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Tom Brouillette Thoughts at Large

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The cloud provides a stable and robust platform to support the collaboration of your extended network in planning, forecasting and especially big data analysis.  The technology expansion and improvements that are driving consumer’s shopping demands can also be used to support the collaboration demands of the retail extended supply chain partners.  The next logical step to this growth and expansion of collaboration is the collaboration supporting big data analysis across your extended collaborative partnerships.  The communication and social technology tools embraced by consumers to support their shopping habits can also be utilized by your collaborative partner network to support the sharing and analysis of data across the partner network.


This same technology that allows small companies and consumers to utilize robust software also allows your collaborative partners to share data and then perform the analysis of that data to develop new capabilities and improve their forecasting and planning.  The challenge to unlocking these big data analysis capabilities is not that simple though because it requires changing cultural practices across your collaborative partner network.  This is the most difficult challenge and can quickly kill your initiative before realizing any value.  The cloud can help in resolving these challenges with a flexible, robust and secure platform to support the analysis data requirements in a shared environment.  I see a key challenge for this collaborative analysis to be the ability to limit the data shared to data that is not specific to any one partner. 

A secondary challenge is where the data is stored, storing this data at any one partner location can raise many issues across the collaborative partnership. 


The greatest challenge to the success of your collaborative analysis is cultural and related to sharing and more importantly storing and usage of the proprietary information collected and managed by the individual partners in your collaborative network.  This hesitation can be overcome by limiting two things; the specific proprietary, or identifying, data, and where this shared data is stored.  This is where the cloud and social networking technology come together to overcome these challenges.  The cloud provides the stable, robust and secure environment to store and analyze the data.  The social networking technologies provide the tools to access and share this data and results of the analysis. 


This collaborative analysis practice will allow the partners to overcome the cultural hesitation to protect proprietary information and security hesitation to allow access to internal networks from external partners.  It is time now for the retail industry to take advantage of this technology to support the changing demands of consumer shopping practices.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Data analysis in the new Commerce 2.0 environment brings many challenges with it due to the nature of the collaborative network and also the partner culture to protect their intellectual property.  These challenges though can be overcome through cloud tools with careful planning and coordination.  Fortunately, the same mobile technology and platforms encouraging the consumer’s drive to shop and ability to purchase any time and any where also provide the basis and framework to support the type of big data analysis required to understand and develop new retailer capabilities.  The cloud brings a standardized architecture to this problem that provides the basis to both share the vast amounts of data and also the tools and software to perform the analysis.


Many smaller and especially newer retailers have embraced the cloud for their technology needs because it provides a robust, stable and resilient platform and the tools necessary to support these retailers’ back office requirements.  The larger retailers though have been slow to embrace the shared cloud because they have already implemented a robust, stable and resilient private platform within their organization.  The larger retailers have spent years developing and improving the software they utilize to support their business, in the past at least this has been viewed as a competitive advantage for these larger retailers.  The cloud capabilities have now reached the point where the secured services and storage provide the same capabilities to small retailers as the larger retailers developed themselves, and all this is provided at a reasonable rate that is based on usage.  This provides the new retailers the same capabilities as the larger retailers at a fraction of the cost to develop from scratch.


This has worked very well for back office type services and storage requirements so the next logical step is the analysis capabilities provided by big data practices.   The cloud is the perfect architecture to provide big data services, it provides the platform to support collecting and storage of large amounts of data necessary to perform the analysis and it provides a platform for the software services to perform the analysis.  This next step in cloud capabilities now provides the same robust big data analysis capabilities to anyone at a fraction of the cost to develop themselves.  This next step in capabilities also provides the framework to perform complicated analysis across an extended collaborative network.


