In this special edition of Supply Chain Matters This Week in Supply Chain Tech, we highlight significant B2B supply chain platform and control layer announcements that are coming forth from prominent ERP and enterprise software providers at a particularly rapid rate. The latest came earlier this week from Microsoft.

We further provide the broader picture of how both enterprise and supply chain planning and execution specialty software providers are each converging on providing both a singular network and/or control layer approach. The commonality is protecting investments already made in existing ERP and supply chain software applications.


Microsoft Supply Chain Platform

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform and previewed the Microsoft Supply Chain Center as a component of this B2B supply chain platform.

According to a posting on the Official Microsoft Blog, this new platform was designed to: “help organizations maximize their existing supply chain investments with an open approach, bringing the best of Microsoft AI, collaboration, low code, security, and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications to a composable platform.” This reportedly includes the ability to utilize building blocks across Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365, Microsoft Teams and Power Platform to adopt capabilities that address specific supply chain wide visibility and control needs.

The posting indicates that advisors and system integration partners such as Accenture, EY, Pwc, TCS and others can leverage either their industry or domain expertise to assist their customers in building a unique B2B supply chain platform for planning, execution and decision-making needs. Further noted is that this platform can natively connect to supply chain specialty software provider applications suites. That vendor list includes names such as Blue Yonder, Cosmo Tech, Experlogix, Flintfox, InVia Robotics, K3, O9 Solutions, SAS, Sonata Software, along with others to be added over time.

Microsoft Supply Chain Center

Noted as the core feature of this announced B2B Cloud platform is Microsoft Supply Chain Center, and that the functionality:

“..provides a “command center” experience for practitioners to harmonize data from across existing supply chain systems, like Dynamics 365 and other ERP providers including SAP and Oracle, along with stand-alone supply chain systems. Data Manager in Supply Chain Center enables data ingestion and orchestration to provide visibility across the supply chain and drive action back into systems of execution.

The ability to share ERP data and information from either Microsoft or Oracle ERP applications comes from a recently announced open collaboration among these two tech providers.

There are three pre-built modules planned which are labeled as:

Supply and demand insights– described as the ability to create simulations to predict stock outs, over-stocking or missed order lines.

Order management– allowing organizations to orchestrate customer fulfillment with rules-based logic that taps omnichannel inventory information.

Partners participating in supporting Supply Chain Center functionality for specific needed services needs are initially identified as C.H. Robinson, FedEx, FourKites and Overhaul.


Other ERP and Tech Vendor Announcements

Oracle B2B Commerce

During the Oracle Cloud World customer conference held last month, an on-stage and corporate announcement was made referencing Oracle B2B Commerce, aimed at overcoming the disparate application systems, processes and data integration challenges that make B2B transactions and collaborations so complex. This platform will reportedly provide direct connectivity between Oracle ERP, a unified data model and electronic workflows across a B2B commerce network.

Specific platform services providers were initially identified as being J.P. Morgan Payments for integrated banking and other financial services, and FedEx for integrated logistics and shipping services.

Movement by project44

This specific column has previously highlighted the recently announced Movement by project44 Cloud platform. This technology is noted as a platform that provides supply chain participants such as shippers, carriers and logistics service providers needed transparency and collaboration in efforts to enable a more connected and predictable supply chain. That product announcement made specific mention that this platform can: “..empower teams to manage exceptions, streamline shipment operations, automate manual processes and collaborate to resolve customer issues all from a single platform.”

The functionality includes not only enhanced visibility but also the initial aspects of insights as to what data and information imply by tapping other applications system data sources, including the leveraging of the Open Visibility Network. The Movement application further includes added electronic workflows that are described as highly configurable.

In our highlights of this application, this supply chain technology analyst indicated that the primary stakeholders and likely sponsors of the Movement platform release were enterprise applications providers like SAP SE or Oracle.


Added Perspectives and Insights

In the addition to what this posting highlights above, there are specific supply chain start-up, specialty planning, logistics execution or analytics and information  integration providers that are collectively converging on providing industry specific supply chain organizations broader end-to-end physical and digital information visibility, along with the required planning, fulfillment and logistics context to make the best informed and timely decisions. These approaches in many cases require the synchronization of tactical and operational supply chain planning with that of physical and digital customer fulfillment and logistics.

There remains a dependency on an open network standard of timely and accurate information exchange among multiple participants, each with different levels of technology maturity.

These latest announcements specifically from ERP and enterprise technology providers are efforts to ease the burdens and potentially impact the overall timing and depth of information that can be made available.

But if readers have not surmised by this point, technology market players are each converging on providing a solution to common industry supply chain challenges and the approaches vary from a needed technology and systems support perspective. The entry of these larger market players adds to the industry dynamics and competition juices.

Industry supply chain organizations that need to solve ongoing B2B wide challengers, particularly in an upcoming year that is likely to present a number of global economic and other industry wide supply chain challenges, will have to apply added diligence to technology adoption. As always, determining what data is most meaningful for determining needed business outcomes, and ensuring that such data is accurate and usable remains an ongoing challenge for many organizations.

Our advice is to focus on management of platform scope, balancing technology cost and required time-to-value and ensuring that approaches will not overly disrupt ongoing operations.

For our part, the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and our affiliated Supply Chain Matters blog will continue to provide analysis, perspectives and research addressing all of these technology and managed B2B approaches that are converging on solving major supply chain challenges.

Stay tuned since the market dynamics are heating up and choices are many.


Bob Ferrari

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