The Importance of a Supply Chain

This week I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people at Dreamforce 2012. I was surprised at the responses we received when we asked if they had any supply chain needs, most commented that their business did not have a supply chain. According to everyone’s favorite online resource, Wikipedia, “A supply chain is a system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.” Customers can be internal or external and therefore every business has a supply chain of some type. Supply chain touches every part of a business and if a supply chain is inefficient, the business and consumer suffer.

Some businesses have complex supply chains and others are fairly straightforward. An example of a complex supply chain would be that of a Value Added Reseller. They sell goods and services. The goods they sell can either be from inventory or ordered from a supplier catalog. Goods can be drop shipped to multiple sites and all this needs to be managed to ensure profitability. An Example of a simple supply chain would be that of a procurement department in any company: employees ( internal customer) request supplies, equipment, etc. Buyers need to source the best pricing/service and make sure the item is approved by a hierarchy in an effort to manage the company spend. Somewhere along the line people began equating supply chain with the shipment of goods.

An efficient supply chain can reduce organizational spend, increase profitability and improve consumer satisfaction.  If more businesses and their employees were aware of the importance of the supply chain and focused on creating a more efficient and transparent supply chain, I think they would be much more successful. The supply chain is exactly that ‘A Chain” and if the chain is broken, it affects everyone.

Software as a Service at 30,000 feet..

How many businesses in the 21st century have employees that work solely from the corporate office with direct access to enterprise solutions unencumbered by VPNs, multiple logins and slow connection speeds? By now you have glanced around your office and found that while the individuals who keep the lights on are there, I am guessing a fair number of sales personnel and other staff are traveling or simply working from home.

Many companies are moving to a virtual workforce. In fact, according to a survey by GigaOm Pro in March of 2011, on average, 34% of workers work remotely.
This change in organizational structure allows companies to decrease infrastructure cost.

Think of the advantages of a cloud-based solution from a user’s perspective. They can now access their work from anywhere. They can sign in simply using a browser – no need to ensure you have your laptop with the specific VPN download or firewalls set up. You can literally log in anywhere you have access to the internet whether that is your phone, laptop, tablet, etc.

This week we heard one of the most compelling stories about the usefulness of having an organization run its business in the cloud. We received a message from one of our customers, the president of the organization in fact. He was excited. Now I know what you are thinking, an exec excited about software, but it really happened. Why was he excited? He had been traveling and what work would have normally had to wait until he arrived back at the office, he could now do from the plane while sitting at 30,000 feet. Instead of being behind from traveling and trying to catch up, he approved the invoices for his customers for the month while connected to the wifi on the plane.

As the virtual workforce increases so do the solutions that are available in the cloud. It is no longer just for a traveling sales force. Organizations can run their entire business from the cloud including Order Fulfillment, Procurement and Inventory Management , Accounting  and HR . The Cloud is ready for business, but the questions are “Can your business really compete without a change? Are you ready to operate at 30,000 feet?”

Collaboration Cultivation in Supply Chain

In March, SCM World released a whitepaper on Collaboration Execution that made me think – why has supply chain not fully harnessed the power of  collaboration? According to the whitepaper, collaboration for suppliers involves the sharing of  supply and demand information and for customers it means providing availability and lead time information. So, at the highest level collaboration means sharing transactional information up and down the chain. Sharing this information can be accomplished relatively easily, as this information can be gathered in reports and sent via email, shared in a portal or other easy to use methods. You would see quantifiable benefits almost immediately like reducing inventory levels/cost based on demand and higher customer order satisfaction.

But that is just the basic level of collaboration. To fully reap the benefits you have to move past the transactional data. So why has the Supply Chain not fully embraced collaboration? There have been several barriers preventing this from happening. Firstly, the cost associated with integrating systems and creating the necessary infrastructure had limited this type of sharing to only the top tier of the supply chain.  Secondly, it is difficult for most organizations to define the value of collaboration past transactional data.  Can you really put a number on the value of more effective issue resolution? What about the value of innovation? These hard to define benefits of collaboration often times are the most valuable.

These barriers of the past have since been knocked down with the rise of Cloud Computing, a low cost solution for collaboration. Smaller businesses can now afford to join the conversation. Shared secure portals can be established within a matter of days versus months.  By involving the entire chain you can mitigate risk in the entire chain. Most importantly you can create an environment where all parties have similar goals and innovation is encouraged.

Supply Chains are complex and ever changing. Harnessing the knowledge within it would be incredibly powerful.

Less Software is awarded Best Supply Chain Solution from the Software & Information Industry Association

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) Selects Supply Chain Management On–Demand from Less Software as Best Supply Chain Solution

Los Angeles, CA — May 18, 2010 / – Less Software Inc. (www.lesssoftware.com) today announced that their Supply Chain On-Demand Application was selected by the SIIA as best Supply Chain Solution for 2010.Less Software Supply Chain Solutions

“The CODiE Awards represent excellence in the software and digital information industries. By providing recognition of the best new technology products and services, SIIA proudly advances the important role participating companies play in the digital economy,” noted SIIA President Ken Wasch. “CODiE Award winners are a testament to the power of technology to deliver innovative solutions to businesses and consumers. SIIA warmly congratulates all of the winners and nominees of the CODiE Awards, whose innovation is essential for continuing America’s leadership in the global knowledge economy,” Wasch continued.

For more information about the CODiE Awards, visit www.siia.net/codies.

“Less Software is very proud to be part of the best of the best that represents the achievement of a CODiE award for our products” said Mike Flanagan, CEO of Less Software, adding, “this is a fabulous validation of our innovative approach for building easy to use but yet sophisticated enterprise applications”.

The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to 500 leading software and information companies. For more information, visit www.siia.net

Less Software provides sophisticated supply chain management solutions for businesses delivered in the Software as a Service subscription model, and can be accessed from anywhere via a browser and Internet connection. From supplier management to inventory management to order fulfillment, Less Software’s supply chain management applications save customers time and money while delivering a completely streamlined end-to-end solution.

For more information about Less Software’s supply chain management applications, please contact Mike Flanagan at 866.603.1454 or via email at mike.flanagan@lesssoftware.com. Visit Less Software online at www.lesssoftware.com