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Anne Stuart’s BPM in Action

Dennis Byron

BPM as leader in hybrid supply chain gets real-life example

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I've written often here on ebizQ about how business process management (BPM) offers the best hope yet of delivering on the 1990s promise of supply chain management (SCM). Its enablement of SCM is in fact BPM's real reason for being. Managing business processes using BPM software and multiple enterprise software products within your own organization is overkill (but cost effective if you are the result of a merger or acquisition).

SCM includes the whole intricate ecosystem of consumer, producer, and distributor and includes many process automation requirements typically supported by point software products because they are too complex to be marketed successfully as general-purpose enterprise software. By the law of averages of course, SCM also involves multiple brands of enterprise software depending on how many suppliers, producers, consumers, and distributors are involved in the supply chain. Using the North American Industrial Code, just at the four-digit level, there are as many as 9,999 industry possibilities and depending on how complex the supply chain is in terms of number of industries involved--all with their owns standards and cultures--the business-process-set permutations are enormous. Remember there are both services and product supply chains and most supply chains are hybrids of both because financial services are almost always involved.

It's an area I have been doing research in for 15 years but it's always nice to see when someone is actually putting it into practice. This example from the Netherlands shows how industry-specific and intricate a supply chain business process set can get. In the Dutch consortia (10 years ago I would have called it an exchange), a half dozen industries are involved. Note the worldwide consumer product goods manufacturer Unilver along with shoe, food and other consumer goods producers plus financial services and logistics providers. It also includes a software provider (Cordys) and an IT services provider (AT Kearney). They plan to develop what they are calling "4-C," the Cross Chain Control Center.

There was a time when your ERP vendor would say, "Don't worry, I can handle it all." But even the biggest ERP vendors don't pretend to make that claim anymore.

(Thanks to Cordys, a member of the Dutch consortium referenced in the link, for translating some of the background material for me.)

-- Dennis Byron

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Business process management and optimization -- philosophies, policies, practices, and punditry.

Anne Stuart

I am the editor of ebizQ.

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