social-network-linksThere are plenty of social networks beyond Facebook. Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, and Pinterest have made themselves useful but haven’t been able to gain the traction of Facebook. But Facebook is gaining a reputation as ‘grandpa’s’ network as it becomes almost a public utility. The younger population that was responsible for popularizing the site is moving to newer systems like Snapchat, Kik Messenger, oOVoo, WhatsApp, Vine, Tinder, and others that specialize in fast paced interactions.

These newer systems also avoid some of the things that caught up many a job hunting graduate in that they are much more private and in some cases delete the content soon after it’s been viewed. Whether this is good for society isn’t really my point. The issue is that the older networks have commoditized the structures and methods that took untold hours and interactions to understand and write program code to support.

There’s been a fair amount of effort put into networking the supply chain. But all of that effort has been done by companies wanting to promote their own back end services like EDI translation, trading partner connection, and delivery of transactions. They intend to support their efforts by locking their users into using their systems. It’s not a bad thought but it is frighteningly similar to what we saw in the heyday of the VAN where each VAN had its own connections and sought to either lock out their competitors or charge fees to transfer transactions to another VAN.

Certainly creating and sustaining a network is a costly venture but it doesn’t need to be invented any more. Networking and creating cross-connections is done every day and our children understand how to manage their own accounts. The value to supply chain processing is in the expertise and effort needed to manage the back end functions. Making the connection is the simple part.

Who then would maintain the basic network? I can foresee a day when one of the social networks like Google+ gets a remake and becomes the underlying connection option for the supply chain. The technical facilities already exist on a global basis. The income motive could remain an advertising model with the advertisers being supply chain service companies wanting to provide EDI integration, translation services, onboarding assistance, 3pl services, etc. I can also envision extensive cataloging services that democratize the dissemination of wholesale, retail, and consumer information seamlessly.

Connectivity is no longer the frontier of the supply chain service provider. It’s time to split that function off from the primary facilities that make supply chains work efficiently. The question is, who will do that?
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