The challenge from your collaborative network will be to identify the data requirements to perform the analysis and then to provide the access to that data in the cloud to perform the analysis.  The cloud provides the platform to bring the data together without the complicated and costly acquisition of storage or services.  The cloud simplifies the technical requirements so your collaborative network can focus on the procedures to share the data and the analysis of that data.  Your collaborative network can take advantage of the same technology and capabilities that are driving the consumer shopping and purchasing capabilities. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Commerce 2.0 and the demands of continuously changing consumer shopping demands makes the data analysis both extremely important and very complicated at the same time.  The importance, I think, is clear because of the consumer shopping demands generate a great deal of information that retailers are very interested in analyzing to identify trends.  The complication lies in the spread of valuable data across many partners and platforms, including potentially the end consumer.  As in most complicated problems the solution is not impossible, however it requires careful planning to take into account complications and the limitations in order to deliver the solution.


The challenge is quite clear; how do you bring together data across platforms and networks to perform the analysis.  Even though the question may be simple there are many factors that must be taken into account to resolve.  Some of the key challenges are:

  • The definition of the data across partners to understand what is required.  Working across partners requires additional effort when evaluating what data to use in the analysis.  It is important to understand how the partners define and then collect the data in order to understand what to select for the analysis.  From the most simplistic example - one partner may use ‘part’ as the name of the item, while another may use ‘item’ and another might use ‘SKU’.  You can see by this example that it is important to understand the definition and not just the name of the element.
  • The communication network between the partners can cause delays or limitations in the volumes of data that is being passed.  This requires additional analysis to determine the most efficient means of moving data across the network.  In addition, this requires additional analysis to determine the most efficient location for the analysis.  In other words, maybe it would be better to perform a subset of the analysis on one partner’s network and share the results, or many it would be more effective to share the entire data group.
  • The location, or where, the analysis is performed can complicate the analysis exercise.  This would be a very common requirement to also determine the best method for partners to share information across the network. 
  • Finally the ‘ownership’ and use of the data must be clearly defined and practices understood and documented.  The data ownership remains with the partner collecting the data and the use and time frame for the use must be clearly understood and agreed prior to any analysis.


These challenges may seem overwhelming at first and will require planning and coordination in order to overcome them.  The point of the matter is that the data and analysis is more complicated with the more external partners involved.  This complication can be overcome though with planning, coordination and clear definitions and agreement going into the exercise.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Retailers must take into account the vast amounts of data required to maintain the social collaboration network across the consumer to the suppliers.  This data will become the determining factor for the success of the network, including raw material suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, transport and consumers.  All of these services and players must participate in the social collaboration network in order for the entire network to be successful and the data collected and shared across the network is one of the key factors that will produce the value for each of the partners. 


The challenge of the data is determining what to collect and fortunately for all partners involved the big data technology makes both collecting and analyzing huge amounts of information possible.  The challenge in the social collaboration network now is not so much the collection or analysis of the data, it is the data sharing and collaboration that must be used in order to analyze problems across the entire network of partners.  Each partner, except of course the consumer, collects information they have deemed pertinent to their own environment and requirements.  Now these partners must share this information across the network as necessary to perform extended analysis across the entire network. 


The value of the data increases as the amount and the variety of data increases.  This is a key baseline assumption.  As a result of this baseline assumption the value of the potential data available across the entire extended network can be quite large.  The size and diversity of the extended network provides the means to analyze questions quickly and the diversity of the information supports the accuracy of the results of the analysis.  In other words, because of the data available from the very beginning of the supply chain, to the end, these analysis can quickly provide very accurate answers to the questions.


Due to the changing nature of the network, including the partners and available data, there are inherent difficulties in both developing and maintaining the data and the analysis.  Every partner in the network owns their data and would share their data with the partners based on analysis requirements.  This basis of data changes though based on partners leaving the network and then partners joining the network.  This aspect makes some types of historical long term trend analysis a little difficult and must be taken into account when performing this type of analysis.  A mitigating factor in this risk is the number of partners leaving the network would be relatively low and therefore the potential impact relatively low. 


