Collaborative online communities the next frontier
Social network principles are being applied to supply chain management services through the creation of secure online communities for retailers and suppliers to communicate and exchange business, organisation and contact information in a trusted and secure fashion.
The social network service for supply chains produced by Inovis Inc, has been modelled on popular consumer websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Users of the application, a latest addition to its Business Community Management platform, can access a secure view of their colleagues at trading partners and update their contact details and their company’s trading profile, ensuring their latest data is available to their business community.
“We believe supply chain will be the next business frontier to exploit social network technology,” company CTO Erik Huddleston told us. “It’s unique to Inovis, and we can do it because we own the whole stack.”
He explained that the company had been working through the acquisitions of UK EDI and electronic trading systems supplier Freeway Commerce Ltd and BetweenMarkets Inc, a company that provides on-demand trading partner applications for supply chain hubs and suppliers.
“Those two company acquisitions have spurred a transformation of Inovis over the past 18 months,” Huddleston said. “They have provided us with a global reach. But we now also have a very robust framework for the integration of a company’s business partners into its core business processes. We have high end capacity for cross-enterprise collaboration, supply chain and exception management and a way of managing the governance, risk and compliance of supply chain performance.
At the time of the acquisitions Inovis said that the integration between BetweenMarkets applications and the high-volumes of trading partner transactions processed through Inovis solutions would enable customers to improve transaction quality and compliance across their trading partners while reducing supply chain data errors, penalties and chargebacks.
Huddleston explained that organisations want to take their business process and application footprint and stretch it all the way across the business community.
They need to get a full and accurate view of transactions and their long-running business processes like procure-to-pay or order-to-cash.
Systems like those developed by Inovis monitor services for orders, shipments and other business partner processes. They provide web portals and workflows so that supply chain participants can quickly and easily tie in their trading partners and speed the so-called on-boarding process.
They are also used to find and fix issues across trading partner transactions, including purchase orders, shipments and invoices.
The idea behind the addition of social networking features is that when a supply chain manager finds an error or problem in a purchase order or shipment, they can use it to identify and contact the right person at the supplier, third-party logistics provider or contract manufacturer who can best resolve them before it causes delays and errors in the supply chain.
The provider of business community management services came out of the former supply chain enablement division of failed Peregrine Systems Inc, and has its roots in EDI network services.
In recent years it has extended its footprint into the broader management of the myriad of business interactions that go on between a business and its suppliers, its customers, logistics providers and other third parties.
Its business community services software is designed to support everything from core order-to-cash processes, to managed file transfers between trading parties, and on to support some of the online collaborative activities that under pin operations in business communities.
The business competes against the likes of Sterling, GXS, Covisint and Kewill.
The company sells software that can be hosted behind the enterprise firewall or delivered on-demand as a service, offers hosted and managed services, and will also provide various business process outsourcing services to the businesses as diverse as Xerox to Innocent Drinks, the British fruit and smoothie drinks maker.