Supply Chain

Will Apple’s Watch Transform How Companies Interact With Their Supply Chains?

If there was one company that has contributed the most towards mobilizing today’s enterprise, from a smart device point of view, I would have to say it is Apple. Interestingly Apple has been able to achieve this with hardly any dollars being spent on enterprise marketing activities, instead, the trend of allowing employees to connect their own devices to corporate resources has allowed Apple to effectively own the Bring Your Own Device, BYOD, market. BYOD has transformed how employees engage with corporate resources and it has also driven the need, in Apple’s case, for the development of IOS specific apps to integrate to back office enterprise applications. Shortly after the original Apple iPhone was launched in 2007 I posted a blog discussing how I thought the iPhone would transform how companies interact with trading partners across a supply chain. Wind the clock forward eight years, no pun intended, and here we are again with yet another device that is set to transform mobile communications, Apple’s Watch. The Apple Watch has received mixed reviews from, consumers, enterprises and analysts and yet the sheer groundswell of companies developing apps for the Apple Watch will certainly make it a success in the near future. For example one of the biggest uses for the Apple Watch will be utilising NFC payments through Apple Pay. A nalysts are already making predictions for the technical specifications of Apple Watch 2 and so enters yet another Apple product that will get consumers excited every year when a new version of the Apple Watch appears. I cannot think of any other high tech brand that has been able to build such an expectation for each product launch. From a wearable device point of view, if last year was the year of Google Glass then 2015 will be remembered as the year of the Apple Watch, a device that is going to be receiving the full muscle of Apple’s marketing department to make it a global success. So given everyone is currently trying to define enterprise level use cases for how the Apple Watch will add value to a business, I thought I would wade in with my own ideas, from a supply chain point of view. I thought it would be interesting to highlight where I believe the Apple Watch could potentially play a part in interacting with B2B platforms and trading partner communities. I will stress that the ideas discussed in this article are mine alone and not the opinions of my company OpenText and we currently do not have an Apple Watch project of this nature being developed, but in the future who knows? So in the future it may be possible to access our Enterprise Information Management (EIM) suite of solutions, albeit in a very simplified capacity through a wearable device such as the Apple Watch. For arguments sake I will call this ‘myEIM’ to imply that these solutions are being accessed via a wearable device. The icons shown on the screen below represent the key EIM solutions that OpenText offers today, the latest one, through our recent acquisition of Actuate, (highlighted for the purposes of this article by the red icon), is related to analytics. From the main screen I will choose the icon representing the Information Exchange (IX) suite, shown in green, you can see that all other icons are hidden to leave just the one that I am interested in viewing. When you select the IX icon you are then taken to the ‘my IX’ suite of tools that relate to B2B and supply chain management. You will notice a number of options from the my IX menu shown below. Let’s briefly review each one in turn.   One of the challenges faced by procurement or purchasing teams is having real time access to contact information relating to every trading partner across their supply chain. Using information pulled from the central B2B platform it will not only display key contact information but also key information relating to a trading partner’s B2B connectivity. For example how many transactions do they process and which communication protocols do they use. This may seem like really basic information to capture, but when you have a trading partner community of 5000 suppliers, the ability to quickly search through trading partner contacts becomes very important. Once you have found your trading partner contact you may want to initiate a chat session with them to help address a specific issue. If I had responsibility for managing a trading partner community of 5000 suppliers then I would like the ability to be able to communicate or broadcast to the entire trading partner community through a simple to use chat tool such as this. The concept here is no different to Apple’s iMessage utility for sending short SMS type messages. OpenText recently announced the launch of Trading Grid Analytics to allow companies to monitor all transactions flowing across our B2B Trading Grid infrastructure. (For the record we process 16 billion transactions across our B2B network each year). But what if you could review these analytics results on an Apple Watch? OK so the presentation of the analytics based information would need to be highly simplified to make it usable on the Apple Watch but it provides a great way of monitoring key analytics such as transactions by trading partner or transactions by document type etc. The next area where the Apple Watch could be of value, for the purposes of this article at least, is in the area of tracking orders. Knowing the status of purchase orders as they go through the approval process and then being able to track by orders shipped, perhaps by customer location, is incredibly valuable to a company. Any exceptions or errors with an order can be immediately highlighted within the app and the user would be notified of a potential problem by simply vibrating the Apple Watch on the user’s wrist. Colour coding of information based on specific criteria or threshold values provides immediate feedback to the user. A clear benefit of a wearable device such as the Apple Watch is having access to a suite of highly graphical apps. For example simply overlaying shipping/distribution information over a standard map application such as Google Maps helps to give a visual location of shipments and Apple Watch could vibrate as and when a shipment reaches its destination. Clearly you may not want the watch to vibrate for every shipment delivered to a customer, but for high value goods such as cars it could help to ‘enhance’ the logistics management experience.   One of the challenges faced by suppliers is ensuring that their customers receive their Advanced Ship Notices (ASNs) on time or within the specific delivery window, for example 15 minutes. Many automotive OEMs rate their key suppliers on their ability to deliver ASNs efficiently as they are critical to the smooth running of Just in Time production systems. In this case you could potentially use the iWatch to highlight when ASNs do not get through to the required destination. The watch would vibrate to highlight a potential problem and then offer options to address the issue, perhaps launching an alternative delivery method for the ASNs. The key thing here is that you have been notified in real time of a potential problem with an ASN and you can take immediate action to rectify the situation before it impacts your customer’s business. So just a few ideas to get the ball rolling but like all forms of new technology I think it will be a while yet before enterprise IT teams start to fully embrace the power of the Apple Watch.

Read More

Introducing Digital-First Fridays

Today, I’m happy to kick-off our “Digital-First Fridays,” a new blog series that describes a Digital-First World, provides strategies for transformation, and shares best practices using real-life examples. The series is based on our recent book, Digital: Disrupt or Die, authored by myself and OpenText Chairman, Tom Jenkins. In every sector, digital technologies are changing the rules of business. Startups and web-based companies are using digital business models to disintermediate the established market leaders. To remain relevant in a Digital-First World and gain a sustainable competitive advantage, organizations will be required to transform themselves into digital enterprises. Digital transformation requires a radical overhaul of enterprise strategies, processes, products, services, and relationships. Enterprise Information Management (EIM) empowers organizations to make this journey. How? At a basic level, it guides them through each phase of transformation, giving them effective ways to simplify, transform, and accelerate their business. 1. Simplify. Every organization wants to simplify its business. This is a constant challenge. Part of being a digital enterprise involves digitizing your information and automating your processes. In a Digital-First World, you can expect all of your business’ processes to be digitized. Automation will be critical—new research shows that nearly half of all jobs over the next two years could be automated.(1) As business evolves, we’ll rely more and more on machine-based or artificial intelligence, sensors, pattern analysis, and connections between all of these, brought together by the Internet of Things (IoT). Most organizations are already working toward simplifying their operations, indicated on the diagram below as “Present Day Followers.” 2. Transform. Business processes need to be agile to adapt products, services, and operations as customer expectations change—and they are changing. This requires transforming information-based processes and platforms to support digital consumers, a new workforce, a digital supply chain, and emerging technologies. To do this effectively, organizations will need to create an environment in which innovation thrives. Business and technology leaders should be ready to take risks, lead digital strategies, and define new models of engagement. Be ready for a substantial shift in culture to one that’s built on openness, innovation, and trust. Business problems should be examined and new processes created to solve them fearlessly and with imagination. If your organization is here, it’s already adapting to the requirements for future digitization. Building Blocks for Digital Transformation 3. Accelerate. This describes the rate at which we must undertake these changes, which may be daunting to some but, at the same time, it presents greater opportunities to serve customers, partners, and suppliers. Every organization will be required to rethink the way they’re engaging with customers, how they facilitate the workforce, and the ways they’re integrating and managing their information. The final phase of transformation relies on constant innovation. This can only be achieved by increasing the speed of information delivery through integrated systems. Digital Leaders have mastered this. They’re already redesigning customer experiences, overhauling their approaches to information management, rethinking their processes, and re-platforming their operations. Information lies at the heart of digital transformation. Its potential—if realized—is transformative. The challenge lies in managing enterprise information, making it accessible, and then applying it in new ways. EIM is the key transformative technology. Throughout the phases of digital transformation, a digital enterprise adopts EIM as its foundational enterprise platform for change. On “Digital-First Fridays” we’ll explore the future of digital technologies, their impact on the enterprise, and demonstrate how EIM equips the enterprise to brace for change in a Digital-First Future. Posts in the series will include: Operating at the Speed of Digital What is a Digital Enterprise? Information is the New Currency Digital Engagement—A New Business Requirement The Digital Supply Network Be sure to bookmark this page and join in the conversation. (1) David R. Wheeler, “Silicon Valley to millennials: Drop dead,” CNN, March 18, 2015, (accessed April 2015).

