Skip navigation
2012
tbrouill

Google Eco-System 

Posted by tbrouill Dec 31, 2012

This is the time and especially this week where everyone and their brother are publishing either predictions of the trends for the next year, or the infamous ‘10 Best’ lists.  This year provided an interesting extension to these list discussions; ‘The 10 Best Best 10 Lists’, how’s that for wringing the last possible drops from a topic and providing a humorous example of these trends taken one step too far.  So, I thought on this last day of the year I would provide my thoughts on the Google Eco-system for a change of pace.


First of all I love the concept that is conveyed by the eco-system phrase; and in this context I think the phrase is especially appropriate.  Google is developing the tools and capabilities to support all of your communications, social networking and business tools based on the concept that you should be able to access all of your information and communications from any device and be assured that updates you make from one device are immediately available from any of your other devices that are connected to the Internet.  I think this eco-system concept will become the giant killer in the near future of their competitors because of Google’s capabilities to focus on the activities and not the devices. 


What do I mean by this?  Well if you look at Microsoft, or Apple, or HP or IBM you find organizations that were born with the software to support the physical devices.  Now if you look at Amazon, Facebook and Google you find organizations that were born with the Internet and they only depend on connectivity to the Internet and not the physical device that is used to provide the connectivity.  I would argue that the first are examples of the last vestiges of the 20th century’s practices and business concepts clashing with the first vestiges of the 21st century practices and business concepts.


As recently as the beginning of this year I will  admit that I believed that Google was playing a losing game of catch-up with Facebook with their Google+ and i thought it would be only a matter of time before Google would drop this product.  I must admit now that I see I was completely wrong and I’ve made a complete about face in my acceptance and belief in the Google eco-system.  Here is the point where I changed my mind and fully bought into the concept; my laptop ‘died’ and I was not looking forward to recreating the configuration and personalizing a new laptop.  I came across the Google Chromebook in my research and was intrigued so I went to see for myself.  That research was the beginning of my conversion, I realized that since Internet connectivity is so pervasive, a tool that requires Internet access to even work would easily be viable.  Then add to this the ability of the Chrome browser to provide seamless configuration on any device that you use simply by logging into Google and I was convinced. 


I know that Apple is marching in a similar direction but I think Apple has a compelling challenge that is not shared by Google and that is the Apple dependency on the physical storage in the device.  Apple’s Cloud service will synchronize all of your devices via the Cloud.  The key differentiating factor for Google is the freedom provided from the physical device.  In my opinion the freedom from the device is the giant killer concept that Google will use to propel them past their competitors.  This was also the factor that convince me to accept and buy into the Google eco-system.  As luck would have it, when my laptop died I was well into a project to convert my local file storage to the cloud, first in DropBox and finally in Google Docs, or Drive now.  Then the Chrome Book allowed me to drop my dependence on Microsoft for Office and with the security tools like Norton.  With the Chrome Book you get regular and frequent updates to the operating system (and it just works in a couple of minutes rather than the long involved process from Microsoft), and the security is build into the Chrome operating system.  So I took that plunge and i must say that I have not been sorry and don’t look back!


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


Have you thought about converting to the Google eco-system?


How many different devices to you own and how difficult is it for you to synchronize?

Happy New Year!

Now I’ve covered what I consider successful and unsuccessful multi-channel fulfillment operations so what have I learned from these examples?  I have learned that no matter how much changes in technology and expectations the practice’s success is based on the same fundamental success factors that have guided successful practices for a very long time;

  • Process definition documentation or mapping and just as important as the documentation is the process to review and validate the documentation through live evaluations and regular tests.
  • The public and probably more important private commitment to a continuous improvement program.  This is critical because without understanding and taking the steps to address these simple facts;
    • You can never hope to address everything in a process the first time.
    • Practices and capabilities are continuously changing and so you must continuously evaluate and improve your processes to meet these improvements.
  • The courage and the ability to identify when a process needs to be rebuilt.
  • The relentless focus on the satisfaction of your customers throughout their experience.


