I have thought about this for a long time.

I have envisioned a community where supply chain professionals could network freely and globally. I wanted to design a virtual environment where teams can share best practices and have fun. My dream was to build a place that combines the best of the virtual communities of Linkedin, Facebook, Craigslist, FourSquare and Yelp and roll it into a business-to-business social community that is specially designed for the supply chain leader.

My Field of Dreams. If I Build it Will They Come?

I love the movie Field of Dreams. It is about an Iowa corn farmer, that after hearing voices, interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his backyard. When he does, the Chicago Black Sox come. I usually cry as the “old timers” cross the field and begin to play ball.

I am building my equivalent of a Field of Dreams. My vision is slowly becoming a reality. It is called the SCI Community, and it will be free for all to join. It is designed for all supply chain leaders around the world. To be clear and explicit this includes other analysts, academics, press, industry associations, students, technology/software firms, hardware manufacturers, system integrators/consultants and thought leaders. It is designed to be inclusive and to encourage all people in all geographies to share freely.

It is designed to be fun. The tone of our artwork is carried into the community. When you join, you will be welcomed by a gal named Good Karma.  Good Karma will help you get settled into the community. Then employees with names like Index Girl, Smart Transport, Social Orchestrater and Ivy Insights will help you navigate to maximize the experience. However, we want it to be an enjoyable experience for all and, like any good community there are rules. This community will be governed by the Shaman’s Rules of Order.  As long as you are freely sharing and contributing you will be rewarded. However, there are some lines that we will not let you cross. These include blatant marketing, pornography or open solicitation. We want it to be a place where people can learn and share in a positive environment.

The community is built on Jive and we are currently in Quality Assurance Testing with 7Summits (a social design firm). It is now two weeks from going live. The Supply Chain Insights team is busy under the covers of the new site getting familiar with the interface, and we are excited. The 7Summits team has done a great job and the counter on our website is a steady drumbeat reminding us each day of our launch objectives. You can count down with us.

Why a Social Community for Supply Chain Leaders?

The decision to build the community was not easy.  I am not a rich gal. I could not get the social software vendors to give me the software for free. In fact, the social software companies laughed at the proposition. So, I had to sign a Software as a Service model contract in a hot social market. It was hard to get Jive’s attention that I was serious and it was even more difficult to find a team to configure it. The social technology market is such an overhyped market, and the resources are so inundated with large companies building social communities, that I was like a fish swimming upstream against a strong current.

I was frustrated.  It is an investment of my personal savings at a time when I should be retiring.  I had to fight for the teams in the social world to take me seriously. I negotiated for five months to drive a contract to configure the software. The community is supported by advertising, and at best it will be break even. It is part of a larger business model; and for me, it was a gutsy decision. I have tossed and turned about this for many nights.

I questioned, should I build the community? And, if I built it, would people come? And, what should  the business model be for a small bootstrapped start-up?  It has been expensive. It has taken the team six months to build. However, it is my hope that when you get your invitation to join the SCI Community on September 5th that you will embrace my vision and join my mission.

Why I Built It.

Many times clients will ask me why I have built it, and I think hard. It is a good question.  The answer is complicated. Here are my thoughts.

Time Pressures/Economies of Scale to do Face-to-Face Right. For years, I facilitated the AMR Research communities and share groups. I loved getting people together, and I always enjoyed facilitating the group discussions. However, there was always tension. The executives wanted a small, intimate group, but the economies of the business models were only profitable if the groups were large. And, as the model grew more profitable the group no longer fit into one room. Instead, it spilled into multiple rooms, and many groups, limiting the networking opportunities. It was just not the same experience. In building the community, I wanted something that could scale; but yet, give clients an intimate, personalized experience.

There is a Thirst for Supply Chain Excellence in Emerging Economies. Supply chain teams are global. Executives are busy. Travel is expensive and so time-consuming. There are just too many conferences in the world of supply chain with TOO little content. So, I wanted to change the game. I wanted to offer a learning experience for supply chain leaders everywhere that allowed companies to interact on their terms as they had time.