Read More

How B2B Automation Helps to Develop Greener Supply Chains

green banking

Developing a greener and more sustainable supply chain has been on the agenda of CEOs for many years and in fact just looking back through my archive of blogs that I have written over the years, the first green related blog that I wrote was in 2007. This was at a time when companies were being made to think more carefully about how they design their supply chains to help reduce carbon emissions. Back then, our company issued supply chain sustainability assessments to demonstrate how much greener a business would become by automating their manual B2B transactions by sending them electronically across our global B2B network, Trading Grid. Even though sustainability has pretty much become engrained within every CEO’s corporate agenda now, I just thought it would be useful to remind you of the benefits of B2B automation. Using a very smart website developed by the Environmental Paper Network, a coalition of over 100 non-profit organizations working towards the sustainable production and consumption of pulp and paper, it is possible to calculate the environmental savings that can be made by removing paper based transactions from a business. Each transaction would use the same size piece of paper, ie an invoice, purchase order etc and each electronic transaction equates to 2 pieces of paper. Rather than having an exhaustive maths lesson on how I derived the figures below, I have merely highlighted the key figures for each of the two scenarios, but I can provide evidence of my calculations if you need it 🙂 Scenario 1 – a manufacturing company currently processes 1 million invoices per year across their European based supply chain. Using the criteria above, this then equates to a total paper weight of 9 metric tons or the equivalent of 228 trees. Now by automating these 1 million paper based transactions via a B2B network such as Trading Grid, it will provide the following reduction in the company’s impact on the environment. Reduction in Net Energy Used The Paper Calculator includes an energy credit for energy that is created by burning paper – or the methane that decomposing paper creates – at the end of its life. The Net Energy takes the total amount of energy required to make the paper over its life cycle, and subtracts this energy credit. If most of the energy used to make the paper is purchased, then the energy credit might make the Net Energy lower than the Purchased Energy. The average U.S. household uses 91 million BTUs of energy in a year. – Scenario 1 saves 375 million BTU’s, the equivalent of about 4 homes/year Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels and methane from paper decomposing in landfills, contribute to climate change by trapping energy from the sun in the earth’s atmosphere. The unit of measure is CO2 equivalents. The average car emits 11,013 pounds of CO2 in a year. – Scenario 1 saves 55,877 pounds CO2 equiv., the equivalent of about 5 cars/year Reduction in Water Consumption Water Consumption measures the amount of process and cooling water that is consumed or degraded throughout the life cycle of the paper product. The largest components of water consumption come from the production of purchased electricity, and the use of process and cooling water at pulp and paper mills. Water volume indicates both the amount of fresh water needed and the potential impact of discharges on the receiving waters. 1 Olympic-sized swimming pool holds 660,430 gallons. – Scenario 1 saves 186,117 gallons, the equivalent of < 1 swimming pool Reduction in Solid Waste Includes sludge and other wastes generated during pulp and paper manufacturing and used paper disposed of in landfills and incinerators. 1 fully loaded garbage truck weighs an average 28,000 pounds (based on a rear-loader residential garbage truck) – Scenario 1 saves 22,215 pounds, the equivalent of < 1 garbage truck/year Scenario 2 – OpenText Trading Grid, the world’s largest cloud based B2B network, connects over 600,000 businesses and processes over 16 billion transactions per year. So assuming we are removing the equivalent number of pieces of paper from a supply chain this would equate to a total paper weight saving of 145,151 metric tons or the equivalent of 3,647,010 trees per year. I think you will agree these numbers are quite astounding, but let’s look at the environmental impact for the equivalent paper based transactions: Reduction in Net Energy Used – Scenario 2 saves 6,008,526 million BTU’s, the equivalent of about 66,022 homes/year Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Scenario 2 saves 894,034,654 pounds CO2 equiv., the equivalent of about 81,175 cars/year Reduction in Water Consumption – Scenario 2 saves 2,997,875,351 gallons, the equivalent of about 4,511 swimming pools Reduction in Solid Waste – Scenario 2 saves 355,449,950 pounds, the equivalent of about 12,701 >garbage trucks/year So as you can see, the numbers speak for themselves, automating supply chain based transactions can help your business to develop a greener and more sustainable supply chain. In my next blog I will discuss how moving from software to a cloud based B2B environment can help to develop greener supply chains.

Read More

Enterprise Mobility: Are you an Enabler?

Seventy three percent of the world’s population uses mobile phones, more than 5.2 billion people around the globe. The majority of millennials say that their smartphone never leaves their side, 24×7. This is just the tip of a mobility movement that promises to intensify in the future. How is this consumer behavior impacting enterprise mobility? Range of Mobility Responses For some enterprises, mobility means issuing cell phones to employees and ensuring the devices are managed and secured. Other enterprises load iPads and iPhones for their sales force with productivity solutions like travel planning and expense reporting. Enterprises like car rental companies and 3rd party logistics companies, have been giving their field operations specialized mobile capabilities for decades. Mobility has been embraced by the public sector as well, from social case workers to first responders to law enforcement officers, mobile solutions are decreasing response time and even saving lives. “With only a few taps on a smartphone screen magical things happen – laws, services, records and processes turn into something very simple and user friendly.” – City of Barcelona Entire business models are being disrupted by mobile. When mobile devices are integrated with critical business processes, and especially with information flows focused on the customer, mobility raises to whole new level of importance for the enterprise. Think of Uber the taxi alternative that couldn’t have existed without the upsurge in mobile. The Insurance industry will never be the same, with turnarounds for P&E claim settlement dropping dramatically with the integration of mobile. New payment approaches like Square have been spawned by mobile. And there are a whole new set of retail buying behaviors because of mobile. Superior Customer Experience The mobile experience has of course much to do with responsive web design and omni-channel enterprise enablers, but it is also being driven by the proliferation of awesome mobile apps. These apps serve up both consumer and enterprise mobility solutions. A study published by Compuware found that the majority of mobile users prefer apps over web sites; however, only 28 percent said apps offer a better user experience than sites. De veloping an effective enterprise app strategy is no longer a luxury for the mobile enterprise. I had an interesting first hand experience just this week. I am an OpenText Core user and had originally signed up and begun using it through my desktop. Perhaps I’m not totally objective, but it has a great customer experience, easy to use and great collaboration features in the cloud. Earlier this week I received a Core email notification about a document I had been collaborating on and I was mobile at the time. I clicked through the link on my iPhone and was asked if I wanted to download the Core app. I did and it was quick and easy – I was viewing the document almost instantly on my mobile and able to respond to keep the flow going. All About that App? The inflection point for becoming a mobile enterprise, as with any technology disruption, is different for different industries. What is clear at this point is that enterprises need to be mobility enablers. For now, a mix of responsive design solutions and apps seems like a good balanced approach. There will be more on the latest mobility trends and solutions at Enterprise World 2015. Hope to see you there! Author’s Note: Lest we forget… the world of mobile is not just phones and tablets, specialty devices especially wearables are also becoming an integral part of our enterprise ecosystems. Check out this post on the possible future for the iWatch and the supply chain. Image Source: Shutterstock_173233781

Read More

Digital Banking – What is happening in other industries? (part 1 of 3)

customer experience

The Financial Services industry as a whole – Payment and Cash Management especially – suffers from not learning and not re-using other industries’ ideas and best practices. As an anecdote, my current role focusses on one hand spending time with Banks and Financial institution, on the other hand with Corporate Treasurers. I still find myself explaining to Bankers on a regular basis procure-to-pay and order-to-cash cycles, getting surprised reactions when they realise they are just an “end” process to a supply chain process (I kid you not!). While generally speaking Banks understand their customers’ needs, individuals lack some basic working knowledge of their clients’ business or practical implications of a Banking relationship. The most regular occurrence of this “knowledge gap” I witness is around the Digital Transformation. Everybody talks about it, everyone has their own definition in Financial Services, however very few people really understand how non-Financial Institutions have already seized the opportunity. Yes, some Bankers are trying to re-invent the wheel as you read these lines. What is a Digital Business? A digital business is more than just a business with digital products that are distributed electronically: it’s a business in which digital technology is both pervasive and central to its overall success. A digital business is created using digital assets and/or capabilities, involving digital products, services and customer experiences, and is conducted through digital channels and communities. In a digital business, the majority of processes are digitized. This means that all along the value chain—from the creation of products and services to their consumption—employees, consumers, partners, and processes are reliant on digital technology for easy access to information, constant connectivity, and immediacy of insight. A digital business is characterized by an open, flexible value chain. In the transition to a digital business, organizations need to re-envision their business not as a standalone entity with a linear value chain, but as part of an extended enterprise ecosystem of suppliers from which customers assemble products and services according to their needs. Organizations need to participate in these ecosystems to deliver value to customers. By positioning products and services in the context of the customer’s value system, a digital business can grow its capabilities, leverage the capabilities of others, and open up new revenue streams. As part of a larger ecosystem, companies are more equipped to quickly pivot their operations to add customization or deliver new products to satisfy consumer need. They can scale their manufacturing capacity and shift geographies as needed to fill a specific order. In the future, these ecosystems will consist of low-cost suppliers and virtual manufacturers, be global in nature, and serve niche industries that span nations. Innovation will occur in hyper-drive, propelled forward by digital product development and marketing. Digital technologies enable new business models that are dynamic, flexible, and deliver value to both businesses and customers. Before we examine how the enterprise can reinvent itself, it would be helpful to examine the circumstances that are driving the enterprise toward digital transformation. The nature of digital technology Digital technologies enable new businesses models that are dynamic, flexible, and deliver value to both businesses and customers. Central to digital transformation is the ability to facilitate direct, peer-to-peer communication, collaboration, and sharing, without requiring an intermediary. This ability is already reshaping business as we know it. By providing direct, unrestricted access to information, knowledge, and resources, digital technologies empower individuals in ways not previously possible or even imaginable. Anyone with a web-enabled device can connect to a global network of expertise. They can discover individuals with common interests and goals. They can share ideas, collaborate, and innovate. They can band together and have their voice heard, counted, and taken seriously by those in positions of influence. And they can access new channels for manufacturing, marketing, and selling, and work with business partners located anywhere in the world. As individuals are empowered with new ways of working, traditional channels—and those who control them—will hold less importance. An inventor, for example, no longer needs to license their product idea for pennies on the dollar to a manufacturer. They can prototype the product with three-dimensional (3-D) printing. They can “crowdfund” capital costs using the Internet (collecting small amounts of capital from family, friends, or members in their online community). They can market globally through inexpensive and accessible online channels, sell through a digital storefront, manufacture small batches or distribute digitally. All this can be done in ways that are faster and cheaper and deliver new value to the customer. In shifting power and influence away from traditional sources, digital technologies are introducing opportunity to the masses. Businesses must acknowledge, respond to, and allow digital technologies to transform their operations from the inside out if they want to stay competitive and relevant in a digital-first world. Demands of the digital customer An increasingly connected consumer and the widespread adoption of digital technology has created the digital customer. Internet-based retail is growing globally at a rate of 19 percent year over year and, as more consumers move online, they are using the Internet to discover products, gather and evaluate information, and engage the buyer online for purchasing and shipping. An increasing number of channels are offering customers convenience, flexibility, and choice. They expect immediate gratification and engaging experiences that satisfy. The digital enterprise will support the omni-channel delivery of goods and services to compete and satisfy their customers. We have entered the “Age of the Customer”—an age in which digital technology has empowered the customer and shifted the balance of purchasing power from suppliers to customers. Consumers now have the ability to extract price, quality, and service concessions from the world’s most powerful brands. What used to differentiate the enterprise—economies of scale, distribution strength, and brand—have faded in importance. In their place, customer obsession is what gives firms dominance and drives their competitive advantage. For digital business, customer experience does not outweigh the need for operational excellence. In the second part of this blog, we’ll cover more drivers and practical examples of how other industries and non-Financial Services businesses approach the Digital world. We’ll cove the Generation Z, how non-FS businesses manage Operational Agility and deal with global competition and regulatory pressures.

Read More

Good Cloud. Bad Cloud. Why Cloud?

