The Collective Intelligence of Supply (Part 2): The Evolution in 10 Steps

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In Part 1 of this series, I outlined its intent and why procurement and supply chain organizations should understand how the evolution toward a digital “collective intelligence” within supply chains and supply markets will affect them.

If you think about the Star Trek series from the 1980s (not the 1960s), the “Borg” was a collective of cybernetic beings that were part of a “hive mind” that would assimilate humans and other species into their collective digital intelligence. Now, consider the ecosystems being built by companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and others. They are becoming commercial collectives, of sorts, that seek to assimilate you into their walled gardens and extract maximum information from you in order to personalize their services (and those of the suppliers that your information is sold to) for you. You don’t just buy their products — you often are the product.

This trend certainly isn’t a bad thing on the whole in terms of the digital services that consumers now enjoy, but it’s traveling up the supply chain into B2B in a big way. So, the question becomes how can you create your own benevolent Borg that creates a collective intelligence with/about your customers, within your organization (think knowledge management on steroids), and, of course, to your upstream suppliers and supply chain. You want to be a platform, and not just a pipe. We’ve written extensively about platforms on our site, but platform/network effects are just a piece of the puzzle.

In Part 1 of this series, I did a quick general outline of the series and also included 20 domain areas that are key to this evolution. Even so, I didn’t really “tell the story,” and it basically is a story told in 10 discrete evolutionary steps. Once procurement organizations understand these 10 key progressions, they will be able to understand digital evolution in a more straightforward way that ties to business fundamentals while also bringing in newer operating models.

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