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For decades, competitive supply chain innovation (using technology) has been led by the retail sector. In this column, let’s turn our attention to understanding the nuances of visible business and begin to explore examples of multi-enterprise collaboration in action.

The shift in CEO priorities from cost reduction as the major focus to driving growth has forced attention outside the four walls of the enterprise. This has emphasized a need to effectively practice multi-enterprise collaboration (MEC)*1 which is highlighting the need to achieve visible business.


To understand what it means to become a visible business, you must first realize that it is less an end state than it is a continuous journey along a path of ongoing improvement. In its ideal state, the visible business always has the information it needs when, where, and in the form it needs it—regardless of whom/what initially had the information. And, it efficiently analyzes and effectively applies it for maximum business benefit.

Visible business precipitates a flow and exchange of information—within and outside the enterprise—that empowers business knowledge and insight and opens the window to more effective business practice. Visible business poses the question, “How much more effective could your company be if you could achieve real-time availability, analysis, and application of business knowledge from multiple parties in your trading community?”

Actually, the visible business does not view the community in which it conducts business as a “chain” where interaction is only with the adjacent “links.” Instead, it views the community as a supply ecosystem within which it has multiple concurrent ongoing interactions and dependencies—each of which is enhanced when business knowledge is made available at the right place at the right time in the right form…hence the critical importance of being able to conduct multi-enterprise collaboration.

Visible business is all about the possibilities that become realities when information barriers are removed and the resulting available information is properly analyzed and applied to produce value.

To best appreciate the worth that can be generated by practicing visible business, it helps to see the absence of it “in action.” Then we can see how the proper application of MEC techniques benefits those involved.

Example #1: Supply chain inventory visibility/management


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