Confused about the cloud? You’re not alone. Adoption is projected to grow at double digits despite plentiful guidance on why we should fear the cloud. Pundits tell us, “If your organization is not implementing the cloud, you’re already behind.” Yet it is easy to feel the cloud is just beyond our grasp. So let’s take a look at some real-life use cases from sectors that are leading the way in enterprise adoption of the cloud. Cloud Illusions Ask a few CIOs about the cloud and you are likely to hear a wide range of responses, from concern that the cloud endangers security and privacy to elation that the cloud can be the ultimate platform for change. While much of this reflects well-reasoned advice and counsel, some is pure hype. When even The Onion takes on “that cloud thing that everyone is talking about,” we should realize that we are at hype and jargon saturation. With all the noise around cloud computing, cloud storage and cloud apps and debate about the pros and cons of public, private and hybrid clouds, we need to consider what is real and what is merely illusion, and moreover why we should ultimately care. These beautiful lyrics from the 60s seem to foretell our current state of confusion over the cloud: I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.” — Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now from the album Clouds The cloud is a growing reality. CIOs and IT teams need to clearly understand how it can best be applied to advance their strategic interests. IDC research forecasts public cloud will grow at double digits and spending on private cloud will top $24 billion by 2016. CompTIA predicts that the next decade will see cloud computing becoming even more accepted as a foundational building block. We are seeingthe cloud go mainstream in the public sector, and Gartner predicts the cloud is moving into digital business, advising CIOs and other IT leaders to continually adapt to leverage increasing cloud capabilities. The Open Group Cloud project analyzed 24 business use-casesdriving adoption. In general, the rationale can be classified in five areas: agility, productivity, QoS, cost and the ability to take advantage of new business opportunities — all of which have been guiding principles for applying technology in the past. So how well are our past years of enterprise hardware and software know-how translating to the cloud for large-scale applications? Here are three sectors that are forging the way with successful cloud implementations in order to drive efficiency, improve time to market, and effect business transformation. The Cloud Drives Cost Efficiency World Economic Forum research reveals that governments are adopting cloud services at higher than expected rates. The growing adoption of cloud technology is happening at all levels of government around the globe. We are already seeing cloud play a role in changing how government agencies fundamentally spend money and allocate their IT resources. We came out with a cloud-first policy because… it offers a faster time to market, a reduction to risk, and hopefully a reduction in cost.” CIO Carlos Ramos, California While adoption is being driven in part by cloud-first mandates, the cloud is clearly aligned with government mission objectives. The public sector has embraced a data-driven approach — including open data and big data initiatives — to be responsive to citizens. Cloud implementations are seen as a means of moving beyond data transparency to achieve a cost-effective state of operational excellence. Four Trends to Watch in 2015 highlights the cloud as a means to be responsive to citizens’ wants, needs and ideas. For municipalities, the cloud provides equal, on-demand cost-effective access to a shared pool of computing resources. The City of Barcelona hosts 1.5 million guests for the La Merce festival using the cloud to help manage the surging foot, bike, auto and public transportation traffic. The state ofDelaware has implemented a cloud-based CRM application for constituent tracking in two months, adopting a cloud-first policy that piggybacks on federal policy. The state set up a private cloud and virtualized 85 percent of the state’s physical servers, saving $4 million per year. Delaware now has 70 applications in the cloud —from event notification to cybersecurity training. For central government organizations, including the US Department of the Interior, shared services are eclipsing “cloud-first” mandates as the driver behind cloud adoption. DOI’s groundbreaking cloud initiative consolidates all the records information programs under one IT governance system, and this shared service is expected to save an estimated $59 million in taxpayer dollars by 2020. The Cloud Supports Business Transformation Gartner Research identified financial services banking and insurance segments as two of the top cloud adopters. These segments are driven by the need for more innovation and the value they get from that innovation. Financial services firms are rewarded for systems that can process transactions faster and more securely and are providing new services, such as mobile banking and claims, that are ready-built for cloud-based systems. There is also growing competition with startups that are shifting the playing field. Way back in 2013 (a decade in cloud years), my article The Art of Banking: How Financial Services Approach Great Customer Experiences talked about how bankers would increasingly take innovation cues from consumer tech and smart retailers as they practice the art of banking. Over the past year, the cloud has proven to be both a major disrupter and an enabler for innovation. Like the other big research firms, IDC sees digital transformation as key for businesses and a bridge that CIOs must learn to cross, and that bridge includes the disruptive influence of cloud computing. A recent article from Banking Technology, “Why I’m backing the banks,” declares that traditional banks are now in a race to remain relevant as they face a slew of non-bank competitors with offer models that consumers increasingly value. Accenture found that one in five consumers would be happy to bank with PayPal — a cloud firm born in Silicon Valley. Though often a cost-saving measure, CIOs are seeing the potential in the cloud to create a flexible platform for future innovation. A poll of financial services sector decision makers revealed the top two benefits of adopting cloud platforms as cost savings (voiced by 62 percent of respondents) and a simplified IT environment (52 percent). It is this simplification of the IT environment that will enable banks to level the playing field with the upstarts: The newer entrants owe much of their success to their extreme agility with ICT: they have got where they are because they use technology better than anyone else. Yet, it would be premature to lament the passing of banks as we know them. They are increasingly taking the tech start-ups’ own medicine… [and the] search for innovation is rapidly pushing the cloud up banks’ technology agendas.” While banking has definitely upped its cloud game in the last few years, insurance is perhaps the granddad of cloud adoption. In How Cloud Computing will Transform Insurance, Accenture highlighted Insurance as being in the forefront of cloud growth and predicted that the cloud would transform the industry. On their list of reasons to adopt cloud, the “ability to respond to market change and reshape operating model[s] to address new and emerging opportunities and challenges.” An SMA study of cloud adoption trends in insurance found that 35 percent of participants said the cloud “provides companies with the flexibility needed to respond quickly to changing needs.” In retrospect, while cost savings has been a driver for insurers to adopt the cloud, there are already a number of insurance cloud success stories that illustrate the cloud’s real potential as a means of innovation and competitive advantage in a changing market with a changing customer demographic. Andre Nieuwendam, director of IT for United Property & Casualty describes their cloud success in customer-centric terms: “From an insured perspective, there are many initiatives on the table that we want to be able to provide them, file a claim electronically, check billing, and interact with customer service people in a real-time environment. Being in the cloud has enabled us to meet all of these objectives in a very, very short period of time.” The Cloud Enables Speed to Market In a recent Forbes article, “Cloud Is the Foundation for Digital Transformation,” Ray Wang (@rwang0) highlights cloud as the single most disruptive of all the new technologies. ”Cloud not only provides a source of unlimited and dynamic capacity, but also helps users consume innovation faster.” The idea of leveraging the cloud as a platform for speed in a changing market is appealing and especially resonates in the communications, media and entertainment sector, one that Gartner has identified as second only to banking in cloud adoption. In Breaking Bad: How Technology is Changing Media & Entertainment, I wrote about the digital media supply chain and how entertainment and broadcast companies are experiencing no less than an industry revolution: Motion pictures used to be cut, approved, and canned for distribution and released in a series of ‘windows’ for consumption. With digital distribution this model stops working — all the traditional ‘windows’ of distribution are collapsing. This has a ripple effect all the way down the chain of production and accounting and requires new IT systems and applications to address the new paradigm.” According to Accenture’s Content in the Cloud in the Broadcast and Entertainment Industry, the cloud can be the platform on which the digital media supply chain operates to better serve changing markets and consumption models. Cloud technology is poised to make an impact by supporting the next round of breakthroughs…from proliferating devices that demand a more flexible business model to new levels of IT capacity requirements that dictate highly scalable IT solutions to competitive pressures for speed and innovation that call for better workflow, business analytics, and customer insight.” How Cloud Computing Will Save Hollywood tells the story of how Lionsgate is using cloud to run their studio and compete with the “big guys” in the industry. Cloud has been helping them deal with their dispersed global environments during film production: media complexity, an unprecedented influx of massive amounts of data, and unique data and workflow requirements. Cloud Resolutions Perhaps the cloud is not so mysterious after all. In a Gathering Clouds interview, David Linthicum (@DavidLinthicum) shared his perspective that businesses that adopt cloud gain a strategic advantage: … the companies who [adopt cloud] can turn on a dime…. These companies will be able to leverage their information in much more innovative ways.” As industries increasingly digitize, the cloud is proving to be a useful partner to the CIO in an increasingly digital-first world. It is not surprising that KPMG’s recent survey, Elevating Business in the Cloud, found the top uses for cloud are to drive cost efficiencies and enact large-scale change including enabling a flexible and mobile workforce, improving alignment and interaction with customers, suppliers and business partners, and better leveraging data to provide insightful business decisions. The key to success, as with any new bright shiny technology, is to apply the cloud to achieve critical business and mission objectives. As Jim Buczkowski of Ford Motor says, The cloud is about delivering services, features, and information…to make the driving experience a better one.” So here’s to accomplishing great things with the cloud! Just keep these tips from KPMG in mind as you resolve to make your cloud initiative a success: Make cloud transformation a continuous process. Drive cloud transformation from the top. Focus on strong leadership and engagement. Avoid silos. Measure success. Plus one bonus tip from me: Avoid the trap of “cloud for cloud’s sake,” lest we discover the biggest truth in Joni Mitchell’s lyric is “So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.” A version of this article first appeared in CMSWire.

Read More

How the Internet of Things will Enable the Digital-First World

Internet of Things

Unless you have been living in a remote cave for the past two years, you will have noticed that the Internet of Things is now on the top of every CIO’s agenda. When I posted my first blog on the IoT in 2013, IoT had relatively low media coverage and then boom, it has become the must have IT strategy of the decade. Today, it is very easy to get lost in the digital disruption being caused by the IoT, so I thought it would be useful to just go back to basics for a few minutes and highlight some of the features and supply chain related applications for the IoT. The first video in my Digital-First World series for manufacturing discussed how the manufacturing industry has been moving towards the Digital-First World and I thought it would be very relevant to follow this video with my second one which focusses on IoT. Click here to watch. A day doesn’t go by when a press release goes out promoting another IoT related project somewhere around the world and it can be quite easy to misunderstand what the IoT is all about. Hence the reason for producing this relatively short video. I have to say that I do find it amazing how IoT has managed to capture the imagination of businesses around the world, more so than some of the other technology trends in recent years. One thing is for sure, the IoT is here to stay! Key to the success of the IoT is finding applications for how it can be embraced by businesses across different industry sectors. Recent reports highlight two industries where IoT has gained most traction, Manufacturing and Utilities. From a supply chain point of view, I certainly believe that the IoT will fundamentally change how supply chains operate. I have written a few blogs now on the subject of the IoT and I will be posting more IoT related materials during the course of this year.

