After all of these discussions on collaboration tools and collaboration frameworks to support developing a mutually beneficial collaborative extended supply chain I think it would be a good time to discuss the importance of a robust continuous improvement program.  Considering my recent discussions I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the methods and benefits of a robust continuous improvement program.  As this program relates to your extended supply chain collaboration framework I think you must implement a robust, two dimensional, continuous improvement program; one dimension must be a focus on the collaboration framework and program as it relates to your extended supply chain and the second dimension must be a focus on the collaboration tools capabilities and utilization.  I am suggesting this two dimensional improvement approach because I believe that both of these dimensions are dependant on each other and both also provide support to the other.

So, let’s begin the discussion with the collaboration framework and continuous improvement suggestions.  Implementing a robust continuous improvement program to support your collaboration framework and program will be a key factor to the initial and ongoing success of your extended supply chain collaboration framework and program.  It is essential to the success of your initiative to continuously monitor the tool sets that are available to support your needs.  Considering the maturity and life cycle of the collaboration practice and concepts you would be foolish if you were to implement a framework and not expect to support a robust discontinuous change pressures on your collaboration framework.  This pressure will come from at least two directions; internal  from your departmental partners and external from your extended supply chain partners.  I think that your greatest pressure will come from your external partners; you will be pressured from your partners that have currently integrated your collaborative framework into their business framework and are clamoring for improvements and moving to the next level, you will also be pressured by your extended partners to engage in your collaborative framework.  Finally, you will also be pressured to support the additional throughput that will be driven through your framework as your program gains momentum.

Next let’s move on with a discussion on the second dimension, the collaboration tools and capabilities continuous improvement suggestions.  As I mentioned above, the collaborative tool set maturity level along with the changes that are being driving by this maturity level in the tools life cycle.  The need to implement a robust continuous improvement program for the evaluation and utilization of your collaboration tool set is critical to the continuing success of both your internal collaboration framework, but also the continuing success of your collaboration with your external supply chain partners.  For your program to provide a continuing benefit along with the mutually beneficial opportunities that you can achieve with your external partners you must be continuously evaluating and reevaluating not only your practices but just as importantly your tools that you utilize to support your program and collaboration framework. 

I feel that in order to achieve the greatest success with your collaboration framework, you must be constantly investigating how you can, and whether you should, re-invent your framework and replace the tools that support your framework.  This is also a reason why I lean towards utilizing a suite of collaboration tools that have been built to work together.  This allows you to develop a robust integration layer that supports the needs of your internal systems and business collaboration along with providing a standard integration layer to simplify the integration and replacement of the collaboration tool set in your environment. This will allow you to focus on the capabilities that the tool set offers, rather than how to integrate individual tools into the framework.  In the end, I keep coming back to tried and true practices that ensure success, a continuous improvement process along with the strong partnerships of your extended supply chain.

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

Have you contemplated your strategic implementation along with the support that a robust continuous improvement program would provide to your implementation strategy?

What tools do you currently employ to monitor your key performance indicators?  In addition, what tools do you currently employ to publish and share your KPI’s?

What is your time-frame for starting your collaboration strategy implementation?