While the high level factors, or in this case concepts, are the same concepts that have guided successful practices for a very long time, the details and tasks have changed dramatically to support the multi-channel and more importantly the omni-channel fulfillment practice.  While in the past it was enough to evaluate your internal processes to ensure success, it is now necessary for you to evaluate your external processes and the process of your external and extended supply chain partners to ensure the success of your fulfillment practice.  Your evaluation ‘chain’ as been extended dramatically but your key objective of your efforts should be the customers’ satisfaction in every touch point they have with your fulfillment practice. 


The new pervasive reach and capability of the customer’s technology capabilities allows them many more touch points to your fulfillment practice and many of these touch points are not completely in your control.  This means that your evaluation process must be robust and extend to all of your external partners to maintain your quality standards and the satisfaction of your customers throughout their experience with your multi-channel fulfillment practice.  In addition, your multi-channel fulfillment has been extended to include the consumers’ returns, or reverse logistics capabilities.  Especially the reverse logistics capabilities provide a critical challenge in maintaining the satisfaction of your customers, a failure in successfully handling the consumers’ returns could lose a customer for life!


The extension of your customer touch points across your extended supply chain along with your customers’ direct interaction with your extended partners acting as your agents are two driving factors for your development of an extended supply chain collaborative community with your extended supply chain partners.  Your collaborative community of extended supply chain partners can provide the framework for a successful relationship with your customers in addition to the customers of your partners in the community.  This community can provide the framework to support your evaluation and measurement requirements to support your continuous improvement program.  This community can also provide the framework to implement the improvements at the root process, rather than after the point of interaction with your community’s customers. 


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


How do you measure the success of your interaction with your fulfillment customers?  Have you adjusted your measurements meet the changes in your multi-channel fulfillment practice?

In my last entry I discussed and described what i consider a failure in the multi-channel, or potentially omni-channel, fulfillment capabilities as it related to the purchase of movie tickets for a 3D movie from an online broker.  As you probably deduced it was a particularly frustrating experience and the only redeeming factor was that the movie theater was not busy so that the failure, while annoying did not impact the actual movie experience (By the way, we saw the Cirque du Soleil movie and I can highly recommend it!).   In this entry i will cover what I consider a success in the multi-channel fulfillment and in this case I will name the successful company, Redbox.


I realize that i am stretching the definition of multi-channel fulfillment with my selection of Redbox because strictly speaking all of the fulfillment is completed from a modified brick and mortar (the Redbox) location.  However, this is a true multi-channel shopping experience that supports the efficient shopping and reservations across the physical Redbox, brick and mortar, mobile smartphone and Internet shopping channels.  They have been so successful in the execution of the shopping and fulfillment capabilities that they changed the methods that people rent movies and were a major factor in the troubles of other movie rental outlets.  In addition, I believe that their model is uniquely situated to dominate the market for quite some time due to the ease of shopping, reservations, cost and delivery of the media. 


I think there are three key capabilities, or differentiating factors, provided by Redbox that have led to the success of their model:

  • The ability to select the location and provide media availability for that location to allow the consumer to reserve the movie at their local Redbox from either their smartphone or their computer connected to the Internet.  In my opinion this is a key factor in their success, I can identify where a movie is location and reserve it at that location all from my smartphone.
  • The ability to return the media to any Redbox location.  This factor alone is a major game changing capability!  Redbox provides a true national network for distribution of the media - this is a major improvement in convenience and the elimination of a major pain in the neck.  This allows you to take full advantage of another great capability - the DVD player in your car.  This allows you to rent a DVD at your corner Redbox to watch on your drive across country and return the movies at any location.  In my opinion this was a major limiting factor of Blockbuster and I never understood why I couldn’t use my one Blockbuster membership card at any location.
  • The cost of the rental was probably another one of the key factors that allowed Redbox to have such a detrimental affect on other movie rental outlets.  Eliminating the sales clerk from the equation allowed Redbox to profitably rent movies and games at a price that could not be met by other outlets.