Read More

How will 3D printers help improve banking KYC?

artificial intelligence

Yes, you just read this title correctly. 3D printers are widely known to offer the potential to be a game changer in the physical supply chain across many sectors and industries. However, the opportunity in Financial Services seems less likely, particularly in any form of real, practical application. Do you agree, or not with my statement here? Well, either way, I suggest you read on to find out more. KYC – Why is it a sensitive subject? Today, every Financial Institution runs their KYC processes themselves, for lots of reasons. At the top of the list of reasons is the reputational and financial risks that remove any appetite to give control of KYC to a 3rd party, such as a shared utility or data service. A bank caught by its regulator servicing the wrong client is usually exposed to millions or billions of dollars in fines. As we’ve seen in the news over the last 3 years, such occurrences fall into the public domain, usually with lasting reputational damages. Approach to KYC nowadays and alternatives The typical KYC process is executed manually, leveraging a combination of paperwork, de-materialisation and archiving. Overall, it is a costly and lengthy process that happens every time a new client comes on-board, when a new signatory is allowed into the relationship. It also needs to be refreshed and verified regularly. KYC processes also delay the “time-to-revenue”; typically the period of time between the agreed contract and the first day of transaction processing. A number of initiatives have been introduced over the last few years, trying to tackle this challenge from several angles. One common method that keeps coming back is to enable KYC to be done once and for all, and shared between all Financial Institutions and Counterparties. This idea of a shared utility, which would enable a client, counterparty, as a business or as an individual, to “passport” its KYC identity across all its financial suppliers. The benefits and advantages seem very compelling and include: reduced costs of processing KYC, reduced time-to-revenue for the Financial Suppliers, less hassle for the clients and counterparties. It’s a win-win for everybody, isn’t it? Why is this nut so tough to crack? Cost reductions and improved client experience benefits look very small when put in perspective with the potential risks and costs associated with non-compliance. We’re talking about millions or billions of dollars in fines, the risk to lose a banking or insurer’s license, even shutting down the business entirely. The incremental gains and advantages of digital and shared KYC do not yet appear to offset these risks. Every few months we read about a government fining a Financial Institution for facilitating illegal activities, a shared utility or international business losing its clients personal information and payment details to hackers. Surely this is not a good industry backdrop to encourage digital KYC! What about 3D printers, what’s the link? As a consumer, I find that home 3D printers are overpriced gadgets with little practical purpose. As a B2B professional working with the largest Supply Chains in the world, the potential opportunity just blows my mind. Analysts agree that most global Supply Chains will be affected, shifting current patterns of commerce and logistics to a complete transformation over the next few decades. The biggest shift will happen around companies focusing on the production of Intellectual Property, delivered in the shape of Digital Assets – such as the files containing the 3D model and assembly specifications for their products. Other companies will focus on the physical production of commercial items, based on those Digital Assets. Analysts agree that most of this world will never be exposed to consumers, just like the world of global logistic is today. The disruption: Digital Assets and Digital Identity If you download music, movies or games regularly, (legally of course) then you probably know about Digital Rights Management (DRM). This early 2000s technology somewhat enabled contents producers and commercial online sharing platforms to ensure you are the only person able to play a track, or rent a movie for a certain period of time. 3D printers bring a new, bigger compelling event for such DRMs, the opportunity to control who can print a product, how many copies, for how long, with verified raw materials and on certified printing equipment. There are typically two facets for this technology: the Digital Asset itself (the 3D design combined with printing requirements and authorised users), and the Digital Identity (the certified, authenticated businesses and users). You see where this is going now… Digital Identity management will spread fast and wide, surfing the 3D printing revolution both for B2B and consumer markets. Digital Assets owners and producers will have an enormous stake and KYC shared utilities will probably continue to experiment and grow over the next couple of years, with more and more “use cases” coming into the frame. I don’t believe that shared utilities for a single industry will gather enough critical mass. Payments and Cash Management itself is already changing, with the introduction of PSD2 rules in Europe, the rise of Blockchain technology and distributed payment ledgers. If we look broadly, banking users (business or consumers) also begin to require a unique Digital Identity for other aspects of their life. Combining innovation with regulation over the next five years is going to be key and the winner will likely manage to combine Digital Identity across several industries and markets, similar to the IT Certificates Authorities (CAs) that spread across all industries since the early 2000s.

Read More

EDI and B2B Insights – What Kinds of Analytics Do I Need?

In my last blog, Why Your EDI and B2B Processes Need Analytics, I provided examples of the kind of B2B analysis questions that you need to have answers for in order to improve competitiveness in your business. I have found three pre-requisites that will create value from your B2B data via analytics: A foundation of good-quality B2B data for analysis. If you are already automating your B2B processes, you are likely to have some of this critical data already upon which your analysis can be based. The definition of what you want to measure and how the results can be visualized in a way that enables you to understand trends, markets, customers and suppliers. I provided some examples of these in my last blog, Why Your EDI and B2B Processes Need Analytics. The analytics tools to deliver the B2B data visualizations you need and that can help you to engage decision-makers. Below is a “ladder” of the types of analytics capabilities in sequence from the fundamental capabilities at the bottom to the advanced capabilities at the top. Most companies are beginning to incorporate the first few capabilities at the bottom rungs of the ladder, and will need to start to plan how to incorporate those at the top in order to successfully compete in their chosen markets. Standard Reports – these are pre-defined, configurable reports that provide key information about files and transactions you exchange with your trading partners. These typically include powerful capabilities to sort, filter, save, schedule and distribute. For example, you may wish to see a monthly report of all orders received from all your customers. Adhoc Querying & Reporting – this is the capability to search and generate custom reports on your B2B transactions by document type, trading partner, date, time, status, and more. You can define the fields to include on the report and tailor it to your specific needs. Dashboards and Alerts– These provide both the timely “track and trace” data needed to address exception conditions and the summary data needed to identify performance trends, drill down to view specific details and export the data through integration with Microsoft Office. For example, below is a transaction dashboard that provides a visual summary of transaction activity and exception situations. Furthermore, it provides volume trends by document type and trading partner. So now, at a glance you can see which transactions need your immediate attention (e.g. purchase orders that have not been acknowledged), which documents account for the highest volume (e.g. invoices are in the 2nd spot after carrier shipment statuses), and which trading partners account for the highest transaction volumes. Configurable Dashboards – This provides the ability to integrate and combine EDI and non-EDI data from various applications and gain insights into supply chain trends concerning reliability, responsiveness, flexibility, trading partner performance, e-invoicing performance, etc. In addition, these dashboards can be integrated with workflows based upon user-defined rules. For example, if the dashboard shows that order volume from a customer drops by 20% over a month, it can trigger a user-defined business process and/or send a notification to specific users in the organization. Predictive Modelling – This is an advanced capability that few businesses have today, but which is now possible with the latest analytics technology. Sophisticated statistical models that analyze B2B data available from various applications can help you forecast trends and needs in inventory management, logistics and all other areas requiring strategic planning. Scorecards – This is a visual display of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as order acceptance, invoice accuracy, delivery punctuality, ASN timeliness, and fill-rate. The scorecard enables you to measure, evaluate and analyze supplier performance. This information can then be used by buyers and suppliers during negotiations when justifying business awards and pricing. Benchmark / Index – This capability benchmarks an organization’s performance against the industry and provides insight into those processes that trail or exceed your competition, thus enabling your organization to take appropriate action. If this blog has interested you and you would like to learn more, click here to watch this new on-demand webinar, Using Analytics to Unlock the Value of your B2B Data.

Read More


This year at NAB, OpenText is demonstrating an example of how integrated and interconnected technologies working together are able to support the Digital Media Supply Chain. OpenText Media Management is an enterprise Digital Asset Management, DAM, system that is an integral part of the core infrastructure for digital media in organizations whether video, publishing, branding, or global marketing campaigns. What is this “Digital Media Supply Chain”? For many of the largest companies it is a transformation from linear processes to a non-linear, dynamic, real-time delivery supply chain across multiple channels and outlets. Media companies have many projects across multiple production areas – video, graphics, photography – plus contributions from agencies, stock houses and contractors. Delivery is not just for a single channel, but an amalgamation of many delivery and consumption points, each with its own requirements. Media Management is interconnected with technologies from OpenText and others, managing digital media as it is created, stored and delivered. It supports the Digital Media Supply Chain from project initiation and production to delivery and analytics. Unlike traditional DAM systems, Media Management has engineered a platform allowing customers to connect people, processes, and content with a sophisticated yet simple HTML5 UI. Media Management supports enterprise-wide ecosystems and digital media supply chains for global delivery of rich media across multiple channels and platforms. What this means for our customers is a “media-enabled” infrastructure to streamline content and data flows throughout the organization. At NAB, our story demonstrates a complex ecosystem from media creation to consumption with Media Management providing a “single source of truth” and a consolidated asset repository for video, marketing, branding, commerce and global distribution. This sophisticated ecosystem has many interdependent and interrelated technologies. It is not just gluing the technologies together; it is orchestrating the flow of data, collaboration and synchronization, then automating the processes for streamlined input and output. Media Management has an open platform with REST APIs, and web services to integrate and even embed DAM functionality with the many different systems and technologies. This centralized repository for media content, with browser-based, user-friendly search and easy (yet secure) sharing helps eliminate all those multiple islands of unmanaged digital assets throughout an organization. Our story starts as an idea that gets a green light, initiating a new project. OpenText Process Suite orchestrates the people, resources, schedule and budget, triggering a flexible project structure in OTMM for all the content deliverables – such as video promos, DVD covers, one-sheets, web graphics, ecommerce, catalogs, artwork for merchandising, billboards, and cross-channel ad and social campaigns. These deliverables and their dependencies are produced in parallel using, reusing and repurposing content and designs for multiple channels and campaigns, allowing producers to select teams, assign and monitor tasks. It is connected to rights and talent contracts to provide detailed usage and contract information as the project progresses. Creative teams use their native tools integrated with Media Management for work-in-progress, versioning, metadata tagging and storage. Collaboration, annotation, reviews and approval for video and images are done in real-time for single assets or collections with a complete audit trail. Media Management has secure, encrypted file acceleration embedded in the platform guaranteeing fast delivery of large files. All of this supports multiple production centers with Media Management as the central repository to search, collect, manage and share digital content. OpenText Media Management bridges the creative production processes and Omni-channel delivery, enabling a faster and more dynamic media supply chain. It automates transformation of digital media to the proper format, aspect ratio and bit-rate based on the delivery channel allowing automated publishing to Web Content Management Systems, such as OpenText Web Experience Management System, CDN file delivery, integration with ecommerce platforms, CRM, and interactive communications. As marketing and commerce shift to high gear, it provides usage metrics as part of the larger analytics and data to allow better performance insight and the ability to make adjustments. Media Management is a core technology within the OpenText Customer Experience Management (CEM) Suite, which includes Web Experience Management, Interactive Customer Communication. OpenText delivers the integrated environments to support the many different teams involved in the creation, management and delivery of rich media. Digital Media Supply Chains enabled with OpenText technology provide a platform for today and a foundation for the future. Discover more about OpenText Media Management here.

