Analyzing Accenture’s Concept of the Virtual Supplier Room

supply chain talent gap

For anyone who has seen a virtual or simulated environment for training or other activity you know it’s really an adult educational version of the Minecraft game kids play. But many of these applications are in fact designed in a world where asynchronous and structured communication is the rule rather than providing a sandbox-like environment for different parties to collaborate.

Yet the vision that Accenture outlines in its recent paper, Procurement’s Next Frontier – The Future Will Give Rise to an Organization of One, for “virtual supplier rooms” takes the concept of an online collaboration and learning environment that incorporates both internal and supplier participants many steps further than what is available today.

To realize such a vision, a number of new or enhanced capabilities will need to be incorporated together:

  • Provision for the delineation of IP ownership and structure of new or joint IP created through the environment
  • A capability that intersects product lifecycle management (PLM) with supplier management, specification and item management and even sourcing
  • The ability to normalize and standardize data sets and to share information in agnostic manners, including CAD formats and part numbers
  • A social model and architecture at the core that bridges private and semi-private collaboration areas alongside more public – although likely closed network-driven – capability
  • Tight integration with supporting applications that will be used to extend ideas and activities into tangible programs without having to rekey information or have manual integration processes
  • Supporting global sensitivities around collaboration – for example, a high security infrastructure featuring new capabilities the sharing of sensitive information. For example, a print or design drawing might be shared with certain levels of tolerance or specifications with a Chinese supplier that is co-developing it, but not with the exact specification. Or perhaps the print will not be able to be downloaded.

The notion of the virtual supplier room is great. But so long as most procurement technology providers put social and collaboration approaches in their tools on the backburner, the reality of such a model will be as effective as the virtual coffee break.

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