On the positive side, there will also be partners joining the network, including customer growth.  These factors bring additional information and therefore additional value to the ability of the analysis.  These factors would more than compensate for any partners that may leave the network and in fact I think it would also be a discouraging factor to leaving the network.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


The social and mobile technology changing the retail consumer shopping is also changing the collaboration capabilities and practices.  This is extending the desire for collaboration into an opportunity for retailers to collaborate with consumers.  This is an extension of the social aspect of shopping that the successful retailer should embrace and encourage to increase their success in meeting the consumer shopping demands.  Of course not all consumers are open to this social collaboration aspect of engagement with retailers, however there are still many consumers that would relish the opportunity to collaborate with retailers.  This social collaboration between retailers the supply chain and consumers will bring additional waves of shopping opportunities.


Retailers should incorporate this as a part of the review process in their ‘Plan, Do, Review, Improve’ continuous improvement process.  The social collaboration should extend and improve the review process.  Incorporating this social collaboration into the continuous improvement process will greatly enhance the review process which will also have a big impact on the improvement process.  The social collaboration practice will in fact increase the velocity of change that the retailer can achieve.  This increase in change velocity will be achieved due to a consolidation of the improve phase of the process.


The increase in the improve phase will be achieved as a result of incorporating the consumer/retailer/supply chain suggestions together.  In the past, prior to the social collaboration, the improvement process required more iterations to validate and adjust to consumer reaction.  Incorporating the extended supply chain partners in the continuous improvement process increased the ability to meet the demands of the consumer, however, it did nothing really to identify and clarify the demands of the consumer.  These demands required a trial and error feedback loop of implementing improvements and validation.  Social collaboration including consumers will reduce this feedback loop.


These improvements in technology and communication are introducing both demands and opportunities for retailers and consumers.  The technology and communication improvements must be embraced as an additional tool in the retailer’s toolbox to improve their ability to meet the demands of the consumer.  It is no longer enough for retailers, or the supply chain, to ignore the opportunity to collaborate with consumers.  The technology capabilities actually bring the tools to the table to collect the information from a broad spectrum of both consumer response and sales into a meaningful analysis of the demands.  The technology and tools also encourage and support social collaboration across consumers and consumer services.  The successful retailers will incorporate and embrace these tools and capabilities across the entire spectrum of the supply chain partners from raw materials to consumer.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


The social and mobile technology changes that are driving new consumer shopping demands are driving discontinuous change demands in the retail and extended supply chain at an ever increasing rate.  You may not  need to incorporate every change at the first sign, however, you cannot afford ignore them completely.  This is where collaboration and your extended supply chain partners really must be embraced and developed into a robust partnership.  Your collaborative partners and especially your supply chain partners will be able to provide the support and the foundation required for you to meet the changing demands of the consumers.  Collaborative change allows you to meet the demands without shouldering the entire cost of the effort.


These new and changing demands of consumer shopping are not really focused on the retailer, they are focused on the entire shopping experience and as such requires the support and collaboration of all of the partners from the beginning to the end of your supply chain.  It is important that the retailer realize the scope of the demands and the requirements to support those demands.  Without the support and collaboration from all of the partners in the supply chain the retailer at the end of this chain will never be able to keep up with the volume and the velocity of the change. 


I see the single greatest impact of technology on retail to be the velocity of change that the technology supports and encourages.  Following closely behind that velocity is the availability and cost of the technology.  The cost has driven consumers to embrace the technology and the technology enourages the consumer to explore the capabilities.  This is what drives the velocity of change in the consumer shopping demands.  This may be the greatest change that retail has faced in a long time, this change has turned the table on retailers and shifted control of the relationship from the retailer to the consumer.  In the past while retailers strove to meet the consumer’s needs, those needs were generally defined by the retailer’s offerings.  What I mean by this is that in the past the retailer generally controlled the relationship with the consumer, now the new inexpensive technology available directly to the consumer has shifted the control of the relationship to the consumer.  


