Forbes had an interesting article, asking its readers whether they are ready for the social supply chain (“Are You Ready for the Social Supply Chain?”). It seems that the author and I don’t really know what is a social supply chain, but the article brings several interesting points
A recent report by Buddy Media and Booz & Company identified Facebook (with 850 million users, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that 94% of respondents regard it #1), Twitter(77%) and YouTube (42%) as the top three preferred social media platforms for brands to utilize. This information does not mean that the functionality of other social media platforms, including blogs, and enterprise systems like Moxie Software and Yammer are not valuable to enhance external communication and collaboration. “
Yammer improves communication within the organization by creating internal social networks for enterprise purposes, allowing employees to communicate among themselves. Clearly improving communication within the organization is a lofty goal, but is a social network the way to do it? I have seen firms in which employees were sitting in adjacent offices, and did not even share a common forecast, not to mention that none of them knew what inventory policy was the other person using. Is the only goal of this “social supply chain” to create a vehicle for communication among the different nodes in the chain?
The article that is part of collaboration between SAP and Forbes describes a recent acquisition made by SAP
SAP recently announced the acquisition of Crossgate to instantly connect SAP customers and their business partners to networking at the enterprise level. Crossgate helps companies connect with any trading partner by joining the network once and linking with prebuilt business partner profiles. This is a full-service alternative, which eliminates the need for costly point-to-point integration. It lowers costs and enables further partner participation in B2B initiatives
One can recognize the potential for social networks to enhance the way people across the supply chain communicate and collaborate with one another; improve the way companies process information to make potentially better decisions. From reading the article, it seems that the lack of communication stems from not having the right space to communicate and exchange ideas. But to me it seems that incentives play in huge part in it: the lack of incentives to share information and the lack of incentives to share forecast. Many of us are familiarize with the bullwhip effect that emerges due, in part, to partial information sharing among firms in supply chains. Tools for Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishing already exist for many years, and if firms do not use them, it’s not because they do not have a nice user interface.
It’s not that there are no opportunities in the intersection between social networks and supply chain (or operations management in general), but the rush to put the term “social” in front of everything becomes a little stale.