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The Supply Chain Management Blog covers the latest in SCM strategy, technology, and innovation.

Keep 'Frankenstein' Out of your Supply Chain with a Common Cloud

These days much of your supply chain likely operates in the cloud. Are hand-offs happening faster because of the cloud? In some places, certainly. Do you have better fulfillment metrics? Probably.

But if your supply chain improvements have occurred mostly in isolated increments, you could be in for a big fright. You might have a cobbled-together Frankenstein of a cloud environment that is stopping you from optimizing gains across the supply chain. (See “6 Dangers of ‘Frankensteining’ Your Cloud Environment.”)

Cloud can definitely help turn fat into lean in supply chain processes, but to do so requires truly connected tissue, something you won’t find in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab-born monster.

 “Cloud helps you to simplify, but it does not change the law of physics,” said Jon Chorley, Oracle chief sustainability officer and group vice president, Supply Chain Management Product Strategy. “The more unrelated elements you have in a system, the more issues and problems you’ll have in the implementation and operation—and the more headaches you’ll face every time you do an update.”

No Data Strategy Means More Supply Chain Errors, Complexity

Take, for example, data management, which is more error-prone and complex when data is not synchronized across cloud applications through a coherent master data management (MDM) strategy.

Without such a strategy, marketing might be using a different database than fulfillment, which could cause customers to receive marketing materials about a product they just ordered rather than helpful information about add-on services they might need.

Worse yet are errors caused by manually transferring data from one application to another, or by someone within the supply chain using outdated data. Either of these could mean missed or incorrectly filled orders.

Maintenance of different clouds and the data within their applications can also add complexity to SCM that requires specialized skills. Consider what happens when a division within the supply chain extends an application and adds additional data. Every cloud might have a different technology for creating these extensions, so passing that extended data from one cloud application to another becomes an intricate endeavor that requires dedicated attention with each update.

If you’re starting to realize you have a monster in your midst and don’t know how it happened, the problem could be that technology choices were made without an enterprise MDM strategy. Data has rapidly become the lifeblood of every business, and investing in SCM technology without a strategic-level data plan can impede the flow of high-quality data to everyone who needs it to make strategically aligned choices.

“Businesses need to have a clear destination in mind—and that vision is what should inform technology decisions,” Chorley said. If the goal is to become a digital, agile company, supply chain data must be able to flow across divisions, and supply chain applications need to be integrated.

Integrated Out-of-the-Box Solutions for Full Functionality

Another downside of using multiple clouds across the supply chain is that applications often can’t perform to their potential without IT specialists intervening to build integrations and keep them updated. If you have several cloud vendors who update twice a year, your supply chain technology alone could require more than a dozen interventions a year from IT.

Some companies simply don’t have the resources.

“You might find yourself looking longingly at all that new stuff that you just can’t use,” Chorley said. “An organization that wants to service the needs of the business and simplify IT should consider more integrated, out-of-the-box cloud solutions.”

In the original Frankenstein story, the monster was a bit of an accident—the outcome of an endeavor that started with noble intentions, but turned into a big problem that was hard to control. If this sounds like your SCM cloud applications, you need to take action. The sooner you create a strategy and get the proper tools and technology, you can scare the monster away forever. 

Get more information on how to build a single system of SCM technology that comes from integrated out-of-the-box solutions.

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