Consumers are now collaborating in their shopping practices and the retailer must collaborate with their partners in order to succeed in this new reality.  This is what I refer to when I reference collaborative change, the framework to collaborate with your partners to implement the changes necessary to meet consumer shopping demands.  Meeting the new consumer shopping demands requires that the retailer push the change further into their extended supply chain and in order to successfully drive this change requires the support and collaboration of the partners.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Supply chain continuous improvement is a natural by-product of the change from a command and control practice to a collaborative, trust and review, practice.  The practice of collaboration itself is the baseline practice of continuous improvement.  Collaboration and continuous improvement are opposite sides of the same coin and people that embrace collaboration must take the next step of the continuous improvement methods and practices in order to meet the challenges and demands of modern consumer shopping.  The continuously changing demands of consumer shopping, or Commerce 2.0, require retailers embrace the practices of collaboration and continuous improvement to even remain a viable entity going forward. 


There is an old saying - you can never predict the future and now this adage is more true than ever. Ten years ago AOL was one of the most successful companies when it acquired Time and now AOL is being acquired by Verizon to support the Verizon expansion of online services.  There are an army of other such examples of the roller coaster of success stories and by the same token there are also a great array of examples of companies that found their success through collaboration and continuous improvement, such as Apple, or Macy’s in the strict retail sense. Some companies seem to be forced to re-invent themselves while others seem to grow and prosper on a continuous basis for a long period of time.  I think the difference is between the two is that the companies that grow and prosper over a long period of time have embraced a culture of continuous improvement, whether they have specifically set out to implement this or not.


The technology is driving a continuous improvement requirement and practice into all markets and retail is just a widely visible market that touches everyone.  As I have mentioned in the past, new technology improvements and changes are built on the foundation, or ashes, of the current technology in a continuous improvement method.  The standard equipment replacement cycle is not 3 years and most business software should be upgraded at an annual rate at least.  This is not however a change cycle, this is a maintenance cycle.  The change cycle must be added to the regular maintenance cycle as a separate process.


Continuous change will help you to take advantage of the capabilities that are impacting the market, or capabilities that could impact the market in the near future.  Your change cycle should be looking at the recent market and technology changes to determine if and how they should be incorporated into your practices through changing, eliminating or replacing practices.  The advantage of the continuous change method is that it allows you to implement change, review the impact and revise to improve through a thoughtful engineered approach.  


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Supply chain planning and execution will not be successful without the third leg of the tripod - collaboration.  Collaboration is the ingredient that super charges the planning and execution to new levels of success.  Of course there have been many retailers that have been successful in the past utilizing the command and control method practices to manage their extended supply chain.  Of course there will continue to be retailers that will continue utilizing those same command and control method practices because they have been successful in the past.  Developing the collaborative extended supply chain however is proving to be the key point and method to drive continued growth and success in the retail extended supply chain network. 


Retail has always required a strong interaction with the members of the supply chain due to the nature of the business.  As I have previously mentioned, the retailer provides two services in the consumer shopping environment; first the retailer provides the services to complete the sale and second the retailer is the customer facing outlet for consumer product delivery.  I realize that I am over simplifying however I am doing this to explain the importance of the supply chain.  The supply chain provides the supporting framework for the retailer to support consumer shopping.  There have been a continuous release of improvements to the supply chain from the paper purchase order to the electronic ordering, tracking and planning of product via EDI.  This all lead to the vendor managed inventory practice that helps the retailer to ensure in-stock conditions with a higher percentage.


All of these practices and methods in the past though have been based on the command and control practices that have been the foundation to most business frameworks, this is also referred to as  the customer and supplier practice.  The velocity of discontinuous change however is making this command and control practice more and more difficult with which to succeed.  This velocity of discontinuous change is driving the migration from a command and control practice framework as a matter of survival.  This is just not enough time in the day to allow an organization to control all aspects of the decision making process. 


This is why the collaborative partnership model has grown to such prominence in business, it allows for the partners to push the decision making to the most appropriate level by implementing guidelines and principles to support the business requirements.  This turns into a matter of trust and review rather than command and control.  Allowing and encouraging the collaborative partners to make decisions based on the business demands and guiding principles to support the business allows senior management more time to focus on the strategic plans and decisions.  This focus on strategy provides the foundation for the future success of the collaborative partnership.     