Our Supply Chain is Broken. I Want to Help Mend It. Supply chain challenges have escalated, the processes have changed and the new technologies offer new opportunities. University and consortia groups want to help, but they are not able to raise the bar by themselves. Their efforts are too diluted. I think that it takes a village of all people working together–researchers, supplier practitioners, technologies and consultants– to raise the practice to a new level. In the first thirty years of supply chain management, advancements of the processes were born on the backs of the technology leaders. However, as the technologies have matured, there are fewer and fewer thought leaders in the ranks of technology vendors and it is harder and harder for the true leaders to get a “voice.” There are fewer and fewer Ken Sharmas and Eli Goldratts, and the discussions have become more dispersed.

Current Deployments Are Not Up to the Task. They Are Not Robust Enough. I get frustrated chatting in Linkedin and Facebook sites about supply chain processes. The technology is just too flat to drive a great discussion and there are too many vendors on the sites hawking their wares.

Most supply chain professionals that I have talked to about my vision struggle with how social networking tools can not conceive the richness of a potential Jive Community. My goal to have a fun community that could share the following information was just too hard to conceive:

  • Ratings and Reviews. User-based technology, consulting and event reviews by users of technology. We will validate and syndicate this information in the community.
  • Wiki and Supply Chain Definitions.  We have worked six months to build a Supply Chain WIKI to ensure that we are aligned on the same definitions.
  • Open Research. The Supply Chain Insights team published their ninth report yesterday. We have successfully completed ten research studies and have another five going into the field. The Community is a way that we can do Open Content Research. You scratch our back and we will scratch yours….
  • Financial Benchmarking. Data on supply chain ratios is just too hard to get. We have spent the last six months figuring out how to collect data from public companies and organize it in a meaningful way to help companies understand how supply chain process maturity matters.
  • Discussion Groups. Blogs. Document Sharing.  In the community, each of the discussion groups has the ability for companies to upload documents, rate discussions, link the discussions to their friends and colleagues and bookmark/tag the content for archiving.
  • Supply Chain Games. It is a place where you can let your hair down. Participants will be rewarded for sharing and each day you will get a new piece of supply chain trivia.
  • Networking. Based on the registration Interest Graph, you will be able to network with people like yourself in a meaningful way. If they friend you, you will have the ability to send them direct messages, ask questions, and get the straight skinny on their supply chain processes. Private and meaningful networking.

At the top of the community, there will be a special group called the Shaman’s Circle. It is an invitation only group focused on Chief Supply Chain Officer networking. Next year in February, this group will be invited to an exclusive event to encourage meaningful face-to-face networking. Tonight, I am  hand picking  150 people to invite from a list of over 400. It is hard.

Behind the scenes, we will be mining the data and tracking research trends. We protect your identity in everything that we report. We are only tracking aggregate trends. We are looking for trending topics, best shared documents, and changes in ratings and reviews. We see this as a new Field of Dreams for research. Please come and join us on September 5th. And let us know your thoughts. We are excited and hope that you will like it as much as we do.

Author Lora cecere

Lora Cecere is the Founder of Supply Chain Insights. The research firm Supply Chain Insights is paving new directions in building thought-leading supply chain research. She is also the author of enterprise software blog “Supply Chain Shaman. The blog focuses on the use of enterprise applications to drive supply chain excellence. Her book, Bricks Matter, will be published in August 2012. As an enterprise strategist, Lora focuses on the changing face of enterprise technologies. Her research is designed for the early adopter seeking first mover advantage. Current research topics include the digital consumer, supply chain sensing, demand shaping and revenue management, market-driven value networks, accelerating innovation through open design networks, the evolution of predictive analytics, emerging business intelligence solutions, and technologies to improve safe and secure product delivery. She comes to the stage with over forty years of diverse supply chain experience. She has spent nine years as an industry analyst with Gartner Group, AMR Research, Altimeter Group and is now the founder of her own firm Supply Chain Insights. Prior to becoming a supply chain analyst she spent fifteen years as a leader in the building of supply chain software at Manugistics and Descartes Systems Group, and twenty years as a supply chain practitioner at Procter & Gamble, Kraft/General Foods, Clorox, and Dreyers Grand Ice Cream (now a division of Nestle).

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