Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Let me first say that I like SharePoint. We use it here at TraceLink for internal document sharing and it works pretty well. Let me also say that it is an absolute failure for external collaboration. Time and time again we meet companies who were convinced to use SharePoint for external collaboration and the topic evokes very strong emotions. Everyone hates it! Yes, the emotions are that strong.
Our discussions are primarily with Quality, External Manufacturing, Contract Manufacturing and Contract Packaging organizations. The users were told that SharePoint would address the need to collaborate across companies for Batch Record Reviews, Events and Deviations, Change Control, Forecast Collaboration and many other supply chain processes between partner companies. The harsh reality of using SharePoint for these purposes is a loss of productivity and more error-prone processes at greater costs.
Here are the top 5 statements/feelings customers share about SharePoint:
“SharePoint is a Graveyard for Documents.” This statement cuts to the heart of the problem. It is not enough to just share documents, but users need to engage in shared supply chain processes. Right now documents are placed in folders and forgotten. Then there is the mess of trying to organize folders and versions of documents in a manner that aligns with the process state (“where am I in the Batch Record approval process and which are the right documents?”) as well as managing multiple processes (“which batches are still open for approval and which ones are historical”). Due to all of these issues documents go to SharePoint and die!
“SharePoint is a Nightmare to Manage.” No IT person wants the thankless job of managing the on-going security and administration issues created by SharePoint. It is a pointless effort to try to manage user access for individuals who are NOT your company’s employees. Not only do people join and leave your partner’s companies but the members of the teams are changing. So managing credentials and access control is a constant headache. Not to mention the issue of sending a physical security token to all the users at your partner companies. Security policies require these physical tokens to be accounted for on a quarterly or annual basis, requiring IT to verify that employees not at your company still need access to your SharePoint server. What an administrative nightmare!
“SharePoint is Less Productive than Email.” The main issue for business users is that they are working with multiple partners simultaneously. Every time they need to share documents they need to use a different security token and log into a different SharePoint server at the host partner company. As if that wasn’t bad enough, then file upload takes a very long time since the servers are hosted inside your partner’s firewall. This is the equivalent of logging into a different email system and waiting until the file arrives at their company server before you can “send” a document to the next company. Every person loses hours of valuable time every day!
“SharePoint is Expensive.” SharePoint has the same financial traps as most large client-server applications. While the base license seems reasonable, it is the tractor trailer that comes with it that drives the price way up. In order to deploy SharePoint for external collaboration an installation will need SQL Server database licenses, multiple servers to host the core system, additional servers for disaster recovery and even more servers for your partners to use outside of the core IT infrastructure. So not only are the base deployment costs high but the cash register keeps ringing because of the performance issues. SharePoint requires large recurring IT budgets!
“SharePoint Projects take Forever to Complete.” In order to address all the feature and architecture shortcomings there is now a sub-market of Value Added Resellers and Systems Integrators ready to deploy, customize and integrate SharePoint. These projects add to the cost and time to realize any value. Unfortunately most of these projects cannot produce the value sought by the users. SharePoint is just not the right starting point for meeting the user’s needs!
At TraceLink we took an approach to leverage the Cloud and create a solution for external collaboration that enables the supply chain to collaborate on processes within minutes with full security and exactly the functionality needed for the business. We provide live business processes, with team-based user management, a single login for all your external party collaboration, very-low subscription pricing and no customization or deployment costs required.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
At the heart of solving the fundamental challenges of managing a supply chain requires building a network for communicating and coordinating people, processes and information about product flow. All our visions of demand-driven virtues hit the friction-full realities of connecting people, processes and information flows. The time and cost to establish meaningful connections prevent widespread adoption, and the lack of predictability creates inherent loss of revenue, constraints on cash and greater expenses.
Today the industry is engaged in building connections using b2b links, trading hubs and portals. These approaches create many local proprietary solutions and don’t fundamentally address the many-to-many network problem. Each connection between partners becomes a major expense to establish and maintain. These costs limit deployments to some processes and some partners.
On a recent visit to a major BioPharma, they shared the time and costs involved in developing a portal for their contract partners. In the last two years, they spent greater than $3M dollars to develop a portal for one business process. To date, only one contract partner has agreed to use it. The following week, we had a meeting with a major contract service provider who indicated that they receive multiple requests for greater information and integration on a weekly basis. The contract service provider cannot jump from portal to portal for each customer nor can they service information requests in proprietary formats for each customer. What we need is an instant and common mechanism to establish collaborative processes with any partner at any time.
Our decades of experience in supply chain and technology combined with our very close relationship with companies and individuals provided us with a solid understanding of real world issues of production tracking, inventory visibility, partner management, distribution control and demand planning. To revolutionize the supply chain we needed to enable partners to establish secure collaborative workspaces, conduct shared business processes across companies, provide a common view of information within and across partnerships and empower people to manage the processes and teams independently.
At TraceLink we decided to look around and evaluate how large global networks are built on the World Wide Web. Google revolutionized advertising by building a massive network of advertisers and connecting them to content. Anyone can join that network with a credit card through a website. The value of Google is not just in the search engine but also in the advertising platform for the smallest to the largest businesses. In a New York Times article, the following growth of Google’s base was shared:
In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Google said it had 1 million advertisers as of 2007. If history is any guide, we can expect the number to be much higher now. The number of advertisers on Google has grown at a steady clip, from 89,000 in 2003, to 201,000 in 2004, 360,000 in 2005 and 600,000 in 2006.
The most impressive statistic was:
Interestingly, each advertiser, on average, spent a little more than $16,000 a year on Google. That figure changed little between 2003 and 2007.
In social networking, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter each established their own networks to enable information sharing and relationship building at unprecedented levels. These services established collaborative frameworks with information sharing, social process execution and sophisticated levels of permission management. The core concepts from these social networking giants establish a bold new path for inter-company business process execution and collaboration.
This analysis gave us new insight and ideas for how we can solve our supply chain challenges more effectively. Based on our lessons and understanding we established the:
Top Ten Tenets for Building a Predictable Supply Network:
- People Network: put people not companies at the center
- Functional Simplicity: provide only the most valuable capabilities
- Shared Process: integrate processes across corporate boundaries
- Connection Value: actively solicit connections to drive network effects
- Long Tail: integrate and collaborate with all niches of partners
- Be Discoverable: let people find you since it uncovers opportunity
- Cloud Economics: share the cost and pay for only what you use
- Self Managing Groups: let teams organize themselves based on their rules
- Network Knowledge: leverage the information from all to make your decisions
- Agile Adoption: start small, learn fast and grow quickly
These tenets establish a foundation for a supply chain leader to form a strategic direction and operational processes, which can rapidly grow the communication, coordination and collaboration with their partners. Our service intrinsically supports these tenets and enables rapid adoption. For instance, a user of our service can engage in collaborative production tracking with their contract partners in minutes after registering with our service.
In the coming weeks and months, we will discuss each of these tenets. Along the way we will identify the benefits and challenges in incorporating the Top Ten Tenets into your solutions and operations. Please share your ideas, issues and experiences so that we can learn from each other.
Together we will transform the supply chain. No BullWhip!
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