I participated in an interview with Teradata Magazine back in December of 2006 that focused on the concept and the direction required by firms for implementing more intelligent supply chain capabilities.  I recently noticed that this article remains a headliner on the Teradata Magazine site.  But the question I pose is whether significant progress has been made by firms in grasping this concept.

In 2006, I stated that an intelligent supply chain is one that is predictive to customer needs, meaning it can more intelligently respond to value-chain disruption and better support network-wide decision making in a much timelier manner.  In the interview, I further outlined the need for implementing an intelligent platform strategy, one that integrates value-chain business processes with existing or new investments in IT capabilities.  The challenge was to IT and functional business groups to play a more proactive role in streamlining key information flows, creating needed architectural constructs, and accelerating progress toward broader adoption of these capabilities.  This is also much more than management dashboards.

Some progress has been made.  Within the last year I have observed much broader interest among manufacturers in IT applications such as multi-echelon inventory optimization, supply chain network design, strategic sourcing, and broader manufacturing and global supply chain information visibility. All of these, in my view, are components to the whole.  But on the IT and industry analyst side, I sense some confusion. 

Many industry analysts hype to the IT community the benefits of adopting services oriented architecture (SOA) or business process management (BPM) concepts, which tend to be non-specific to ISC.  My former colleague, Bob Parker, Vice President at IDC Manufacturing Insights, comes the closest to articulating what he terms Collaborative Decision Environments (CDE), and outlines the requisite key components (subscription required to view).

No doubt, the recent acquisitions by major ERP players Oracle (acquiring Hyperion and BEA) and SAP (acquiring Business Objects) will add more potential hype to the IT world.

The time is now for leadership in moving toward more intelligent supply chain capability.  With only two months into 2008, we already have ample evidence of continued supply chain disruption, and the notion of a very uncertain economy places heightened emphasis on sales and profit goals targeted at the still growing emerging economies that lack mature supply chain infrastructure.  There will never be a more crucial time for our community to be able to claim progress toward implementing a more intelligent supply chain.