History is littered with ‘standards’ based approaches to Collaboration. Well intentioned and with lofty goals, committees of experts convene to hammer out the mind numbing details of what will constitute the standard. Look at Electronic Data Interchange, or EDI. Arguably one of the most successful ‘standards’ based approaches. Here you will find a summary of its history: http://bit.ly/cNxZPi. To summarize the summary – it took them 16 years just to get one ‘standard’ that covered more than one type of industry.
Yet, literally 30 years after the publication of ANSI X12 standards in 1981 the percentage of companies using EDI is relatively small. Here you will find the following description regarding a move made by Nestle at the beginning of 2011: http://bit.ly/nJl4lp. “Today, a growing number of companies using EDI are realizing that the relatively small percentage of their customer base has the wherewithal to take advantage of EDI, and so the majority of customer interactions remain paper- based.”
So what have we learned from any ‘standards’ based approach? Expect very high costs, extremely slow & low adoption rates, unique ‘standards’ for certain companies and ultimately very little true value. In other words a standards based approach is nonsense. So what options exist? The most obvious one is where YOU are the standard. To explain this let me use an analogy.
When I was in High School I played on the football team. I wasn’t very fast, very big nor particularly strong. When I showed up to practice or was put into a game I could only achieve what I was capable of physically. No matter how good the coaching my short little legs weren’t going to get me from point A to point B any faster. I liked to tackle people and had a good sense of anticipating where the ball was going. Even with my speed limitations and perhaps with a low center of gravity I was very good at bringing the other player down. Other than that, I did not meet the standard for what my coaches would have liked. So did they just kick those players off the team that weren’t X tall, Y fast and could lift Z weight? No. Obviously not or I wouldn’t have a point here.
Every company in your eco-system, or Supply Chain, has a certain capability. Instead of establishing a standard that only a few can meet you need to include everyone. Differences in budgets, resources and technological maturity should not exclude any of your Vendors, Employees or Customers from joining the team. Let everyone show up and bring everything thing they’ve got. Effective Supply Chains are a team sport.
So let’s translate this analogy back to business. Each company in your Supply Chain has a business/enterprise system. Some are super sophisticated and others border on archaic. Each of those systems, regardless of age and ability, is their own ‘standard’. They bring to the table certain data that they are able (or willing) to share. Together you can establish a “play/strategy” that combines your individual talents so that the team performs better.
BabbleWare has created the universal translator that accepts the output that each company can provide. By absorbing the unique capabilities of the individual members without requiring they modify, replace or integrate their existing system we buffer the strengths and limitations so that all people on the team benefit. By sharing the abilities of the companies tremendous gains in productivity/efficiency, accuracy and visibility can be achieved.
Reductions in direct labor occur in manufacturing, distribution, customer service and sale & general administrative expenses. Reductions in errors drive even greater efficiency as corrections are no longer required and the customer is happier. Visibility to real time knowledge about your products, resources, vendors and customers allows you to innovate new value propositions that establish insurmountable competitive advantage. By avoiding the standards based approach you do not disqualify members of your Supply Chain that do not meet the standard by requiring they change the nature of their company. Then, regardless of their inherent ability they can have an impact on your team and make the “play” that you need them to so that everyone wins.