I realize that many people like the Internet delivery model and I understand that with the pervasive nature and ease of connecting and bandwidth for downloading make for a very compelling model.  However I also think that there are some limitations and regular problems (most recently Netflix went down because of problems with their cloud services over Christmas) that need to be eliminated to make these types of services a contender.  This can all change in a heartbeat though through one or two key capabilities, new products or consumer usage practices.


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


How long will the Redbox model be successful? 


What type of service do you currently use (Blockbuster store, Redbox, Netflix online or Netflix mail) and why?

I had an experience with multi-channel collaborative integration and commerce that highlights just how critical Business Process Management is for your success in multi-channel and even more critical for your success in omni channel processing.  My particular example involves an online movie ticket purchasing service and how reality collides with the good intentions to create a bad experience!  So in my experience my family and I decided to see a new release movie over the holiday weekend.  We decided to use one of the online movie ticket  purchasing services to eliminate the box office hassle and waiting.  I’m sure that most of you have used one of these services in the past to good results, and actually I have too.


This is an example of the importance of reviewing your business processes on a regular basis and especially when a new product is offered.  How many times have you purchased your tickets online from one of the movie ticket services to bypass the long lines and delays you would encounter at the box office?  I’ve done this myself countless times, in fact this has become my preferred method of ticket purchasing.  This is a very straightforward process and the transition from online to the physical is very smooth and problem free.  This has the potential to change dramatically due to what would seem to be a very simple and innocuous new product, or step, in the process flow.  In my particular experience the new product is 3D movies and the need to provide those annoying 3D glasses. 


This particular example is very simple but it provides a great example in this simple fashion of the potential for problems if you don’t walk through the business process from start to finish when you add new features, functionality or products to the process.   My experience also highlights the impact that one relatively minor addition to the process can have when you add it to an already lean function (Or it could just be an example of a poorly run movie theater!  Since I am recounting the experience I have chosen to use it as an example of the impact of Business Process Management.)


The challenge I countered involved distributing the 3D glasses to the moviegoers.  This is a small addition that obviously is necessary to the experience.  The movie theater addressed this by assigning the distribution of the glasses to the box office, after all, you need to distribute the glasses to the customers that are purchasing the tickets to attend the 3D movie, so it is perfectly logical to distribute these glasses at the point of purchase right?  What they did not take into account is the online movie ticket purchasing services that allow the customer to bypass the hassle and delay of the box office.  This could have been easily solved simply by providing the 3D glasses to the ticket-taker to distribute when the take the ticket, they can just distribute the glasses then.  This solution however collided with an earlier improvement in the process at the theater - you can eliminate the ticket taker by simply assigning the ‘ticket taking’ task to the box office, or and then you can distribute all the material that the customers may require for the movie there while you’re at it.  Great solution right?!? - Wrong!


When you add multi-channel capabilities to this process all of these changes collide to make for a very poor customer experience, and add the opportunity to actually make it more difficult.  This is where my experience highlights the issue.  The result of the addition to the process and the efforts of the theater to reduce costs is that the customer, in this case my family and I, have even more hassles and delays in actually getting in the see the movie.  Our experience went like this -

  • Purchase and print the tickets online (to eliminate the theater box office).
  • Reach the movie theater and happily bypass the box office with our tickets.
  • We go to the concession stand for pop corn and to ask for the glasses only to find out we have to get the glasses from the box office.
  • Go out to the box office and wait in line.


This could have been eliminated by a simple and thoughtful evaluation of all the steps and requirements involved when you change the process.


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


How many similar examples have you encountered in your daily interactions?


Do you limit your online purchasing because of fear of these types of experiences?

I recently saw a thought provoking story about the number of devices attached to the Internet which stated that in 2008 the number of devices attach to the Internet equaled the number of people on earth so by this time there are now actually more devices attached to the Internet!  What makes this more interesting in my opinion is that when you think about the developed population geography, these devices are concentrated in an area that probably covers a half to three quarters of the land, and people, of the earth.  When i look around I can see that this trend is probably speeding up and will become pervasive shortly.  I think this will present some challenges in connectivity, privacy and also human interaction, and there will be a rather large challenge to maintain the personal face-to-face interaction.  I know what you’re thinking - this is all very interesting but what does it have to do with the supply chain?


