It seems there can be degrees of visibility: one might have a view into one or more functions but not the whole enterprise, or with some but not all partners, or one may see a ton of data but not really know what to do with it. In such cases, it can be useful to partner with a company with expertise in integration, business process management, business activity monitoring and SOA governance, Brooks says. "We work with companies across a variety of different industries, and our focus really is around how to connect the dots of investments that companies have already made" to give them visibility.
The reality today is that comprehensive visibility extends well beyond one's own enterprise. "A lot of our customers started focusing a lot more on, 'How do I look end to end across my supply chain, not just within my company, but how does that extend to my customers and how does that extend to my suppliers?' So people really need to see their contract manufacturer in China, for instance, and need to see upstream in the supply chain, two, three, four different levels. And it's that need to get that kind of visibility, to understand what's coming in and going out of your supply chain, that folks really want to focus on these days."
Today, one's supply chain either helps or hinders responsiveness to unplanned events, be they problems or opportunities. Responsiveness means one has control of a situation, but it turns on agility. A company that can't spring into immediate action is not nimble enough to combat difficulties or to take advantage of business possibilities.
"It's tough being agile if you don't really have control, and control is tough if you don't have visibility of the entire playing field," Brooks says. "If I can't see everything, I may optimize one part of my process or just push the problem upstream or downstream to someone else. Visibility is critically important, but without integration of all the puzzle pieces, it's really hard to get a single view of a customer, of an order, of a supplier.
"So what we do through our technology is, we help people really focus on how to get integrated. How does that visibility enable them to take control so they can measure, manage and track their processes? Ultimately, it's about how do they get agility so they can respond quickly when they need to in the marketplace."
Software AG's methodology involves "deconstructing" the complex supply chain processes of its clients. Brooks says it's important for customers to understand the major components of a business process, the thing that distinguishes one's company from the competition. And it's just as important that the KPIs involved there are drawn into a control tower. "Not only can I see what's going on, but now I've actually got ties into the underlying data so I can start understanding things like root cause."
Implementing business process management software can be a daunting task, and the best advice is to do things in manageable chunks, Brooks says. "Don't boil the ocean." Understandably, executives can get excited about the promised of business process management initiatives. However, they can try to tackle too much, too quickly. "I think that differentiates the way that we work with our customers - everything is about how quickly we can deliver business value. So the whole focus is on small, incremental pieces, that build momentum. Momentum is a deliverable from us."
How can you prove the value of a BPM program? Brooks says the "value path" can be demonstrated. Clearly, not everything is equally weighted in a business process. "So it's where value is either created or lost, as something goes though your order management process, for instance, that we really key on," he says. "We surface that up and then we do prototypes really quickly to show people what it means because when you're talking about BPM, so much of it is visual."
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Keywords: Supply Chain Visibility, Business Process Management, Business Intelligence & Analytics, Technology, Integration, Business Activity Monitoring, SOA Governance, Nimble Supply Chains, Supply Chain Responsiveness
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