The consumer chain is all about collaboration and as I have described earlier the framework and architecture is designed to support collaboration.  I think though that there is a great deal of space between a framework that is designed to support collaboration and the actual collaboration across all of the internal and external partners.  First collaboration means different things to different people and especially groups so it is important to start with a definition or objective for the collaborative relationship.  I think it is best to define the objective because there can be many different ways to meet the objective.  The objective can and should be defined for each partner in the consumer chain collaboration network so the relationships and the contributors across the chain can be identified.

 

As I have said above, it is important to start with an objective because this solidifies the direction and understanding across all of the involved partners.  Starting with a definition of the collaborative consumer chain leaves the results open to interpretation by each of the partners which can and will result in partners going in different directions and increasing the risk of failure.  An objective however is clear as it identifies and defines the end result allowing each partner to determine the requirements and best method to meet the objective.  Starting with the objective encourages the partners to define how they will collaborate to meet the objective, simply defining the collaborative consumer chain provides no direction or goal and so the partners have no reason to build the collaborative relationships.

 

There should be objectives defined for all partners so they everyone has a stake in the relationship. The objectives can and should change depending on the type of relationship.  What I mean by this is that a raw material supplier will have different objectives than a carrier.  The connecting relationship at the center of all of these relationships though in this example is the retailer.  The retailer is the hub that truly brings the value to all of the partners and without the retailer there would be no reason for the collaborative network.  This means that the responsibility for success of the network lies with the retailer.

 

This is a great responsibility for the retailer, however, the retailer also gains the benefit of survival and growth of the business.  I do not think this is a choice for the retailer, this is a requirement for the retailer and a cost of doing business.  In order to survive the retailer must act as the hub between the demands of the consumer and the participants that are trying to meet those demands.  The options and demands of the consumer can be met by a variety of many retailers and you must give the consumer a compelling reason to shop and purchase with your outlets.

 

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?