There are at least a couple of areas that spring to mind that are, or will, benefit by this expanding connectivity;

  • Visibility and traceability will be improved to support the forecasting, planning and just in time inventory improvements that will drive savings and efficiencies in the extended supply chain network.
  • Improvements in just in time inventory and planning will increase the efficiencies in inventory utilization and thereby reduce inventory levels and safety stock while improving the inventory availability.


The visibility and traceability improvements will not only improve the efficiencies in the extended supply chain network, increasing efficiencies and driving waste out of the network through the improved collaboration capabilities that will support and even drive a ‘sense and respond’ extended supply chain network.  This ‘sense and respond’ extended supply chain network will also increase the black swan event recovery capabilities by providing the capabilities to sense these events and modify your extended supply chain to adjust to the events earlier.


The improvements in inventory efficiencies and availability I think can be viewed as a response to the age of the smartphone and the resulting expansion in connectivity.  We are in the infancy of the ‘omni channel’ retailing this is the direct result of this expanded connectivity and resulting expanded shopping capabilities.  I think we are seeing the increasing expansion of this omni channel retailing and will continue to see an increasingly rapid expansion as consumers demand more capabilities and the retailers develop improved capabilities to stay ahead of the curve.  The concept of shop anywhere and purchase anywhere and anytime provides increased benefits to all involved.  It provides the retailers the opportunity to deploy their inventory more efficiently and then coordinate the utilization of the inventory in a more cost effective manner to reduce both overstock and stock outages. 


These will all be tied together through an expanded collaborative community whose members support and take advantage of the collaborative capabilities to more efficiently meet their needs and benefit the community at large.


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


How many devices to you currently either own or work with that are directly attached to the Internet?


Are you planning to extend your connectivity?  How do you plan to integrate associated devices to your echo-system?  Have you thought about building a robust, loosely coupled, infrastructure to take advantage of the expanding integration of diverse devices?


Do you have a strategy to integrate the vast array of diverse devices involved in your extended supply chain network?

I’ve been discussing the importance of your partners, both internal and external, that make up your extended supply chain collaborative community.  Starting your initiative with the best partners is critical to the success of your initiative and these partners can be grouped into teams to better support the objectives of your initiative .  One of the most critical teams is your management, or leadership, team.  Without the support and engagement of your leadership team the likelihood of success of your collaborative community is very low, no matter how engaged the other teams may be. 


You will have a little bit of an easier time in selecting and engaging with the initial group of external partners, or teams.  The reason for this is that you will have the benefit of being able to evaluate the capabilities and desire to participate with your external partners and then make your initial selection of partners that have the greatest likelihood to support the success of your collaborative community.  Don’t underestimate the importance of this initial selection for your external collaborative partners, or team.  As I mentioned in an earlier discussion, you must stack the deck for success with your initial team because this will set the tone for the eventual success or failure of the full roll-out.  Take the time and invest the effort to carefully build the best team of external partners for your initial roll-out and you will go a long way towards guaranteeing the success of your collaborative community.


You will probably not have the same level of flexibility in selecting your internal partners, or teams, to participate in the initial roll-out, to paraphrase an old saying; you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives, or in this case your internal team.  There are two points that you must consider, and take into account in order to increase the likelihood of success;

  • The acceptance and excitement to participate from your internal, departmental, partners, or team members.  Your initial group of participants should have direct involvement with the external partners and the should also display a strong interest and buy-in for the potential benefits of the collaborative community.
  • The support and encouragement of your senior management team and in order to encourage the support and participation of your department team it would also be beneficial for a senior management team sponsor to ‘encourage’ participation at the departmental and external team level.  Let me be blunt, the level of excitement of your internal team can be dramatically enhanced by the enthusiastic participation of your senior management team.


Another point to consider is the opportunity for including your internal teams in the selection process of the external partners in order to increase the acceptance and support related to the initial members of your collaborative community.  The success of your extended supply chain collaborative community depends on the collaboration and willingness of all team members to support mutually beneficial opportunities for the entire community, the key after all is collaboration!