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Supply chain planning is a key component of successful execution and requires the collaboration across your extended supply chain network in order to achieve this success.  Planning is the second leg of the tripod of successfully meeting the objectives of the network, the other two legs of this tripod are collaboration and the actual execution of the plan.  The planning process supports a continuous improvement process of ‘Do, Review, Improve’ within your extended supply chain network.  The planning process is in reality one of the basic and foundational processes that support the and ensure the continued success of your extended supply chain and as a result the overall ability to successfully meet the demands of the consumer.


Planning is not a ‘one-and-done’ function, it is a process that both directs and supports the demands of the consumer shopping requirements.  Again, the retailer provides and supports the presentation of the products to support the consumer shopping demands, and then the extended supply chain supports the production and delivery to meet the consumer shopping demands.  There is in reality no possible way that one can be successful without the other.  These demands are driving the collaboration and planning demands to meet the execution requirements to support the demands. The planning process requires a focus across the partners to ensure that the needs are met and the risk to the execution is mitigated.  In effect, the supply chain execution is in reality more of a continuous planning exercise that results in successful execution. 


The success of planning requires continuous review of data that is collected as a part of the consumer shopping fulfillment operation.  In other words you can think of planning as the guidelines to the continuous improvement program.  It is the documentation of the ‘Do, Review, Improve’ loop and it is fed and supported by the collection of results, or data, from the execution process that begins with the manufacture and ends with the potential return of the product for re-introduction by the consumer.  An important aspect of the planning is the review process that will ensure that all aspects of support for the consumer shopping demands are identified and taken into account.  This planning requires participation from the entire supply chain through active participation from all partners. 


There is also no possible way that the highly volatile consumer shopping demands will be met without collaboration, planning and execution across the entire extended supply chain. There is also no possible way that planning will be successful unless it includes a review and adjustment process that will both identify new requirements and and risks to the plan.  The changing demands of consumer shopping cannot be met with a plan enshrined and unchanging, the demands of consumer shopping can only be met with a plan that is continuously evaluated and improved to address new demands and risk..     


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


Supply chain execution is the second critical function required to support the demands of both the consumer and the retailer.  The execution function puts all of the pieces together from your collaborative supply chain partnerships to complete what is the most critical aspect of the consumer shopping experience; the delivery of the product.  After all is said and done, if the consumer does not receive their product in an efficient and pleasing manner, whether in a brick and mortar store or delivered to their door, it doesn’t really matter how positive the shopping experience.  The two critical factors to the delivery is the quality of the product and the positive experience.


The planning and coordination of both requirements and capabilities all pays off in the execution.  This is clearly not as simple or straight forward as it may sound.  When you are looking at thousands of moving parts and both inbound and outbound orders across the breadth and depth of the supply chain you can see how important planning is to effective execution.  This is also another area where you big data collection and analytics comes into play to provide additional information to support your planning and coordination.  The big data must be shared across all supply chain partners in order to be the most effective.  Probably the single greatest benefit of collaboration is the value that can be derived through sharing information across the partner network. 


Effective planning and execution requires measurements of key performance indicators to monitor and measure the performance.  In addition these metrics help you to identify the areas of improvement and then the effects of your improvement plans and actions.  I think that supply chain execution is all about the metrics, every step through the supply chain can be monitored through the execution statistics to measure and rate the effectiveness.  The key to measuring the effectiveness is the key performance indicator  metrics and an important factor to measuring the KPI’s is the ability to collect the data across the supply chain.  This is why I continue to preach on the importance of collaboration, the value of collaboration across the extended supply chain is invaluable when you take into account the importance and benefits derived from measurements and analytics data that can be provided by all of the partners across the chain. 


