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Focus on Functionality

cloudAs a supply chain or ecommerce professional, I’m sure you’re weary of hearing about “the cloud”, “big data”, “virtualization”, “mobile apps”, and a bunch of other recent tech buzzwords. Once the hype dissolves over time, they’ll just vanish like a puff of smoke and the IT guys will stop talking about them in the cafeteria, won’t they?

Not so fast. It looks like these developments are here to stay. Not only have they already been around for awhile, but they’ve proven to be effective and to add value. I think they’re here for the long haul.

It’s often easy to focus on, and even get turned off by, the technical aspects of bright, shiny new objects. After all, you really can’t talk about something like “the cloud” without considering the topics of data security and service level agreements. However, the fact that these concepts have been around long enough for adoption to skyrocket should be a signal the technical issues have been resolved. In fact, at this point you can almost consider them to be “mature” in a technical sense. They have traction and are already having a big impact on supply chains.

Rather than hoping these new developments go away, it’s time to dig into them to identify functionality you can exploit. Here’s a very simple approach to use: make a laundry list of the gaps or problems you need to address, then cross that against the a listing of the functionality offered by various new technologies on your radar. You may have done this many times in the past, but there’s an almost unprecedented explosion of advances taking place that could provide a much better outcome this time.

Let’s look at a few examples. Let’s say your data volume is growing faster than your servers can scale. You could continue to buy hardware- it’s worked in the past, right? However, an option is now out there to utilize ‘cloud storage’. The concept isn’t new and you may have considered it in the past, but its track record is now much more robust and your previous concerns are likely no longer valid. Implementing cloud storage won’t eliminate the need to address changes in volume, but it makes it much easier and more cost effective to do so.

Or maybe you’ve outgrown your on-premises EDI translator. Rather than putting together a big capital project to upgrade, you can now confidently look at the alternative of utilizing a cloud-based application. Again, you may have analyzed this approach for your last upgrade, but these applications are far more stable and secure today. Now, getting from current state to this new architecture may be a project in and of itself, but the future state will be far more flexible and less costly to operate.

Or perhaps you’ve struggled with a lack of visibility into transactions across your EDI partner community. Tools based on new technologies may be available to help solve this challenge. There may be interfaces to build and other transition issues to address, but that investment could yield a much more information rich environment.

Two key points:

The first is that you’re in a dynamic environment. Don’t assume that approaches you analyzed in the past and rejected as immature are still not ready for prime time.

The second is that you should focus on the functionality of new technologies, not on their technical aspects. It's what these “new” developments can do for your business is what makes them valuable to people like you.

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