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


Do you have the public and private support of your senior management team?  Have you selected an enthusiastic sponsor from your senior management team to provide encouragement and support of the community objectives?


How do your initiative objectives encourage collaboration?  After you’ve selected your team, internal and external, it would be very beneficial to review the objectives for the team for acceptance.

There is an entire industry that is focused on the morale of employees and the importance maintaining a positive environment to encourage increased performance and the satisfaction of the employees.  I think its safe to say that by this point it is an accepted belief in the marketplace and companies focus on the activities to improve and maintain a high morale of their employees as a common practice in developing and maintaining a successful business.  In fact, I just saw another discussion preaching the importance of employee morale as a means to ensure success in the discontinuous fulfillment environment of eCommerce fulfillment. 


This latest discussion on the importance of employee morale triggered another thought for me; the inherent importance of the morale of your partners, both internal and external, to the success of your extended supply chain collaborative community.  It seems to me that this is a natural progression in the discussion on the importance of morale on a successful organization!  I find it interesting how the discussion on morale triggered for me the connection between morale of employees in a company and the importance of the morale of your partners in a collaborative community for success.  In addition, don’t underestimate the importance of the positive morale of your internal partners!  This concept neatly ties together some of the concepts I’ve been covering in earlier discussion.  I find this to be an important clarification, and even an important and relatable proof of concept and extension of my focus on developing a mutually beneficial relationship across all partners in your extended supply chain collaborative community. 


I hope that you too can see the benefits a healthy, positive collaborative  partnership can have in developing a robust and mutually beneficial relationship in your extended supply chain collaborative community.  After all, in my opinion, a key foundational factor in the success of the extended supply chain collaborative community is the mutually beneficial relationship.  This is foundational because there must be a reason, and encouragement, for your partners to join and participate in your collaborative community.  I have discussed all along that my opinion is that the key to the success of the community is providing a mutually beneficial community to share and collaborate to support and extend the needs and abilities of all members of the community, in other words a mutually beneficial relationship among all members of the community.  Now the discussion I saw regarding the importance of employee morale in supporting discontinuous fulfillment in support of eCommerce brought together another piece of the puzzle that will help to ensure the success of our extended supply chain collaborative community.


It seems to me that one of the benefits, and therefore results, of building a mutually beneficial extended supply chain community is the increased morale of all members in the community due to the benefits achieved.  This resulting increase in morale will increase and feed on the success of the community as a whole bringing additional capabilities, and benefits to the community as a whole. 


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


First question is - Do you agree with my proposal regarding the importance of moral to the extended supply chain collaborative community?


How do you develop the relationship with your partners?  Are there tools that you use or processes that you focus on to develop the relationship?


In my next discussion I will focus on how some of the tools that I’ve discussed can be utilized to build the relationship and the moral across partners.  Do not underestimate the importance of positive morale on your internal partners!

In my recent discussions I focused on:

  • The people (teams, departments or organizations) both inside and outside the organization that are involved and participate in interactions in the collaborative community.
  • The processes and procedures you should put into place to monitor and control the interactions in the collaborative community. 
  • The technology involved in supporting the interactions in your collaborative community.


In all of these discussions I’ve presented my opinions and suggestions and these topics have generated a strong response in many of the discussion groups.  In this discussion I want to start a participatory conversion with you focused on the technology and the tools.  I’ve recently started seeing a definite increase in the numbers and types of tools being offered to develop and support a robust collaborative community.  I’ve been thinking about how these tools can be categorized and I’ve come up with three categories:

  • Tools that support the interaction and communication between partners.  This category has grown rather quickly and spectacularly and I would include tools such as Google+, facebook, YouTube along with ‘legacy’ tools such as email and EDI VAN’s.  This category probably has the greatest and loudest opinions regarding value that they can provide to your business.
  • Tools that support your business process and workflow to provide event tracking and management.  This category would include tools such as SharePoint that provide a workflow engine to support your business process management automatically.  I would also include email in this category as well as the first category, because while most email does not necessarily provide a work out of the box, it does support a manual workflow process.
  • Tools that provide access to a ‘community’ and even provide services by leveraging members of the community in a coordinated sharing of capabilities providing mutual benefits to the members.  This category includes facebook and Google+ in addition to professional community services such as 3PDirect that provides a community of members supporting delivery services across the United States, or TradeSparq that provides a community of members supporting manufacturing and services. 


