post when referencing several Enterprise 2.0 examples that Andrew McAfee put together:

“Andrew McAfee on the other hand points to real examples where value and trust have been delivered by Enterprise 2.0 technology, although, unfortunately, none of his examples are within the supply chain space.

Why is this the case?  Why don’t we see more collaboration examples as they pertain to the supply chain?

Trevor also points out that the real barrier to collaboration isn’t technology at all (which I completely agree with) but trust.  Trust that the organization as whole is making the right decisions, trust between employees and managers, and trust between a company and its suppliers.  Trust isn’t something that pertains specifically to the supply chain of course, we see trust as the undercurrent for all collaborative initiatives regardless of what department or function they are a part of.  However, trust comes from a culture built around collaboration.  If collaboration within an organization is not encouraged or worse, viewed as hostile, than trust cannot manifest itself on a scale that is necessary for effective collaboration.

If you have a moment I highly recommend that you read Trevor’s full post and subscribe to his blog, he’s a smart guy!

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