Often the market thinks about web-based models and puts them all in one bucket. Many software firms have merely put their software in the cloud and are hosting it. These most often support single enterprises. Portals also emerged in the late nineties. But the model for a portal is that it links what is called one-to-many, built around a single enterprise and its relationship to others.
The supply chain network, on the other hand, is designed to support many-to-many relationships.
The supply chain network is based on having a third party act as the switching station to support the many threads of communications between multiple trading partners. Examples of these are Descartes, GT Nexus and One Network. Between them they support hundreds of thousands of enterprises which transact business every day supporting processes from procurement, supply chain, finance, transportation, and communication and visibility.
Multi-party players have gone to great lengths to provide an “any way you need to connect” approach from EDI, XML, portals, mobile, sensor networks and other methods to assure constancy in the information.
At the hub of a network is the concept of monitor and control. Often an enterprise user will have a “control tower” which provides a visual approach and analytics to keep track of events and exceptions to alert users of activity out of tolerance or instructions to troubleshoot for expected events that did not occur. The network providers as well as firms like JDA are providing this type of capability.
Whether through a control tower or just dashboards, the network provides execution which can transact as well as get status and location messaging. They have analytics that are accumulating and assessing activities and events to provide early warning and the ability for users to intercede and change plans.
In short the supply chain network providers are in the game from planning through execution.
Beyond the above unique and important functions, supply chain networks are thriving due to the support they provide.
In on-premise systems the user /IT department needs resources and tools to maintain the systems with all current data models, and ensure that the system is current. They need to monitor transactions to assure the data arrives on time and can be translated and integrated into their systems.
The network provider, on the other hand, takes responsibility at implementation as well as sustaining the connections, data model changes, software upgrades and security.
This, of course, presents a significant cost save for organizations as well. It frees up users to work on business problems instead of fretting over data.
It also allows more rapid on-boarding of trading partners, more access to new functionality without the burden of IT development expense.
They continue to respond to the market requirements and their customer’s needs by continuing to extend the processes they support to include functions like home delivery, inventory management, and so on.
In 2016, hundreds more companies will adopt these networks. The multi-tenant models are becoming the preferred model for multi-party processes and most of the new software purchases in transportation are cloud-based.
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