I think that there is a time and a place for tools from each one of these categories to support your collaborative community’s needs and I also think that all of these tools can become part of your collaborative tools ‘stew’.  They will be mixed together in various combinations and depth of use to support the various and changing needs of your community.  Their use and capabilities both from a functionality and also from a utilization aspect will also grow and expand as the technology progresses, as the industry progresses and as your needs progress.  I think the most exciting aspect of the state of the technology, the toolset capabilities and also the utilization and integration in the marketplace is that we are in the infancy of these tools and capabilities.  I think another exciting aspect is that this space has a low cost of entry and a high potential and is only limited by your imagination!


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


First question is - Do you agree with my categories and do you have any additional categories or would you change or combine the categories I’ve listed?


Let’s turn this into a sharing and learning exercise for the audience....  What tools have you learned about, or implemented to support your collaborative efforts. 


Lets try to generate a big list to provide a variety of capabilities to the members of the audience.

In my recent discussions I focused on:

  • The people (teams, departments or organizations) both inside and outside the organization that are involved and participate in interactions in the collaborative community.
  • The processes and procedures you should put into place to monitor and control the interactions in the collaborative community. 

I have not, however, broached the subject of the technology involved in supporting the interactions in the collaborative community.  Each one of these topics is equally important to the success of your collaborative initiative.  You will also recognize my common theme of the the tripod concept, each leg of the tripod is equally important and you cannot be successful without the success of the three legs of the tripod.


The challenge with the technology in the initial proof of concept stages is the necessity to match the capabilities of the low cost or free tools to the objectives and requirements of the collaborative community.  The two key protocols I want to cover are;

  • System to system interaction to provide the linkage and the tools to connect your partners to the collaborative community.  This protocol is especially important with your external partners to ensure a standard communication methods and a repeatable protocol practice to support future partners’ integration with your collaborative community.  Fortunately, this can be established with the tools and technology that you are already utilizing and probably have already developed the methods and procedures to connect to your external partners in a repeatable and efficient manner.
  • Point of service messaging protocol to provide the event management and the workflow to support your collaborative community.  This provides the means to coordinate the collaboration and priorities of your community.  This will provide the workflow engine to usher the collaboration based on need and delivery requirements across both your internal and external partners.  This is also where you will need to get a little creative to utilize a combination of the tools that you have on hand along with some of the free tools, like Google+ that I covered in an earlier discussion. 


Following the theme of low cost, or no cost, proof of concept implementation of your collaborative community you must get creative in your development.  The objective of this proof of concept period is to utilize tools that you already own that can be extended into new practices and repurposed into new capabilities.  Then  utilize free or very low cost tools to extend the event management and workflow capabilities to support your internal and external collaborative community.  On the other hand, this also gives you the opportunity to focus on the methods and procedures to ensure that they meet your objectives and requirements without being blinded by the ‘shiny objects’ of the newest tools!  In fact I would suggest that three of your most important tools will be;

  • Visio, or another flow chart process documentation tool that you will need to define and then communicate the collaborative business process for both your internal and external partners.
  • Email to provide the notification protocol supporting your point of service messaging objectives. 
  • File transfer, or even database replication and connectivity to support the system to system protocol.


A final piece of advice regarding the technology that I can provide is to remember that initially you are working on a proof of concept - the key is the ‘proof’!  Do not focus on perfection, instead focus on proving out your business process methods to ensure that they support and can be supported by your internal and external partners.  Your expectation should be that you will revise your procedures and processes many times before your come to the processes that meet your needs.