Read More

OpenText Study Proves that B2B Integration Significantly Improves Supply Chain Performance

Over the past few months I have posted a few blogs highlighting the results from a new OpenText sponsored study by IDC Manufacturing Insights. The study demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between how increased adoption of B2B Integration technologies directly improves supply chain performance. In fact take a look at how key supply chain metrics are improved through the adoption of B2B integration technologies. To wrap up this project I just wanted to highlight how you can download further information about this study. The following link will allow you to access a recorded version of the webinar that we hosted with IDC in early March, a copy of the webinar slides, the executive white paper and finally the infographic shown below. IDC created the infographic to help illustrate some of the key findings from the study. Click here to access this content. Finally, if you would like to access the various blogs that I have written in support of this new study then please click on the following links :- General Introduction to the Study Automotive Industry Findings High Tech Industry Findings CPG Industry Findings  

Read More

Why Your EDI and B2B Processes Need Analytics

Once your B2B business processes are automated and transactions are flowing electronically (usually leveraging EDI and XML), you will need to have visibility into those transactions in order to speed up your decision-making, respond quickly to changing customer and market demands, and optimize your business processes.  This type of actionable business insight into your B2B transaction flows is exactly the kind of information you need at your fingertips to remain a competitive leader in your market. There are several types of information – analytics – to which you need quick and easy access in order to make informed and actionable business decisions. According to a recent Aberdeen Group report (1), 65% of companies indicated that they need to improve their analytics capability. And half of all the companies said they are not spending enough on analytics capabilities.  The study also showed that high-performing businesses are three and a half times more likely to use analytics than low performers. Imagine that you are the buyer in an ordering transaction. The analytics capabilities you want will provide answers to questions such as: When will the goods I ordered be delivered? Will there be a shipment delay? What percent of my B2B suppliers are sending me advance ship notices on-time? What are the top document types I’m exchanging with my suppliers? Who are my top suppliers and how many transactions have I completed with them? Who are my top- and bottom- performing suppliers based on specific KPIs (such us complete orders, accurate shipments, on-time deliveries) Now, imagine that you are the supplier in an ordering transaction. You want  answers to questions such as: Has my customer submitted the order I’ve been awaiting? Was my order accepted? Has my invoice been paid? Which of my customers sent me the most orders during the holiday season? Which of my customers send me lots of changes to their purchase orders? Which of my customers pay on time; which ones pay late? For which customers has the order volume increased or decreased by more than 20% over the last 6 months? Armed with the insights from these capabilities you can: Immediately react to exception conditions to avoid problems, such as late deliveries that would negatively impact your customer service, increased costs due to expedited service requirements or increased inventory Evaluate the performance of suppliers against KPIs and then proactively collaborate with them to improve performance and lower costs Award more business to your high performers, based on quality, timeliness, and other key performance indicators Ensure that future sourcing negotiations take performance and quality into account – e.g. when you are the buyer you can negotiate for lower prices in return for more orders with your best suppliers; as a supplier you can highlight excellent performance in requesting more business from your customers. Manage more partners more effectively with automated processes and scoring/analysis tools In my next blog I will describe the different types of analytics that can be applied to obtain these types of critical B2B process insights. To learn more about the steps in the journey to unlock the value of your supply chain data, attend this webinar on Thursday, April 9, 2015: Using Analytics to Unlock the Value of Your B2B Data.  Register Now >> (1) Bob Heaney, “Supply Chain Intelligence: Descriptive, Prescriptive, and Predictive Optimization,” Aberdeen Group, February 2015

Read More

Business Process: The Future of ECM

For years, enterprise content management (ECM) solutions were adopted primarily for two main use cases. The first was to achieve compliance, and many early adopters of ECM continue to successfully use it to address various regulatory requirements. Compliance provided functionality for records management, archiving, and information governance. A while back I wrote a blog post titled What Features Ensure Compliance? that elaborates on the functionality required for compliance use cases. The second use case was around team effectiveness with functionality such as collaboration, document sharing, and social capabilities. Collaboration is subject to frequent changes in direction as every new technology promises an easier and more compelling user experience—from mobility and social software to file sync-and-share. The frequent feature churn in the collaborative use cases doesn’t go well with the compliance requirements that often need the system to remain unchanged for several years (validated environments, anyone?). ROI and Dependency on the User Not only were the two primary use cases not really well aligned in their feature requirements, they had two additional challenges. Neither use case provides a very strong ROI. Sure, we marketers always calculate the savings in storage and government fines that compliance solutions help you avoid. But let’s face it: preventing penalties is not exactly a hard ROI and storage is cheap (or at least everybody thinks it is). The collaborative use cases are even worse—measuring the ROI here is fuzzy at best and often impossible. The second challenge was the dependency on the users to do the right thing. For the compliance use cases, users were expected to diligently file their documents, weed out their inboxes, type in the metadata, and apply the right retention policies. Obviously, users are not very consistent at it, even if you try to force them. In the case of collaboration, users were expected to share their documents openly with others, comment in a productive way, and stay away from email and all the other collaboration tools around them. As it turns out, this type of behavior very much depends on the culture of the team—it works for some, but it will never work for others. The adoption of any collaboration solution is therefore usually very tribal. So, is there any hope for ECM? Can we get an ROI and get employees to use it without someone watching over their shoulder? ECM: Part of the Process As it turns out, there is a third type of use case emerging. It is the use of ECM as part of a business process. Business processes are something people already do—we don’t have to force anyone. That’s what companies and working in them is all about: everything we do is part of a business process. Business processes are also important, relevant, and very measurable. There is an ROI behind every business process. Every instance of a business process includes the context, which can be used to populate the metadata and to select the right policy automatically. Business processes can handle the automation of content management and don’t have to rely on the end user to do it. But business processes don’t live in ECM. Sure, the process artifacts usually reside in a content repository, but it would be a stretch to claim that the entire business process happens in an ECM application. Nor does it live in the BPM application, even if that application may be the primary application for some users. In fact, there is usually a master application from the structured data world that rules the business process: enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), product lifecycle management (PLM), supply chain management (SCM), etc. That’s why it is important for ECM to connect with the master applications through the business process. This is not just a simple way to link data sets or to hand over data from one system to another. Using modern, REST-based technology, it is possible to achieve integration that goes much deeper and involves users, roles, permissions, classifications, and of course the user experience. Deal with Content Chaos ECM addresses some very important problems that every organization has to deal with. Given the volume and relentless growth of content in every enterprise, it has to be managed. Yet ECM struggled to be adopted widely because of lack of tangible ROI and a difficulty to attract end users. Tying ECM to a business process through a master application addresses these challenges. It may not solve every problem with content in the enterprise and there will still be content outside of any business process, but it will go a long way to dealing with what AIIM calls “Content Chaos”. Click below to view my SlideShare presentation from the AIIM Conference 2015 on the challenges with traditional approaches to ECM and a solution provided by tying ECM to business processes: Business Process – the Future of ECM from Lubor Ptacek  

