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Social Media Transforms Transparency in the Supply Chain

Social media, from Twitter to Facebook, have completely changed the way people communicate. Digital information sharing also, in its best moments, has the potential to become a powerful force in the supply chains of electronics manufacturers.

“Data is the new oil,” Andreas Weigend, lecturer at Stanford University, said at the recent Responsible Supply Chain Conference. “Today, distribution of data is mostly social. By creating, distributing, refining, and consuming data products, suppliers can help people make better decisions.” Weigend spoke about how supply chain organizations can leverage connection with customers, whether OEM or end-user, to enhance and grow business opportunities.

The conversation is well underway about how big data can help the electronics supply chain. Today, through shared systems, partners can understand what products are on the shelves and even track the movements of competitors. Social media and online information distribution, however, are rapidly escalating the sharing of data of all types. “You can think of it as a data ecosystem,” said Weigend. “In the old world, communication was expensive, but that's changed. The balance of power is shifting there.”

In his talk, Weigend traced the evolution of data management. In the 1970s, the focus was on building computers, while in the 1980s technologist worked on connecting computers together with networks, he said. The 1990s shifted that focus to connecting pages (which eventually led to the birth of Google), and at the turn of the century, connecting people (via social networks) became the big push. Finally, by 2010, the focus has come to a time when we have started connecting data.

“Connecting is what really matters,” said Weigend. “If everything was connected, what would you do? We are reaching a time where there's so much transparency of data that there's no more spinning a story. We are making it trivially easy to contribute data and connect with each other and collaborate.”

So much data is available that the ways we measure the value of supply chain data has begun to shift. Weigend offers four rules for this new data world:

  1. The value of data is its impact on decisions. “Data is only valuable to the degree that impacts decisions.”
  2. Start with the question, not with the data. “We need to focus on actions. Nothing changes unless people act.”
  3. Focus on decisions and actions. Organizations are often tempted to make decisions based on inside information and knowledge, rather than what the external market is saying.
  4. Create systems design for fast feedback. Then base decisions based on the metrics that matter most to your customers. Possible analysis focuses include country, customer, supplier, manufacturer, transport, etc. Ensure that your customers understand the value that they get from sharing information with you. Measure results to ensure that the data leads in directions that make your organization's products and services better.

Today, electronics companies need to get more data savvy. “It's no longer a world of milking the last bit of information from data,” said Weigand. “Very few companies are addressing the new, data-rich world. On the Web, everything is significant, but we have to make sure it's relevant.”

Let us know how you are managing the deluge of data in your supply chain. What do you find relevant and usable? What data are you discarding?

16 comments on “Social Media Transforms Transparency in the Supply Chain

  1. Daniel
    May 21, 2014

    “Today, through shared systems, partners can understand what products are on the shelves and even track the movements of competitors. Social media and online information distribution, however, are rapidly escalating the sharing of data of all types.”

    Hailey, there is no doubt that online datas and social medias can make the system more transparent and vibrant. If the respective peoples act based on stock availability, then only it's going to be useful; otherwise if they are not acting transparency can create more headaches.

  2. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 22, 2014

    “On the Web, everything is significant, but we have to make sure it's relevant.”— Very true. Companies in the supply chain business need to come up with a framework that will help them collect clean and high quality data that should conform to defined business rules and constraints in the industry.

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    May 23, 2014

    “Ensure that your customers understand the value that they get from sharing information with you. Measure results to ensure that the data leads in directions that make your organization's products and services better.”

    I think that's a very critical step and requires a great of communication with the customers. However, their feedback is of immense value to the company and certainly helps the company in improving the quality of its products and services.

  4. Taimoor Zubar
    May 23, 2014

    “If the respective peoples act based on stock availability, then only it's going to be useful; otherwise if they are not acting transparency can create more headaches.”

    @Jacob: I agree with you. Even with transparency, the key thing is to ensure that only relevant information gets visible. Too much information can not only be confusing and misleading, it can also be dangerous if it gets in the wrong hands.

  5. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    While managing data is rewarding, it is not without its risk. Digital systems always run the risk of being affected by malwares, hackers, ransomwares etc, and this can affect the transparency of a company. Transparency of a company is like a double edged sword. While transparency will be helpful in generating honest relationships with customers, however too much transparency would also lead to the company's downfall.

  6. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    @hospice: Which they do, and this will only get better with changing technology. Data paths seek safe methods of travel, and once this safe travel is ensured, the collaboration of various companies would increase.

  7. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    @jacob: too much transparency may not rock the boat of the parent company. Stock values, revenue information, profit lines, graph contexts etc and so many things cannot be shared between companies even if they are working together. Transparency between companies is one thing, and transparency between companies and customers is another thing.

  8. Anand
    May 26, 2014

    Something that always bugs me about smart homes is the amount of unnecessary data usage by active devices. There should be a data filter for every home, which will control how much data a device consumes and how much of it is useful.

  9. Daniel
    May 30, 2014

    “I agree with you. Even with transparency, the key thing is to ensure that only relevant information gets visible. Too much information can not only be confusing and misleading, it can also be dangerous if it gets in the wrong hands.”

    Taimoor, again the issue is company can decide, which can be transparent and not.

  10. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 10, 2014

    @Jacob, the key really is being open to letting the role of social media evolve. When this started, we couldn't even begin to imagine where the Internet was going, let alone social media.

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 10, 2014

    @Hospice, easy to say and hard to do, I guess! I think that data mining and analytics tools, as well as people who really understand how to use them, are going to be critical in all this.

  12. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 10, 2014

    @anandvy, security is always a risk and increasingly so is privacy. We're in the hardest part of hte learning curve on this part of it–and i suspect that there will be some big problems before there are real soutions. It's sad but true.

  13. Daniel
    June 11, 2014

    “the key really is being open to letting the role of social media evolve. When this started, we couldn't even begin to imagine where the Internet was going, let alone social media.”

    Hailey, you mean social medias can make the system into transparent. Is it necessary that everything has to be transparent? Certain things are confidential and the amount of transparency can be decided by companies based on necessity.

  14. Daniel
    June 11, 2014

    “too much transparency may not rock the boat of the parent company. Stock values, revenue information, profit lines, graph contexts etc and so many things cannot be shared between companies even if they are working together. Transparency between companies is one thing, and transparency between companies and customers is another thing.”

    Anandvy, in dealings, business and support they can maintain transparency. But when it comes about products components, working, design etc they have to maintain confidentiality because that's a business secrete.

  15. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 12, 2014

    @Jacob, i would never suggest that everything should be transparent. Imagine though how useful it would be to know quickly that, say, a manufacturing plant has had a fire or a natural disaster has occurred where you have lots of suppliers. Those are things that need to be communicated. 

  16. Daniel
    June 13, 2014

    “i would never suggest that everything should be transparent. Imagine though how useful it would be to know quickly that, say, a manufacturing plant has had a fire or a natural disaster has occurred where you have lots of suppliers. Those are things that need to be communicated. “

    Hailey, you are right. Such info's can be communicated well through the social media networks In many companies even employees are misusing social media networks for spreading wrong and bad news about their employer.

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