Two years ago I began exploring “cloud” software for integrating our company with its trading partners. This is how one company explains the benefits of its cloud software solution:
“Cloud supply chain platforms invert the traditional EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) hub equation by moving the data processing and linking logic from the partners at the ends of the spokes to the center hub itself. In this model, the entire value chain community leverages a common core technology utility so that all partners link to a single version of supply chain truth across the entire network.”
Here you have conceptual-speak, what sounds like preamble, and lots of jargon made to sound sensible (who can resist “a single version of supply chain truth across the entire network”?). In the section that is supposed to answer “what is this technology made of?” I come across this explanation:
“First, importantly, it is technology designed for the deep and detailed processes of a specific B2B domain. It is not generic. In this respect it diverges sharply from traditional EDI technologies that were designed for file transport and translation across all processes. Traditional systems take a “one size fits all” to information exchange: EDI file delivery for everyone, but a complete picture for no one.”
“In rich process domains such as supply chain execution, where the processes are long-lived and highly collaborative, what is needed is an information transformation layer that is knitted to the specific business processes at hand. Only by understanding the underlying and highly detailed data models and linkages of the critical business objects themselves can an information exchange platform create tight mappings to process. If an EDI VAN (Value Added Network) transports file packets, but is blind to the contents, the next generation platform interprets at the content level — it applies technology to the inside of the packet, in other words.”
None of this made sense to me, so I met with the firm’s representatives.
What they mean, as it turns out, is that their cloud software acts like a big private Facebook page, where your partners post data and transactions, as compared to traditional EDI, which is like passing a message to your partners in a straw where only you and they can see what’s in the straw.
One of the best ways to start a constructive conversation with a vendor is to say, “Ok I’m stupid. Connect the dots for me. You can link me to my trading partners like we’re all on Facebook. So what? Do I get rid of my EDI? What does that save me? Do I reduce inventories and order lead times? Will my customers and suppliers love me for doing this and will they partner with me on this approach?”
If a software vendor is good, that firm will assess your business situation first – your operation and processes – before trying to sell you anything.
So to handle the FUD experience you have to break the spell. Be the spoiler in the room who is not going along with the feel-good lingo emanating from the vendor.