Read More

How B2B Integration Drives Superior Supply Chain Performance

Today’s manufacturers face a constant challenge of balancing supply chain efficiency with the investment placed in their B2B integration platform. To try and get a better understanding of whether increased use of B2B solutions and services impacts the performance of a supply chain, OpenText sponsored a new B2B integration related study with IDC Manufacturing Insights. This blog will briefly summarise some of the key findings from the study. IDC conducted a one hour qualitative survey with 270 global manufacturers across the automotive, high tech and consumer product goods sub-sectors. We had representation from eight countries including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, UK and North America. In order to try and develop the hypothesis, IDC asked a number of questions about current B2B implementation initiatives across the 270 companies and they also asked questions relating to key supply chain metrics across each company. I spent a few months working with IDC on this study, so let me just highlight some of the B2B responses first. The first question looked at the key business initiatives that companies were embarking on over the next three years and international expansion into new markets was the key project as shown by the chart below. It is interesting to note that while many companies are trying to improve supply chain visibility and improve supply chain responsiveness they were not as high up in the chart as international expansion, develop more services and reduce operational costs. Indeed diversification into new sub-sectors is a key activity for many manufacturers today, for example high-tech companies exploring new opportunities in the growing electric vehicle market. In order to try and understand how pervasive B2B technologies were across the companies surveyed, the next question asked about the volume of electronic transactions that were being conducted today. Given the consumer driven, fast moving nature of the automotive and high tech sectors, I guess it is no surprise that it is these two industries that are exchanging transactions electronically with more than 75% of their trading partners. CPG on the other hand has a relatively low level, probably due to the fact that many CPG goods are manufactured in countries such as India and China where the use of B2B tools is relatively low when compared to other manufacturing hubs around the world. The study found there were a number of business drivers for companies needing to improve their B2B environment over the next three years. According to leading analysts, the manufacturing sector is going to be the fastest growing adopter of new Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) regulations. This was confirmed by the responses to our study which said that increased regulatory compliance was the number one reason why companies were increasing investment in their B2B infrastructure. This was closely followed by an increasing pressure from customers to adopt B2B integration processes. The survey showed that there was a marked shift in terms of the key barriers to adopting new B2B services. One of the main barriers in the past was getting top level management buy in that B2B integration could bring significant benefits to the business. Our study showed that this barrier was the least likely to prevent a new B2B project from starting. In fact the number one barrier to increased B2B adoption was competing IT projects such as ERP. ERP is typically the number one focus area for CIOs and as such tend to get the most budget and resources to deploy. ERP systems typically have to be live by a specific date and if the date slips then IT resources from other projects are pulled in as required. This could leave other IT projects such as a B2B on-boarding project severely exposed. Even when companies have deployed an ERP and B2B environment, our study showed that nearly 40% of companies had still not integrated their ERP and B2B platforms together. Here at OpenText we find ERP B2B integration projects as a key driver for companies adopting our B2B Managed Services environment. In terms of the benefits gained from B2B integration, companies cited lower inventories as the main benefit. This was most apparent from nearly 60% of automotive respondents who have invested heavily in recent years following the last economic downturn and to help support their global expansion initiatives. As I highlighted at the beginning of this blog post, the study was truly global in nature, covering all the major manufacturing hubs around the world and I just wanted to briefly highlight some of the key findings by region: 71% of German companies trade electronically with less than 50% of their trading partners 80% of Japanese companies said that inventory reduction was a key benefit of B2B integration 62% of US companies trading electronically with more than 50% of their trading partners 27% of Chinese companies trading electronically with more than 50% of their trading partners 57% of South Korean companies said that supply chain complexity was a key barrier to B2B adoption One of the major goals of the study was to find out how companies were progressing in their understanding of how modern B2B technologies can help drive superior business results. To achieve this, it was important to get an understanding of the perceived performance of specific supply chain activities. Once these supply chain metrics were analysed it would then be possible to see if there was any correlation between supply chain performance and the impact of B2B technologies. Here are some examples of the metrics that were measured as part of the analysis: 50% of US companies can process an invoice in under one hour 73% of Chinese companies have an average time to market of less than 120 days 90% of Brazilian companies perform up to two inventory turns per month 87% of Chinese companies deliver greater than 95% perfect orders 60% of Japanese companies have an average customer order delivery time of less than 7 days Overall, there were some interesting findings from a supply chain metrics point of view and I will write a separate blog that examines some of these results. But in the meantime I just wanted to include one chart relating to a specific business process that is seeing increasing levels of digitisation, namely invoicing. The chart below highlights the time it takes for the surveyed companies to process an invoice. The real-time numbers shown below would indicate companies that have adopted electronic invoicing solutions. Acknowledging that the supply chain metrics would be different for each industry, average metrics were created for each industry and IDC then identified ‘top performer’ companies for each metric, ie companies with a performance that significantly exceeds industry average. Building upon this analysis, four ‘performance groups’ were defined according to the amount of times each company was over performing their industry average. Leaders – Companies that are “top performers” in 4 or more metrics Experts – Companies that are “top performers” in 2 or 3 metrics Beginners – Companies that are “top performers” in just one metric Laggards – Companies that are never “top performers” Now I could just provide the final chart that shows the correlation between B2B integration and these four performance groups, however to get a better understanding of this study and the responses we got from these 270 global manufacturers, I would actively encourage you to download a copy of the study, which is available to download FROM HERE. IDC drew a number of conclusions from the results of the study and the complete list of recommendations are available by downloading the study, however some key points include: Start from Business Integration to Achieve Collaboration – To obtain a comprehensive view of the extended supply chain and collaborate with business partners you should first be able to integrate with them Redesign Supply Chains – Having a collaborative information exchange process is core to being able to support global trading partners and ensure that supply chains are resilient in the face of volatile demand or unexpected supply chain disruptions Acknowledge the Opportunity of Elevating the Role of Your B2B Infrastructure – B2B infrastructures are in many cases still considered a commodity tool, but moving forward manufacturers will need to make it: ‘The central information exchange layer of the organization’ In summary, the study demonstrated that manufacturers can achieve hard benefits by improving their B2B related processes. In fact the study demonstrated that there was a strict correlation between having a pervasive, more modern and collaborative B2B platform in place and being a leader in supply chain performance. To get a better understanding of the analysis and to get IDC’s direct response to the findings from the study I would encourage you to DOWNLOAD the study and if you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact OpenText. Over the next few weeks I will take a deeper look at some of the industry specific results from the study

Read More

On-Boarding Supply Chain Partners Should Take 5 Minutes

Jibun Bank in Japan allows consumers to open a bank account  simply by uploading a photo of your driver’s license to the financial institution.  U-Bank of Australia promises to open a bank account in less than 5 minutes if you scan a passport or Medicare card.  If risk-averse banks can make customer on-boarding almost instantaneous and effortless then why can’t we do the same for on-boarding of business partners in the supply chain?  Adding a new customer (or supplier) to a business network take days and often requires lots of forms, emails or phone calls.  Here is a hypothetical scenario: Suppose you are a startup making a hot new gadget (think wearable tech). Your sales team recently got the merchandising department of to resell your product on their website. But the sales team forgot to setup an electronic commerce relationship. You already do business electronically with the other online retailers that sell your product.  And you enjoy the convenience of not having to track PDF purchase orders and invoices coming into various email inboxes. How do you go about exchanging electronic orders, invoices and shipping documents with You could visit Walmart’s supplier portal and read through pages and pages of documentation to discern the best way to exchange electronic purchase orders and invoices.  Alternatively, you could call your business network and ask how to get electronically connected to Walmart. After a few phone calls and emails with a little bit of luck you may be up and running in a few days. But I would argue there should be a much faster way.  Here is how the on-boarding process should work: 1) You open up the app for your business network on your smartphone. To begin exchanging electronic documents with one of your customers simply take a photo of a recent purchase order.  The image of the document then is uploaded to your business network. 2) Optical character recognition technology identifies your customer’s name (e.g. and address based upon the image. An algorithm then matches the customer using a database of all the companies on the business network.  The logo of the company (e.g. Walmart) comes up on your smartphone screen asking you to confirm that this is the customer you wish to do electronic business with. 3) Next, the smartphone app looks up your profile. How does your company typically interact with the business network – Do you type information into a web form? Do you move files into Dropbox or Do you upload an extract from your ERP or invoicing system? Your preferred method is identified and displayed on your phone with a request to confirm. 4) Based upon your customer’s (e.g. profile, the app then identifies the business documents that your customer uses – purchase orders, ship notices, bills of lading, invoices, product catalogs, sales forecasts and remittance advice.   The list is displayed on your phone.  You check the boxes for the documents you wish to send and receive. 5) The necessary maps or forms (based upon your preference in step #3) are then auto-magically provisioned on to the business network. 6) You are sent an email or SMS text message confirming completion of the process. 7) You are offered the option to send a test transaction to confirm that everything is working properly.  Data taken from the scanned purchase order is used to populate a sample order confirmation that is sent to the customer.  A successful confirmation is returned and you are now ready to do business electronically.

Read More

Did You Know That 77% of CPG Companies are ‘Low Adopters’ of B2B Integration Technologies?


In the last of a series of industry focused blogs relating to a new B2B study that OpenText commissioned from IDC Manufacturing Insights, I just wanted to briefly review the responses from the CPG related manufacturers. As I mentioned before, the aim of the study was to see if there was any correlation between B2B integration and how it impacts supply chain performance. We recently hosted a webinar with IDC to discuss the findings from the study.  You will be able to get access to this and other downloads related to our study at the end of this blog. The consumer product goods industry has undergone immense financial pressures in recent years, with retailers squeezing their margins and continually changing payment terms to suit market conditions. CPG companies are now having to source manufactured goods from new low cost markets. The introduction of the MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) countries is starting to cause a global shift away from the BRIC markets where many CPG related goods have traditionally been manufactured.  Even Chinese based manufacturers are looking at new markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam as they offer lower cost manufacturing than their own country. This constant shift in production location is being driven by a need to source the highest quality goods at the lowest prices. Some CPG manufacturers headquartered in North America and Europe have struggled to automate their supply chain processes due to B2B enablement issues relating to suppliers in the new generation of emerging markets.  It should be every company’s goal to electronically enable 100% of their trading partner community but the findings from the IDC study showed that the CPG sector is actually behind the more advanced B2B infrastructures used in the automotive and high tech industries. Here are some of the key findings from the IDC study: 94% said they trade electronically with less than 50% of their trading partners – this highlights a huge opportunity to B2B enable an entire trading partner community.  It is highly likely that companies struggle to enable suppliers in emerging markets, perhaps due to limited technical skills within the supply base, poor IT infrastructures to support B2B solutions and limited availability of skilled resources on the ground in these particular locations. If CPG companies are to 100% enable trading partner engagement then they need to offer a range of B2B enablement tools and more importantly work with a B2B provider that can help onboard these really small suppliers in the most remote of locations.  Needless to say this is an area that OpenText has significant experience in. 49% said that their customers are driving new B2B projects – changing consumer demand and a switch to Omni-channel retailing is having a dramatic effect on CPG manufacturers.  Retailers are having to become more responsive to these fluctuations in consumer demand by embracing new retail concepts such as ‘dark stores’ and shipping direct to the consumer. The explosive growth in online retail, especially across mobile devices such as the iPad, means that retailers need to be more responsive to their customers and this has led to a need to modernize B2B infrastructures and offer tighter integration to backend enterprise platforms such as ERP. 49% said reduced logistics costs was a key benefit of B2B integration – ensuring that a CPG manufacturer has end to end visibility across their supply chain has become a key initiative for today’s Supply Chain Director.  From being able to identify inventory located in a distribution centre anywhere in the world to tracking inventory in transit in real time across multi-modal third party logistics providers, B2B integration provides the opportunity to seamlessly keep track of inventory movements.  B2B integration, especially via tools being deployed in the cloud, allows 3PL providers to automate many manual, paper based processes. In the past, delays in shipping goods would have been caused by simply mis-typing information into shipping related documentation. Extracting this information automatically from other business systems through B2B integration and then creating the correct shipping labels or 2D bar codes has significantly helped to reduce logistics costs and simplify the cross border shipment of goods. 42% said that competing IT projects such as ERP were a barrier to starting B2B projects – this was actually a common issue across all the industries surveyed for this study.  However out of all the B2B adoption barriers highlighted by the CPG respondents to the study, introduction of new ERP projects was by far the most common barrier to starting a new B2B project.  As highlighted in the automotive related findings, ERP integration is typically the most high profile project undertaken by today’s CIO and if an ERP go live date is missed then IT resources will be pulled in from other projects to complete as required.  This will for example leave a B2B project exposed or could indefinitely delay the start of a new B2B project.  A simple solution to this particular problem is to use the B2B resources of an outsourced provider such as OpenText who can look after your B2B project whilst your IT organization focusses on your ERP deployment. So despite operating in a very fast moving, consumer driven market, CPG companies tend to lag behind other industries in terms of B2B adoption. In fact the study showed that 77% of CPG respondents said they were low adopters of electronic transactions and B2B processes. It is no surprise that companies in this sector perceived fewer benefits from their installed B2B technologies and at the same time this highlights the opportunity for savvy companies willing to take their B2B infrastructures to the next stage. From a general supply chain metrics point of view, 84% of CPG respondents had an average customer order delivery time of less than seven days and 97% of CPG companies have an average time to market of less than 120 days. Finally, another interesting result from the study relates to which new and disruptive technologies are going to have the most impact on CPG manufacturers.  The study highlighted that In the automotive industry it was 3D printing, in the high tech industry it was advanced robotics and in the CPG industry it is the ‘Internet of Things’.  The benefits of IoT are well documented and in the fast moving consumer goods market having the ability to track shipments through a broad network of connected ‘things’ and to also be able to detect out of stock situations more quickly will help to improve the overall performance of CPG related supply chains. For me it is just interesting that CPG companies have latched onto IoT as being a key enabler for improving their business operations before they have even got the basic B2B infrastructure in place to be able to exchange information electronically across their trading partner community. If you would like to download your own copy of the new B2B study from OpenText then please complete the registration form here. When you have registered you will also be able to get access to an on demand webinar that we recently recorded with IDC, a copy of the webinar slides and an infographic that illustrates some of the key findings from the study.

