Gartner just released their Magic Quadrant for Multienterprise Supply Chain Business Networks. But what exactly are they and how can they help your business?
At its root, the term encapsulates how supply chains have evolved into complex networks involving multiple parties and partners. Across orders, organizations must communicate with everyone from manufacturing and warehousing to transportation partners, freight forwarders, distributors, retailers, and others. While having all these connections is certainly advantageous, the pressing question is: are you really making the most of what you have?
This is where multi-enterprise business networks come into play. They recognize and address this core need in the market for organizations to better collaborate with external parties and partners. Below is some more insight into what they are and how you might leverage their technologies to improve visibility, communication, and execution across networks.
A Brief Guide to Multi-Enterprise Business Networks
The term “supply chain” is becoming obsolete, as it does little to convey the complexity of the full order-to-delivery process. Less of a singular, one-dimensional chain, the scope of these networks has grown to resemble an ecosystem, wherein individual orders are executed in their own micro supply chains. Smart execution involves being able to see and tweak processes on such a granular level.
Multi-enterprise business networks – or multi-enterprise operating networks – are B2B ecosystems that give all parties involved full, n-way visibility into, and control over, critical data in real-time. This allows organizations to better tailor solutions, simplify transactions, and catch and correct issues early in the process.
Understanding the Problem to Find the Right Solution
Supply chain visibility is the first step to streamlining your process. Once you know the pain points and inefficiencies, what are you going to do about them? To stay competitive, you need to act quickly and intelligently—ideally, in real-time and in a way that best leverages your resources. However, the matter of accessing and employing resources is itself a complex matter.
Technology companies tend to aggregate networks of niche partners across the supply chain, including those for air, ground, and ocean transportation, manufacturing, distribution, freight forwarding, and retail. In turn, these specialized partners have their own networks, replete with data systems and connectivity strategies. In theory, collaboration grants access to this vast repository of resources; but orchestration is easier said than done.
Many organizations turn to control towers to better collaborate and optimize processes across multiple parties. Though the term has adopted a range of definitions, it typically involves some measure of executability and connection to existing legacy systems.
The trouble is, while the goal is to increase transparency and agency, not every existing approach will rectify the specific problems your business faces.
Evaluating Options & Where They Differ
Control towers vary widely in features and functions. For instance, most will help you form a connected and collaborative network, but not all include diverse party types, and some limit the extent of your collaboration. Not all allow you to onboard new partners easily.
Moreover, some control tower solutions focus solely on analytics dashboards. If your company requires order and inventory management as well, such a solution is too limiting. If you want to provide efficient, tailored services, you need a system with intelligent rules-based automation. These create micro supply chains for each customer order and are designed to optimize flows across time, capacity, costs, and inventory.
Since the goal for many companies is to customize and streamline processes from end-to-end, supply chain orchestration solutions provide the greatest value. In addition to intelligent automation, they offer easy onboarding for new partners and deeper collaboration capabilities for better outcomes. In contrast to specialized partner networks, these systems often provide integration for a diverse set of parties too, linking both directly as well as to their specialized networks. In this way, organizations can take full advantage of their partnerships and all available resources.
While supply chain management is growing increasingly complex, consumers are expecting quick and seemingly effortless results and turnaround times. Though this reality feels like a contradiction, innovative technology exists to help deliver on-time and in-full according to the new standard. Multi-enterprise business networks provide the powerful tools organizations need to thrive in this ever-evolving supply chain landscape. In fact, with the advent of smart, automated processes, real-time visibility and control, and centralizing platforms that streamline communication and collaboration, it’s easier than ever to deliver the “wow factor” while optimizing profitability and operations.