Global supply chain management isn’t about automating
processes within a company; it’s about the processes between
companies. In the supply chain, where the work is inherently
inter-company, a new wave of Web-based technology is
particularly compelling. The analysts haven’t come up with
the new acronym yet, so let’s call it SaaS 2.0.
Three things had to happen to make SaaS 2.0 a reality. First,
we needed a reliable inter-company communication backbone
to enable the exchange of information; the Internet gave us
that. Second, we needed a way of facilitating the exchange
of information and business processes coordination between
companies; the emergence of commercial grade, Web-based
software gave us this. And finally, we needed a way to deliver
that software for a fraction of the cost and risk of traditional
software; the SaaS delivery model gave us that.
The first 50 years of business software was about what could
be done for a single company. First generation SaaS 1.0 is penetrating that space now, making progress primarily because of its more attractive economics and risk-avoidance benefits.
But SaaS 2.0 is doing something that traditional software
and the SaaS 1.0 software vendors cannot do: Automate
the processes between companies. There are hundreds of
significant supply chain processes that can be automated to
drive better control, visibility and value across the enterprise. Only a SaaS 2.0 approach can unlock that opportunity. Here are some reasons why:
- SaaS 2.0 platforms are built to manage processes between
companies. Architecturally they are very different from software designed to automate a process within a single company.
- SaaS 2.0 platforms typically are industry-focused, and as a consequence have a rich library of well-used and specialized business objects that are relevant to the industry.
- SaaS 2.0 platforms are multi-enterprise and single instance.
- SaaS 2.0 applications are just the tip of the iceberg. Below the water line is a complex B2B integration infrastructure that taps into the proprietary systems of partners globally and
standardizes the data. The “data IP” is then shared across the entire network converting objects into a universal type that can be used to drive work process between partners.
- SaaS 2.0 platforms do not replace “inside the 4 walls” systems, they augment and extend them.
- SaaS 2.0 platforms include and leverage a community of
companies and partners. The greater the network, the greater the overall data set, and the better the quality of the data used by all.
These next generation platforms will take more time to
mature, and are a lot more complex, than what we’ve seen in consumer networks like Facebook, or LinkedIn. But once a
solid foundation of community traction is established they can
begin to drive the same kind of “network effect” benefits into global trade that the consumer platforms have successfully cultivated.