The challenge for partners in the extended supply chain comes down to the definition of the metrics and then the analysis of those metrics from the view of the extended supply chain.  This is just the beginning though because once you identified a method to identify the metrics you must continuously review and update which metrics to monitor and this is based on the overall performance of the supply chain and the challenges of the supply chain.  This is not an easy process and it would be most beneficial to the process and the value derived by the extended supply chain to implement a team of cross functional and cross partner members to perform the analysis and identify potential new metrics.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


The shopping demands of consumers place a lot of pressure on retailers to provide flexibility in their delivery channels, whether it is brick and mortar stores, direct deliveries or a hybrid delivery to the store or fulfillment from the store.  This flexibility places additional strain and complexity on the supply chain, as I have stated, the face to the consumer is the retailer, however the structure and framework is supported by the supply chain.  The two critical capabilities of the supply chain is execution and flexibility.  These are two sides to the same coin and your success depends on the success of both sides. 


First your supply chain must be flexible to support the current demands of the consumers and the business.  This can be achieved by developing a collaborative supply chain partner network that will provide the framework and foundation to your capabilities.  A collaborative network is the only framework that will provide the support and flexibility necessary to meet the current and future demands of the consumer.  This partnership should be developed in a manner that provides guidance and structure to the members and also allows the members to share in the success of the entire network.  The members of the network must understand and also subscribe to the key principle that the success of the network is the first priority.  This guiding principle should be reinforced through a shared benefits plan across the network.  Afterall, the definition of collaboration “is working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together.” (Wikipedia).  The two key points in the definition are ‘shared goals’ and ‘work together’, this means that your collaborative supply chain cannot be an adversarial network of individuals whose only concern is their individual earnings and profit. 


The collaborative network both collects and feeds on information.  The information collected is based on the demands and execution of the demands.  The information the supply chain feeds on includes the execution and demand information in addition to the feedback from customers and demand planning and forecasting from the retailer.  This demand planning and forecasting must include plans for new products, potential new manufacturing partners, new stores, new consumer programs.  This information is critical to the success of all members of this collaborative supply chain.  One important point to remember here, there should be no assumptions in the communication, it is important that the information, plans and objectives are clearly discussed and understood by all parties.  Assumptions will only impact the execution and as a result the success of the supply chain and as a result, the retailer.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?



The retailer is the ‘face’ to the customer which includes the online presences through all online outlets such as the retail eCommerce site, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Slack, YouTube and any other sites that are customer facing and provide some type of direct interaction.  This is important to the positive and productive relationship with the end consumer, however this relationship with the consumer is also dependent on positive interactions with all of the retail partners that collaborate to deliver a product and services.  Remember to the consumer it does not matter if UPS damaged their package, the bottom line is that the delivery from the retailer was damaged and now how will the retailer react and resolve the issue?


The retailer is represented by many different participants in the supply chain from the raw materials to the end delivery to the consumer.  Each one of these different participants is an integral partner in the retail supply chain that provides and support one to many links in the supply chain.  Each one of these links provide opportunities to collaborate between the partners in order to meet the end goal of delivery to the consumer.  It is important and many times very difficult to maintain the focus on the objective of delivery to the consumer.  This is why it is important to develop the collaborative partnership with the members, or links, in the retail supply chain.  The collaborative partnership allows the partners to focus on the key objective, delivery to the consumer, without diverting attention due to supply chain activities. 


The collaborative partnership starts with the strategy and the partnership framework and guiding principles and this strategy and framework helps to ensure that the partners are focused on the key objective and don’t lose sight of the key customer, the consumer.  This is important for any supply chain because of the potential impact that any one partner in the chain can have on the overall results.  If there is a delay, or worse yet, damage to the shipment from an overseas manufacturer the impact on the retailer’s relationship to the consumer can be disasterous.  The delay would be bad enough and if there was damage to the shipment or even quality issues with the shipment that were not discovered until receipt by the manufacturer it could impact an entire seasons sales and profits.


