As 2010 drew to a close this past week, the media recapped the year in stories that encompass every angle of our everyday lives. Photos, quotes, disasters, events, birth and deaths. Each of these recollections that compile the streams of information and floods of memories about the last 12 months in history are each remarkable; and most make us reflect back on the moment in time. To me the quotes and words of people are most memorable and provide the strongest connection to my work role.
If I had to formulate my own list of "a-ha moments" that have taken the world by storm and evolved into "viral" terminology, I would have to push the word "collaboration" to the top. (Of course my view is slightly skewed than others, but if you are reading this blog you should have some connection.)
In the year where nouns were converted to verbs so commonplace - "Google it." or "Facebook me.", for those of us concerned with global supply chain systems, "collaboration" is making the list for 2010 and 2011.
So why the buzz over collaboration? Let's first look at the Internet definition of the word (No, we don't go to a dictionary anymore.) and where the impact occurs.
col•lab•o•rate (k -l b -r t )
intr.v. col•lab•o•rat•ed, col•lab•o•rat•ing, col•lab•o•rates
1. To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.
2. To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one’s country.
Have we not been working together on joint efforts? Supply chain collaboration tools in this industry are nothing new and over the last ten years we’ve really seen them evolve from the upload-download of EDI applications to online portals. But none are truly addressing collaboration, and the need to expand the collaborative process to envelope the entire trading partner community. Access to information alone isn’t going to solve the complex issues retailers are facing today; it only let’s them know that it’ll occur. The need to improve visibility, and the collaboration to alter the course if necessary, are the components sourcing and logistics teams need in a B2B solution that is a conduit of information exchange.
In order to succeed, collaboration needs to start early in the product lifecycle, continue through every phase, and encompass every member of the trading party and service provider community. Without this level of interaction and communication flow, organizations that are facing the challenges of 2011's retail market will fall short.
"Retailers and suppliers that have moved towards process collaboration, report that they have been able to speed up their planning and execution cycles and can reshape and react to demand much faster than before. By exchanging richer information more quickly with trading partners, both retailers and suppliers can make more accurate plans and better midcourse corrections.
For retailers, process collaboration has a positive impact on sales and operations planning, product development, sourcing operations, production, and shipment. For suppliers, the benefits of process collaboration include: supplier on-boarding, material management, quality management, and business-to-business (B2B) integration with the supplier community and retailers." (Sahir Anand, VP & Principal Analyst, Retail & Banking, Aberdeen Group)
So this year, make it a point to collaborate. Even if you start with your department or team, then expand to some of your trading party network, then turn "rogue" and spread it around the whole organization. You'll be glad you did.