A Promise Kept

Why electronic collaboration is critical to fulfill the promise of supply chain visibility


New network fax conversion services can translate faxes into electronic transactions and transmit them into back-end systems. These conversion services allow midsize and larger companies to automate faxes from partners that are not sophisticated enough or do not possess the necessary IT resources to trade electronically. One very large bank now is able to on-board its small-to-medium business customers in less than 30 days and electronically transact with these businesses that previously only sent and received faxes.

Additionally, new Web portals provide companies and their trading partners, regardless of their size or technical expertise, with a secure site to create and exchange business documents over the Internet. These portals eliminate the need for faxes, phone calls and paper documents, which are difficult to manage, can introduce errors and delays, drive up administrative costs and impair the performance of efficient business processes or supply chain operations.

Supply Chain Visibility On-demand Furthers the Competitive Advantage

Even more promising is the emerging trend of offering business applications on demand. Applications, such as supply chain visibility, that depend on communities of users for success are the best fit for on-demand delivery. Hosted by the vendor and paid for on a subscription basis, on-demand solutions provide a number of benefits over on-premise or custom/homegrown solutions. To begin with, they provide access to all network partners regardless of connectivity preference, as well as business process integration across multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) or planning systems.

On-demand supply chain visibility solutions also facilitate another key issue challenging companies: continuous process improvement in order to meet changing supply chain requirements. The investment in existing software applications forces companies to constantly evolve or upgrade their solutions to keep up with these changes. On-demand solutions enable faster implementation time and automated software upgrades. That, coupled with reduced total ownership cost and upfront cost, yields a faster return on investment.

Whether on-demand supply visibility solutions support customer order-to-cash (outbound) or supplier procure-to-pay (inbound) visibility, they are most effective when they feature a dashboard that provides a clear and concise view of customer and supplier information. A dynamic view of performance improves product availability, reduces inventory and aids revenue growth.

The Aberdeen Group reports that companies across industries gain a competitive advantage when they implement on-demand supply chain visibility solutions because they generally are almost two-and-a-half times as likely to have lowered inventory, two times as likely to have faster order-to-delivery times and two times as likely to have an on-time delivery rate of 95 percent or higher.

At last, companies can realize the promise of supply chain visibility. By coupling on-demand network services that enable small partner collaboration with new supply chain visibility applications that accommodate process changes, supply chains can respond to dynamic market conditions and event disruptions. With the obstacles to operational efficiency and responsiveness gone, so, too, is the uncertainly about delivering on a promise.

About the Author: As Vice President, Products & Marketing for Sterling Collaboration Network, Philip Smith is responsible for managing the global P & L for Sterling Commerce's network, managed services and data sync services businesses. He also is responsible for setting strategy, defining and bringing to market all of Sterling Commerce service-based solutions. Smith has more than 22 years experience in IT services and data/voice communications in both the commercial and consumer sectors. Most recently, he was vice president of solutions marketing for outsourcing services at Unisys Corporation. Prior to joining Unisys, Smith was vice president of marketing and sales at CoreComm Ltd., a provider of competitive local exchange services. He also served as director of product management for UUNET, a leading Internet communications provider. Earlier in his career, Smith held a series of marketing and management positions at CompuServe. He earned Bachelor of Science in information systems management from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, and an MBA from Xavier University, Ohio. www.sterlingcommerce.com.

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