Do not discount the importance of the supply chain to the end consumer relationship of retailers. While the retailer may be the face to the consumer, the supply chain is the structure that supports and even encourages the successful relationship with the consumer.  As the consumer shopping demands expand the demands on the supply chain will also increase to support the demands.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


The retailer is the ‘face’ to the customer which includes the online presences through all online outlets such as the retail eCommerce site, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Slack, YouTube and any other sites that are customer facing and provide some type of direct interaction.  This is important to the positive and productive relationship with the end consumer, however this relationship with the consumer is also dependent on positive interactions with all of the retail partners that collaborate to deliver a product and services.  Remember to the consumer it does not matter if UPS damaged their package, the bottom line is that the delivery from the retailer was damaged and now how will the retailer react and resolve the issue?


The retailer is represented by many different participants in the supply chain from the raw materials to the end delivery to the consumer.  Each one of these different participants is an integral partner in the retail supply chain that provides and support one to many links in the supply chain.  Each one of these links provide opportunities to collaborate between the partners in order to meet the end goal of delivery to the consumer.  It is important and many times very difficult to maintain the focus on the objective of delivery to the consumer.  This is why it is important to develop the collaborative partnership with the members, or links, in the retail supply chain.  The collaborative partnership allows the partners to focus on the key objective, delivery to the consumer, without diverting attention due to supply chain activities. 


The collaborative partnership starts with the strategy and the partnership framework and guiding principles and this strategy and framework helps to ensure that the partners are focused on the key objective and don’t lose sight of the key customer, the consumer.  This is important for any supply chain because of the potential impact that any one partner in the chain can have on the overall results.  If there is a delay, or worse yet, damage to the shipment from an overseas manufacturer the impact on the retailer’s relationship to the consumer can be disasterous.  The delay would be bad enough and if there was damage to the shipment or even quality issues with the shipment that were not discovered until receipt by the manufacturer it could impact an entire seasons sales and profits.


Do not discount the importance of the supply chain to the end consumer relationship of retailers. While the retailer may be the face to the consumer, the supply chain is the structure that supports and even encourages the successful relationship with the consumer.  As the consumer shopping demands expand the demands on the supply chain will also increase to support the demands.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


This drive and focus of consumers on the shopping capabilities rather than the market channel is made up of three major contributors; consumers, retailers and the supply chain.  I have focused previously on the initial two contributors; consumers and retailers because it is vital for retailers to understand and embrace the changing marketplace and consumer practices.  The third contributor, supply chain, provides retailers with the execution capabilities that will determine the success of the retailers. After all, it doesn’t matter that a retailer is highly tuned to the needs and desires of the consumer if that retailer cannot deliver the goods.  The supply chain network supporting these needs is also a very complex network of partners, services and capabilities.


This network must be formed and nurtured to meet a common strategy supporting the sales demands of the consumer.  These demands and supply chain requirements will be revised according to the delivery demands of the consumer. The limitations of these services are based solely on the imagination of the consumer and the supply chain partners.  These demands require a highly collaborative network of supply chain service providers that are focused on meeting the demands of the consumer.  This requires a primary focus on the demands of the consumers and not a focus on the individual success of any one partner.  The success of the supply chain in this new environment depends on the collaboration of services across the partner network. 


This focus on partnership will allow the network to meet the demands of the consumer, or the end customer, to ensure the success of the the entire chain from the raw materials to the end consumer.  This requires that the network strategy focus on the true end customer, the consumer, and each partner in the chain can then focus on how the strengths of the individual partner can be utilized to meet those end requirements. This is performed by what I would define as a classic business process modeling exercise of the entire supply chain, including the end consumer.  While this may be a classic exercise, the focus is anything but classic due to the continuous change that is driven into the requirements and process and the range of contributing factors on these processes. 


