The Future of Supply Intelligence will be Built on Advanced Technology, Not PowerPoint

A few years ago, I was having a discussion with the CEO of a supply market intelligence firm, and I told him that the future of supply market intelligence would be built on a strong technology backbone with a data model that would form the DNA by which the analysis and resulting intelligence would be related to the following: cost models, input prices, commodity forecasts, supply network design models (within and across companies), multi-tier BOMs/routings, risk types, supplier locations, etc. In other words, it wasn’t going to be an FTE-based and document-centric KPO (knowledge-process outsourcing) model where offshore resources would take orders for “custom research” projects to scour the Web and put together PowerPoint presentations and spreadsheet models that the buyers didn’t have to do themselves.

Don't get me wrong. KPO-centric supply market intelligence is a valuable service. But, I said to him that he better start thinking about his own technology strategy or how to partner with others, because eventually the big boys (BPO providers and large market intelligence providers) and tech-centric firms (ERP, best of breed suites, supplier networks, analytics firms, etc.) would start getting serious about this. And it will be built upon a combination of structured data models per above and the “big data” content scattered (increasingly machine generated) across the web. It'll be about scalable data management rather than one-off document management. He shrugged me off at the time. To paraphrase: “I’m not seeing it."

Well, times have changed, and even this CEO’s firm has had to respond, albeit with its own proprietary technology layer (and geared towards automating the workflow into its customers’ operations rather than true big data analytics / intelligence). The market for “supply intelligence” solutions is a big one and is still in its infancy. Supply intelligence is broader than supply market intelligence, category intelligence, procurement intelligence, financial intelligence, or supplier management. “Supply” is a broad term, as is Supply ManagementSupply Performance Management, or Supply Analytics (also here). And you better have good Supply Data/Information Management processes to support the others!

Supply intelligence is an organizational capability by which firms acquire, analyze, and interpret data and information about supply markets, suppliers (and associated products/services, processes, costs, locations, people, performance, capabilities, and strategies), competitors, physical supply chains, regulations, and other factors for the purpose of improving supply performance (i.e., reduced supply cost/risk, increased revenue/innovation from suppliers, etc.) and thus… business performance.

If it sounds overwhelming and complex, frame it like a client once asked me:  “How can I build a world-class category workbench?" Not just a simple dashboard on category spend and category sourcing projects, but a cockpit that takes a category strategy out of the static PowerPoint document on the virtual shelf, and brings real-time intelligence needed to identify opportunities and risks of different types to the right people at the right time and place.

Unfortunately, as you'd expect, no single solution provider brings this together, and every firm will have its own requirements with regards to what approach to such supply intelligence provision is most apt to the intelligence types that are most critical to them. We call this convergence “the great supply intelligence mash-up” because it is the convergence of capabilities that are drawn from many unique spaces within supply chain, competitive intelligence, big data / analytics (and related sub-areas), content management, and sourcing & supplier management across the entire spectrum of our integrated services coverage model. As a provider, no matter where you play in this spectrum, you better have a clear and coherent strategy for how you are going to provide deeper intelligence to your customers to help them extract deeper value from their supply.

Definitely stay tuned for more on this. There are some real disruptors coming!

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