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?