The retailer is the ‘face’ to the consumer of their shopping outlet and the supply chain is the ‘body’ of this shopping outlet.  The supply chain provides the support and services that are the result of the consumer shopping from the initial delivery, through any channel, through the potential return of the purchase back into the retail supply chain.  The demands of the consumer are driven by the imagination and tools available to the consumer.  The velocity of this change cycle can be overwhelming and requires a strong collaborative network to support these demands.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


The Big Data challenge is twofold, one is the collection and storage of the data and the second is utilizing this data.  Both of these aspects are at the same time dependent and promoting each other.  They are dependent because the data collected should from one perspective be driven by the use of that data.  They are promoting each other because the needs and capabilities of one aspect feed the other aspect.  The challenge here however is a classic ‘chicken or the egg’ question; does the utilization drive the collection, or the collection drive the utilization?  I think that the challenge is to collect the data based on a future potential and not on a current need. It is important to build the collection capabilities based on the future potential because you want to ensure that you have historical information for queries and analysis when you identify the need. 


At one point in time this concept was almost overwhelming from a cost perspective and an analysis perspective.  The cost of storage was expensive and the tools and computing horsepower were in their infancy in the ability to support search and comparison requirements of large amounts of data crunching.  These limitations drove frustration from the business and technology staff at the same time.  From the technology perspective there was a great deal of difficulty and effort required to justify the cost of the of equipment to support the objective.  From the business perspective there was a great deal of frustration because it seemed that any time one analysis determined the need for additional data, the technology either did not have the data or required a great deal of effort to create the analysis.  A third technical frustration was the time involved in collecting and analyzing the data.


Current capabilities have overcome the technology hurdles; storage and computing power is cheap.  These capabilities are also changing and improving on a continuous basis.  This has allowed the potential of Big Data concepts to at least start to be realized.  With this realization comes a new realization, though, of the real, or additional, potential achievable.  This realization is driving new desires and needs in technology and capabilities.  We have seen the changes realized in the consumer market and shopping capabilities encouraged and driven by improvements in mobile technology.  There are similar capabilities encouraged and driving in the research and analysis of data by improvements in Big Data technology.  My advice is to not cut yourself short, or hold yourself back, by limiting the amount of data that you collect.  My advice is to collect everything from every aspect of the consumer market so that your analysis can go where it needs as your analysis and questions expand.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?


An important aspect of communication and engagement is the data that is developed and captured related to the customer interaction.  This data provides the basis of the ‘ company memory’ captured and collected throughout the customer relationship.  The small retailer utilizes the salespersons’ memory of the interactions with the customers as the basis for the company memory.  This is obviously much easier because the human brain is a very powerful tool that store and relates vast amounts of information.  In order to be successful in this new social shopping environment retailers must develop a method and the means to collect, store and then most importantly access information in a manner that develops the engagement and retention of the customer.


Ten years ago this would have present a major hurdle to overcome, however today’s advances in Big Data tools and techniques can be utilized to support the business requirements.  These capabilities have been supported and encouraged by the reductions in storage costs so that we have now reached the point where all data can be captured for future reference and use.  Its not just the NSA that captures the information related to interactions with others!  The technology also provides retailers with the capability to communicate and develop the relationship with their customers.  This technology allows the retailer to develop the two-way communications that customers demand in their interaction with the retailers.


Big Data technologies provide the tools to develop the two-way communication, however these are only tools and the magic is realized from the manner in which you use these tools.  The tools can collect a vast amount of data that requires business objectives and query techniques to actually turn the data into information.  Vast amounts of information is useless unless there is an objective for using the data and techniques to query and analyze the data.  This is a necessary and critical exercise to turn this data into information in order to realize the value and turn the interaction with the customer into two-way communication. 


I have found a general rule of thumb that I use to help to explain technology and technical tools; the easier a tool is to use, the more complicated the technology.  This Big Data challenge is no different and requires skill and patience to bring value.  The Big Data challenge is simply a hurdle to overcome, it is not a small hurdle and it is also not in insurmountable hurdle.  I think the trick with Big Data is to focus initially on the collection of data and not how it will be used, data use will change and grow over time and so it is important to collect all data that is related to any interaction, no matter how small or where the interaction occurs.


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?

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