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


Have you thought about how you can utilize the tools and technology you  already own?  The first step would be to develop an inventory of the tools and the capabilities.  This is important to identify the tools that you can use to support your collaborative business processes.

In my last discussion I focused on the importance of developing a standard collaborative framework, or the start of governance, across your internal partners because I came to realize that you should initially focus on the partners with your strongest relationships.  Another reason to focus on your internal partners first is to allow you to develop your own standard processes and practices to integrate with your external partners prior to involving your external partners.  It is important to develop these baseline objectives and requirements along with a standard process for collaboration with external partners because there is a very high probability that your internal partners will have individual relationships with one to many of the external partners and it is important to provide a common process across all internal and external partners to reduce confusion.  This initial exercise with your internal partners will also encourage them to build cross functional processes to take advantage of the standard processes and overcome the internal organizational silos that develop across most teams, or departments, in an organization.


The overarching objective of this activity is to mitigate the risk to both your internal and external partners of mis-communications and conflicting communications.  So, how do you mitigate this risk to a level that is at least manageable while still encouraging the imaginative utilization of the collaboration practices and tools across both your internal and external partners?  As I mentioned in my previous discussions,  the most straightforward and direct approach has the greatest likelihood of success.  To date I’ve discussed the direction and key activities I suggest to align internal partners and begin to define the processes that will be used to coordinate the collaborative activities with your external partners.  In this discussion I will discuss the key activities I have identified to align your external partners and how they should be coordinated to meet your collaborative processes.


I suggest that you identify a person, or team, to provide a single point of contact to your external partners.  This is important to ensure this single point of contact to ensure a consistency across all the internal and external partners.  This will provide a team to:

  • Ensure that your standard processes and practices are followed. 
  • Allow for a focused approach and a team to promote a continuous improvement program.
  • Provide the necessary care and feeding to ensure the success of your collaborative initiative. 


Ensuring all of the partners involved follow the standard processes and practices will allow you to simplify the collaboration and increase the flexibility of the collaboration and adding new partners.  The likelihood of success in execution and maintenance of these procedures will be dramatically increased when you coordinate this through a single point of contact. 


I feel like I’m a broken record as it relates to the benefits of promoting a continuous improvement program and this time is no different!  The single point of contact provides the opportunity to collect and collate the key performance indicators to provide the metrics that will be used to measure results and benefits.  The single point of contact also allows for a group to develop and manage effective service level reporting.


The single point of contact provides the perfect group to provide the care and feeding for the collaborative standard processes and procedures.  This will be a natural result of the previous points to coordinate the standard processes and procedures and then promote the continuous improvements.  All of these things provide input to the the related activities in support of the key activities.


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


Have you thought about how you can control your activities across your external partners?  Since your external partners will be impacted by the internal partners’ control of the capabilities, you can gain the greatest benefits by controlling, or more importantly, controlling the activities across your external partners.

In my last entry I began a discussion on the opportunities and my suggestions for limiting the risk and dangers of low cost collaborative tools.  The key types of risks I called out involved conflicting actions across your internal and external partners.  I suggested that in order to manage these risks of conflicting actions across your internal and external partners you should focus on a robust communication plan.  I identified what I felt were the three key activities to introduce and improve methods of communication.  In this entry I will focus on the first activity - identify your internal partners with whom you will start your collaborative framework initiative.  i will cover the external partners in a future discussion.  Again I want to call out a risk for you to be aware; oversimplification of the ability to address this risk through a straightforward and direct approach. 


The critical point is to focus on all your internal partners with whom you will start your collaboration framework initiative.  I think it is critical to identify all of your potential internal stakeholders and then at a later date you can identify your key external partners that you will invite to participate.  Remember that in the initial start-up you want to stack the deck in favor of success!


In a response to my previous discussion a reader suggested focusing on your internal partners.  I agree with this approach because its critical that you have your baseline defined, your objectives and ‘rules of engagement’ defined and accepted by the key stakeholders.  Again I think the key objective of this exercise is to build and agree on the objectives and methods with your internal partners so that you can have a comfort level that all interactions with your external partners will follow the same methods and procedures.  If you spend the time upfront to define the practices and methods of engagement and communication your can start your efforts and your next steps with your external partners with a high level of assurance that you will not be re-inventing methods for each partner.  In addition you will have a high level of assurance that all of your internal partners will also interact with your external partners consistently. 


Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the effort to get your internal partners together and moving in the same direction and utilize the same methods and procedures when collaborating with even other internal partners can be a bit like herding cats (remember I have a tendency to over simplify).  I understand this will be a full time job and will require a great deal of patience and stamina but I also believe this is critical to the success of this initiative.  Your efforts here will be developing an internal community and then you can open your internal community to your external partners!  A major challenge in this exercise will be developing the relationships internally; due to the fact that you are utilizing an extremely low cost, or no cost, solution there is not a lot of incentive to combine and coordinate efforts.  Your leverage and success will depend on your ability to encourage and even coerce your internal partners to work together.


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


How strong is your relationship with your internal partners?


Have you thought about how you can control your activities across your internal partners?  Since your internal partners will provide the greatest opportunity for controlling the capabilities, you can gain the greatest benefits by controlling, or more importantly, controlling the activities across your internal partners.

I’ve been focusing recently on low, or no cost collaborative tools and the opportunity to simplify your efforts to justify your collaborative initiatives in your extended supply chain.  As a quick recap and also an example, I’ve suggested that the Google+ tools provide the greatest potential for organizations and their extended supply chain partners to explore the potential with minimal investment. I think the 'minimal investment' is the key to quickly extending through trial and error and skunk works operations. On the other hand, this also increases the risk of conflicting actions.  Then when you add the multiple stakeholders within your organization, and the multiple stakeholders making up your external supply chain partner community, and then for good measure you add the potential for multiple internal stakeholder relationships with each external partner and I think its safe to say that you will need to focus a great deal of effort to manage these relationships and connections so as to limit the potential conflicts.


These risks of conflicting actions across your internal and external partners along with the multiple types of interaction is the topic I will be exploring in this discussion. 


So, how do you mitigate this risk to a level that is at least manageable while still encouraging the imaginative utilization of the collaboration practices and tools across both your internal and external partners?  At the risk of oversimplifying this challenge I think that the most straightforward and direct approach has the greatest likelihood of success.  I will start with a very simplistic overview and then you can understand or develop the techniques and internal practices that will support your individual objectives and practises.  The approach involves three activities or methods of communication;

  • Identify all internal and at least the key external partners with whom you will start your collaboration framework initiative.  I think it is critical to identify all of your potential internal stakeholders and then identify your key external partners that you will invite to participate.  Remember that in the initial start-up you want to stack the deck in favor of success and identify the external partners with the most interest and greatest desire to succeed!
  • Identify both the current interaction across all partners and then identify the desired interaction across all partners.  This will require a series of discussions across and with all of the stakeholders and will be part of a two phased approach to the definitions.  The initial discussions should focus on the current interaction and the second round of discussions should be initiated after the initiative kick-off.
  • Identify a robust communication and evaluation plan to manage the and develop the interaction across the internal and external stakeholders.  This, I think, is the critical activity and will provide the single largest contributing factor to both the initial and continuing success of your initiative.


You should have recognized by now that my three stage approach in really nothing more than generally accepted project, or program, start-up activities.  I admit that I have a bias towards a well planned and executed approach to all of my initiatives.  The reason for this is that I have come to the realization that my initiatives and missions have a greater potential for success by following a well planned and executed method.  I also believe that in order for a collaborative framework implementation to be successful you must follow the standard project execution methods and communication is a key aspect to these methods.  After all collaboration is nothing more than directed and open communications, so I think it goes without saying that in order to be successful you must focus on your communications.


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


Have you discussed starting a ‘skunk works’ initiative as an experiment with your external and internal partners?


Have you thought about how you can control your activities across your internal partners?  Since your internal partners will provide the greatest opportunity for controlling the capabilities, you can gain the greatest benefits by controlling, or more importantly, controlling the activities across your internal partners.