Read More

Wholesale Banking: The Drivers Behind Digital Channels

I use a tablet computer for many aspects of my daily life: paying bills, online shopping, social networking and entertainment. There is a slick and easy-to-use app for everything and I can access it instantly for a very low price. These applications are all interconnected, pre-packaged, and running on industrial electronic highways behind the scenes, creating the “instantaneous” experience of the digital life. Strangely, my digital life goes six years back in time, five days a week between 8am and 6pm. This “retro” feeling is experienced by millions of office workers, largely because our consumer world at home is already digital. . Expectations are shifting faster than reality, especially in the workplace. This article focuses on the impact of this digital “gap” in the world of wholesale banking. Enter Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) on my left, Corporates on my right. A Historical Difference Between the SMB and Corporate Market Until recently, the first group ─ the SMB market ─ had the tendency to use local currency bank accounts and domestic “low value” payments through historical clearing with a fairly small financial supply chain. Business Online Banking was the most appropriate channel to capture their payables and receivables, either through web-based file upload/download or manual form input. In other cases, a small or medium business would outsource this function to a payment and payroll Service Bureau. In a last example, a medium business would have a direct “legacy” electronic submission method with the Bank (BACSTEL-IP in the UK). The treasury team is often just one or a small number of individuals with other responsibilities in the business, such as accounting and office administration. The second group, Corporates, is more “industrial”, requiring direct host-to-host integration for both low- and high-value payments coming from a Treasury system ─ part of an organized and optimized Treasury and Financial Supply Chain function. Payroll files, collection instructions, and payment submissions are the result of highly industrial processes, requiring an industrial relationship with the Bank. The day-to-day process is fairly unattended; however the treasury team usually consists of top professionals versed in the world of working capital optimization, intra-day liquidity and cash flow management. SMBs Behaving Like Corporates and Vice-versa On one hand, Small and Medium Businesses are becoming accustomed to commercial “digital” packages that enable them to automate their small treasury and finance operations. Accounting and treasury desktop software ─ usually available as an online or mobile version as well ─ now enable SMBs to “transact” with their Bank, instead of painstakingly browsing an online banking website to upload or type a series of records. SMBs are basically becoming “host-to-host capable” through Internet-based communication protocols like sFTP and HTTPs. On the other hand, Corporates need to manage more and more exceptions in their industrial process, such as prompting a business signatory to execute an action, or “hijacking” and applying manual intervention against a transaction outside the industrial flow. For example, high value payments require multi-eye approval from business executives. Receivables reconciliation issues are flagged up to accountants immediately during an intra-day bank statement report. This leads corporates to require more and more flexibility from their technology to act outside the industrial corporate-to-bank flow of information ─ typically through a digital and user-friendly online banking or mobile-based ecosystem. A corporate treasurer or signatory will be much more open for an iPad-based executive approval prompt from the Bank (with contextual information), rather than go to the office, insert a physical security token on his desktop computer or on one of the treasury workstations. This is the beginning of the “omnichannel” age for wholesale banking. What’s Holding Back the Banks? SMB and corporate channels were designed for their original purpose: online and mobile banking for the former group, host-to-host for the latter. These are usually in silos separated from front- to back-office, with huge Program Management and IT lifecycle structures around them. Digital requirements and converging client markets mean only one thing ─ these banking platforms and the traditional approach are becoming obsolete. So are their mind-boggling costs for keeping the lights on, or applying simple changes. Digital Transformation ─ The Way Forward Digital channels have a positive side effect on the bank’s technology estate: it enables to keep products lean and simple, free of client-specific customization. This is something that banks call their “vanilla flavour”. Client customizations are built and maintained within the channel layer. Payment, trade finance, investment banking, and even consumer products remain leaner, easier to maintain throughout their lifecycle with fewer dependencies and more predictable P&L changes over time. I sincerely believe that banks will start competing with a growing number of non-bank financial suppliers (independent trade finance organizations and PSD2 service providers). The Digital Transformation is necessary now to compete and differentiate tomorrow.

Read More

Infusing the Supply Chain with Analytics

The strategic use of supply chain information is a key driver of competitive advantage in the Digital-First World. Once a company’s B2B processes are automated and transactions are flowing, visibility into those transactions can fuel better strategic and tactical decision-making across the entire business network. Insights from analytics allow trading partners to speed their decision-making, rapidly respond to changing customer and market demands, and optimize their business processes. Our mission at OpenText is to enable our customers to prepare for and thrive in the digital future. Analytic capabilities will play a key role. As I’ve said in previous posts, analytic technologies represent the next frontier in extracting value from enterprise information. For this reason, we are infusing new analytic capabilities into all our core solutions. We recently added new analytic capabilities to the OpenText Trading Grid to help our customers easily access insights for improving their supply chains’ effectiveness. The OpenText Trading Grid is powered by the OpenText Cloud and is the world’s leading B2B integration network, processing more than 16 billion transactions per year, integrating 600,000 trading partners for more than 60,000 customers around the globe. The solution boasts easy-to-use dashboards which depict and summarize data trends and compare them to key performance indicators (KPIs) for the business. They allow companies to evaluate the performance of suppliers or the behavior of customers and use this information to improve processes and relationships. On a more granular level, ‘track and trace’ data highlights exception information about a specific order, shipment, or invoice. By taking prompt corrective action, companies can remedy a situation before process performance degrades or costs accumulate. There are many, many scenarios in which analytic insights bring incredible benefit to the supply chain. Armed with information about the physical location of products or shipments, companies are able to plan operations with greater efficiency, reduce the number of items lost in transit, and fulfill orders with greater accuracy. They can replenish products as shortages are detected. When it comes to process automation, information about the performance of equipment is used to track degradation, order replacement parts, and schedule service before failure occurs. Today, the digital supply chain is an information supply chain that coordinates the flow of goods, communications, and commerce internally and externally across an extended ecosystem of business partners. It seamlessly integrates data from supply chain processes and smart equipment, and tracks intelligent products, parts, and shipments tagged with sensors. Within a few short years it will expand to integrate data from the Internet of Things (IoT). Data will flow online from myriad devices, including wearable technologies, 3-D printers, and logistics drones. It is expected that we will see a thirty-fold increase in web-enabled physical devices by the year 2020. All of these devices producing volumes of data will create a network rich with information and insights. This is the future. A future in which analytics bring incredible value and competitive advantage to the supply chain. And we are only just beginning to envision it. To learn more about OpenText Trading Grid Analytics, read our press release or visit our website.

Read More

Did You Know That 80% of High Tech Companies are ‘High Adopters’ of B2B Integration Technologies?

A few weeks ago I posted a blog summarising the automotive related results from a recent B2B study that OpenText sponsored. The aim of the study was to see if there was a direct correlation between B2B integration and how it impacts supply chain performance. I will take a look at the CPG related results in my next blog but as I am spending this week in the heart of Silicon Valley over on the US West Coast I thought it only appropriate to discuss the high tech results in this blog article. We recently hosted a webinar with IDC to discuss the findings from the study. You will be able to get access to this and other downloads related to our study at the end of this blog. The global high tech industry is going through a major renaissance at the moment, new business opportunities being presented in the automotive industry, wearable devices and the internet of things sectors. In fact I would say that high tech companies are investing more in the internet of things related technologies than any other industry sub-sector at the moment, for example Intel’s investment in a new generation of chips for embedded devices. With all this focus on new investment areas it presents further opportunities for consolidation across the industry and only last week NXP semiconductors announced their intention to acquire their smaller rival Freescale Semiconductors. Continued M&A activity will present new challenges for B2B managers across the industry as they are forced to consolidate multiple B2B networks on to a single global B2B network. Increased regulatory compliance such as Conflict Minerals compliance is starting to be adopted by more regions around the world as a way of removing so called ‘3TG’ minerals from global supply chains. Increased regulatory compliance is driving a need for companies to think about how they manage their trading partner communities and how ultimately they should be working more collaboratively with their global trading partners. Finally this week will see high tech supply chains gearing up for the launch of the next big consumer must have gadget, Apple’s iWatch is finally being released. Apple is a past master at readying their supply chain for such product launches but it does nicely illustrate how the high tech industry has become so consumer driven in nature. So now let me discuss a few of the high tech related results from our study: 79% said they exchange B2B transactions electronically with their trading partners . I guess there is no surprise here that high tech companies have a high expectation to exchange business documents electronically with their trading partners. As with the automotive industry, the high tech industry is truly global in nature and in the case of semi-conductor chips they are manufactured in a multi-stage process that embraces many different production and finishing locations around the world. To try and encourage greater participation from its trading partners around the world, the high tech industry introduced its own highly successful XML based document format called RosettaNet which is still very much in use across the industry today. 58% said that B2B adoption had reduced their procurement costs. Greater visibility into the supply chain and in particular inventory locations around the world meant that high tech companies could reduce their procurement costs by being able to better optimise inventory from multiple locations around the world. In addition, the costs and time to manually process transactions across the procure to pay process can be reduced by providing high tech trading partners with the right B2B tools according to their technical capabilities. 54% said that shipment status was one of the most important B2B transactions in use across their industry today . Knowing when supplier shipments are going to turn up at the factory gate is crucial to the smooth running of today’s production lines. Connecting to a single, global, cloud based B2B platform such as OpenText Trading Grid provides the end to end visibility that high tech manufacturers require. It is not just improved visibility into the direct materials supply chain but also in the aftermarket repair business where field service teams need to know when spare parts will arrive, being able to tell a customer that their high tech product will be repaired by a specific date is key to improving customer satisfaction levels. 47% said that competing IT projects such as ERP were a barrier to starting B2B projects . Given that ERP projects such as a major SAP deployment are the most expensive and hence high profile IT project under the control of the CIO, it is no wonder that ERP projects tend to get 100% attention from IT resources during a roll out phase. Having all IT resources diverted to an ERP deployment can potentially disrupt other IT initiatives such as a B2B program for example. Then again I would argue that if 47% of high tech companies see ERP as a barrier to B2B adoption, I would say that during ERP implementation this provides the ideal opportunity to think about integrating ERP and B2B platforms together. ERP B2B integration is a key reason why many high tech companies have deployed our Managed Services platform to provide a single outsourced integration platform. So the barrier in this case certainly provides the opportunity for B2B integration. 42% said they processed invoices in real time with trading partners . In Europe for example, with 28 member countries of the European Union, there are 28 different tax compliance laws, 28 different ways to apply digital signatures and 28 different ways to archive invoices. If you are a high tech company based across the border in one of the Eastern European countries such as Slovenia then navigating your way through invoicing compliance in Western Europe is a complex process. The high tech industry is not only consumer driven but it is fast moving in nature and its suppliers need to make sure they can be paid quickly in order to make sure that they can fulfil orders to their numerous customers in a timely manner. Adopting B2B integration and in particular electronic invoicing can significantly reduce invoice processing times and by working with a company such as OpenText that offers electronic invoicing solutions it means that you can work with suppliers in any country, irrespective of the invoice regulations that may be present in these countries. In fact one further piece of analysis that we did as part of this project found that automating invoicing processes through the use of B2B integration technologies such as electronic invoicing had increased the speed of invoice processing by 156%. Overall, the high tech industry had the highest level of electronic B2B exchange of all the industries surveyed with nearly 80% being ‘high adopters’ of B2B integration technologies. As mentioned earlier this is due to the fast paced nature of the industry, with nearly 99% of high tech respondents performing two inventory turns per month, and the need to have a highly responsive supply chain network that can adapt to continually changing market dynamics. This is amplified by the diverse range of trading partners involved across the high tech supply chain, from contract manufacturers (who make products for many different customers) to distributors, and fabless semiconductor manufacturers to raw material providers. Exploiting new market opportunities over the next three years was one of the key initiatives being undertaken by high tech companies. 57% of South Korean respondents, of which a high proportion were from the high tech industry, said that supply chain complexity was a key barrier to B2B adoption, however I would argue that if companies chose a cloud based B2B platform then this would not only help to reduce supply chain complexity but it would help to provide the flexibility and scalability that the fast moving high tech industry urgently needs. If you would like to download your own copy of the new B2B study from OpenText then please complete the registration form here. When you have registered you will also be able to get access to an on demand webinar that we recently recorded with IDC, a copy of the webinar slides and an infographic that illustrates some of the key findings from the study.

Read More

Step Aside Cloud, Mobile and Big Data, IoT has just Entered the Room

Mark Morley

This article provides a review of the ARC Advisory Group Forum in Orlando and expands on the ever increasing importance of analytics in relation to the Internet of Things The room I am referring to here is the office of the CIO, or should that be CTO or CDO (Chief Digital Officer), you see even as technology is evolving, the corporate role to manage digital transformation is evolving too. Since 2011, when Cloud, Mobile and Big Data technologies started to go mainstream, individual strategies to support each of these technologies have been evolving and some would argue that in some cases they remain separate strategies today. However the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the strategic agenda very quickly. For some reason IoT as a ‘collective & strategic’ term, has caught the interest of the enterprise and the consumer alike. IoT allows companies to effectively define one strategy that potentially embraces elements of cloud, mobile and Big Data. I would argue that in terms of IoT, cloud is nearly a commodity term that has evolved into offering connectivity any time, any place or anywhere. Mobile has evolved from simply porting enterprise applications to HTML5 to wearable technology such as Microsoft HoloLens, shown below. Finally Big Data which is broadening its appeal by focussing more on the analytics of information rather than just archiving huge volumes of data. In short, IoT has brought a stronger sense of purpose to cloud, mobile and Big Data. Two weeks ago I was fortunate to attend the ARC Advisory Group Forum in Orlando, a great conference if you have an interest in the Industrial Internet of Things and the direction this is taking. The terminology being used here is interesting as it is just another strand of the IoT, I will expand more on this naming convention a bit later in this post. There were over 700 attendees to the conference, and a lot of interest, as you would expect from industrial manufacturers such as GE, ABB, ThyssenKrupp & Schneider Electric. These companies weren’t just attending as delegates, they were actually showcasing their own IoT related technologies in the expo hall. In fact it was quite interesting to hear how many industrial companies were establishing state of the art software divisions for developing their own IoT applications. For me, the company that made the biggest impact at the conference was GE and their Intelligent Platforms division. GEIP focused heavily on industrial analytics and in particular how it could help companies improve the maintenance of equipment, either in the field or in a factory by using advanced analytics techniques to support predictive maintenance routines. So how does IoT support predictive maintenance scenarios then? It is really about applying IoT technologies such as sensors and analytics to industrial equipment and then being able to process the information coming from the sensors in real time to help identify trends in data and how it is then possible to predict when a component such as a water pump is likely to fail.  If you can predict when a component is likely to fail, you can replace a faulty component as part of a predictive maintenance routine and the piece of equipment is less likely to experience any unexpected downtime. In GE’s case they have many years of experience and knowledge of how their equipment performs in the field and so they can utilise this historical data as well to determine the potential timeline of component failure.  In fact GE went to great lengths to discuss the future of the ‘Brilliant Factory’. The IoT has brought a sense of intelligence or awareness to many pieces of industrial equipment and it was interesting learning from these companies about how they would leverage the IoT moving forwards. There were two common themes to the presentations and what the exhibitors were showcasing in the expo hall. Firstly cyber-security, over the past few months there has been no end of hacking related stories in the press and industrial companies are working very hard to ensure that connected equipment is not ‘hackable’.  The last thing you want is a rogue country hacking into your network, logging into a machine on the shopfloor and stealing tool path cutting information for your next great product that is likely to take the world by storm.  So device or equipment security is really a key focus area for industrial companies in 2015.  Interestingly it wasn’t just cyber-security of connected devices that was keeping CIOs awake at night, a new threat is emerging on the horizon.  What if a complete plant full of connected devices could be brought down by a simple Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) threat, this was another scenario discussed in one of the sessions at the conference. So encryption and shielding of data is a key focus area for many research establishments at the moment. The second key theme at the conference was analytics. As we know, Big Data has been around for a few years now but even though companies were good at storing TBs of data on mass storage devices they never really got the true value from the data by mining through it and looking for trends or pieces of information that could either transform the performance of a piece of equipment or improve the efficiency of a production process.  By itself, Big Data is virtually useless unless something is done which results in actionable intelligence and insight that delivers value to the organisation. Interesting quote from Oracle,93% of executives believe that organisations are losing revenue as a result of not being able to fully leverage the information they have. So deriving value from information coming from sensors attached to connected devices is going to become a key growth sector moving forwards. It is certainly an area that the CIO/CTO/CDO is extremely interested in as it can directly impact the bottom line and ultimately bring increased value to shareholders. I guess it is no surprise then that the world’s largest provider of Enterprise Information Management solutions, OpenText, should acquire Actuate, a leading provider of analytics based solutions. Last week the Information Exchange business unit of OpenText, which has a strong focus on B2B integration and supply chain, launched Trading Grid Analytics, a value add service to provide improved insights into transaction based information flowing across our cloud based Trading Grid infrastructure. With 16 billion transactions flowing across our business network each year there is a huge opportunity to mine this information and derive new value from these transactions, not just in the EDI related information that is being transmitted between companies on our network. Can you imagine the benefits that global governments could realise if they could predict a country’s GDP based on the volume of order and production related B2B transactions flowing across our network? Actuate is not integrated to Trading Grid just yet but it will eventually become a core piece of technology to analyse information flowing across not just Trading Grid but our other EIM solutions.  It is certainly an exciting time if you are a customer using our EIM solutions! Actuate has some great embedded analytics capabilities that will potentially help improve the overall operational efficiency of connected industrial equipment. In a previous blog I mentioned about B2B transactions being raised ‘on device’ , well with semi-conductor manufacturers such as Intel  spending millions of dollars developing low power chips to place on connected devices, it means that the device will become even more ‘intelligent’ and almost autonomous in nature.  I think we will see a lot more strategic partnerships announced between the semi-conductor manufacturers and industrial equipment manufacturers such as GE and ABB etc. Naturally, cloud, mobile and big data plays a big part in the overall success of an IoT related strategy. I certainly think we will see the emergence of more FOG based processing environments.  ‘FOG’ I hear you ask?, yes another term I heard at a Cisco IoT world forum two years ago.  Basically a connected device is able to perform some form of processing or analytics task in a FOG environment which is much closer to the connected device than a traditional cloud platform.  Think of FOG as being half way between the connected device and the cloud, ie a lot of pre-processing can take place on or near the connected device before the information is sent to a central cloud platform. So coming back to the conference, there was actually another area that was partially discussed, the area of IoT standards.  I guess it is to be expected that as this is a new technology area it will take time to develop new standards for how devices are connected to each other and standard ways for transporting, processing and securing the information flows. But there is another area of IoT related standards that is bugging me at the moment!, the many derivatives of the term IoT that are emerging.  IoT was certainly the first term defined by Kevin Ashton, closely followed by GE who introduced the Industrial Internet of Things, Cisco introducing the Internet of Everything and then you have the German manufacturers introducing Industry 4.0.  I appreciate that is has been the manufacturing industry that has driven a lot of IoT development so far but what about other industries such as retail, energy, healthcare  and other industry sub-sectors?  Admittedly IoT is a very generic term but already it is being more associated with consumer related technologies such as wearable devices and connected home devices such as NEST.  So in addition to defining standards for IoT cyber security, connectivity and data flows, how about introducing a standard naming convention that could support each and every industry? As there isn’t a suitable set of naming conventions, let me start the ball rolling by defining a common naming convention!  I think the following image nicely explains what I am thinking of here. In closing, I would argue, based on the presentations I saw at the ARC conference, that the industrial manufacturing sector is the most advanced in terms of IoT adoption. Can you imagine what sort of world we will live in when all the industries listed above embrace IoT, one word, exciting! Mark Morley currently leads industry marketing for the manufacturing sector at OpenText.  In this role Mark has a focus on automotive, high tech and the industrial sectors. Mark also defines the go-to-market strategy and thought leadership for applying B2B e-commerce and integration solutions within these sectors.

Read More