In today's globalized world, supply chains are becoming increasingly complex, involving multiple partners and stakeholders. In this episode, we will explore the importance of multi-enterprise connectivity in building resilient and sustainable supply chains. We will discuss real examples of how collaborative supply chain ecosystems enable companies across industries to streamline their supply chain operations, improve demand planning, and optimize pricing and promotions to meet customer expectations.
Learn with Ahmed Raza, SVP, Head of SaaS Products and Platforms, PartnerLinQ, the importance of multi-enterprise connectivity for building resilient and sustainable supply chains.
Tauseef Muhammad: Hello, everyone, and thank you once again for the third episode of Vision Cast. We had a three-week break. But today we have a very special guest, and I'm really looking forward to it with a lot of things under his belt. First and foremost, he's a champion in the supply chain field, he and has built a product, which is one of the leading products in the market right now. And bBesides that, he's very fond of hiking, . so So we can talk about that in MLS, as well. So hey, welcome, Ahmed.
Ahmed Raza: Here to serve. And thank you for having me. It's wonderful to be on the platform.
What is a multi-enterprise supply chain?
TM: Good. So, Ahmed last week, we talked about the E commerce and then we talked about a little bit of IOM as well in our last podcast. Today, we just want to explore further into the supply chain. But as the topic is about the Mmulti enterprise supply chain, so let's just start from there. What is that multi enterprise supply chain? And why is it the buzzword right now within the supply chain world?
AR: I think it's more than a buzzword. , but a At this point, the idea is that as I think your lineage of sessions kind of take us there, . So, from ecommerce, all the way to fulfillment, you're talking about getting your orders from E ecommerce or your channels, routing them through solutions, like IOM, which we can take you from there order as quickly as possible to either your enterprise system or to your supply chain where they dropship, or shipping from your supplier. That's one side of it. But the idea for multi enterprise is to work as all of these multiple enterprises work as one unit, and then the degrees of that, you go from there. Now, are you going to be on the supply side? Are you going to be coordinating your lead times on your availabilities and working as one especially with the disruptions, based on your outages, demands, and manufacturing capabilities, ? How do you work together to fulfill as one enterprise? That's the whole idea of it. How much success we can get out of it. ? That's a big question, but companies are heavily investing towards that, and I think there's some kind of advancement in that field in the last few months.
TM: So, how is this different than the, if I say, in a layman term, a regular supply chain, where companies are adopting?
AR: Regularly, the way it worked was, traditionally, what would happen is, you'd have to go few seasons, . Llet's take example of fashion apparel, . Basically, four to six seasons, before something's supposed to hit the market or your stores, you start planning, . Tthis is what I bought,bought; this is what my designers are making. This is what I want, this is the demand that I forecast, these are the products, this is how I want, this is how I want it to be delivered, and then you lock your suppliers into contracts, . Aand then you charge them for delays and go from there. That's a traditional form, you're still talking to each other collaborative. But the idea is the OEMs, or basically, auto retailer kind of pushing everybody else, but into their style. With a collaborative and multi enterprise kind of a way. The idea is you still do the same thing, you still want to plan, you still need the time and everything else. But now you're collaborating. E even the supplier is telling you that this is what I have, this is what I can promise. This is the extra promise that I can make, . I cannot deliver this, but I can deliver this and work through all the disruptions in plan where it's not about just that surcharges or chargebacks. But it's more about getting printouts and clipping for the end customers. That's the whole idea.
TM: Can you relate this multicenter supply chain to the digital transformation?
AR: So, when we talk about digital transformation, it's a larger kind of a term, which means multiple things for, multiple people within that enterprise, . Bbut at this point, what we have learned in last two, three years is that, we can't just talk about the digital transformation without thinking about the supply chain anymore, .Bbecause that's traditionally what it's been about; knowing your customer, listening to your customer, and that's about it, . Hhow you deliver and how you work with your back end to ensure the customer is actually getting things that they want at the right time, ? and wWith the changing of demands, where today they want something, and then three months later, there's the change, . Ffor example, COVID comes and people, instead of buying lipsticks, they don't need lipsticks anymore. How do you react to that? tThat whole kind of example, kind of fulfills.
How can an enterprise supply chain technology stay resilient in time of disruption?
TM: That's interesting. So, how can an enterprise supply chain technology stay resilient in time of disruption?
AR: The basics are the same. For resilience, first you need to know what you have at the right time. So, we cannot work traditionally, with the supply chain, and go back to the supply chain. And this is my perspective, where. tTraditionally, what happened was that I might manufacture something or, getting something made in China or Taiwan or a country like that. My designer, and those people in between, there could be multiple companies that manage my demand, and then in terms of getting it fulfilled, getting it doubted getting it shipped. But I don't want to know about that. The idea was that I have one contractor somewhere in the US, who manages everything else in between, . I might know my supplier,supplier; I know myself and in between this host of unknowns, .
Hhow my things get delivered, actual delivery, ? Mmy way of doing was, I'll just try tocharge the company, if there's a delay. The problem is, if you're not going to get things, you can charge them as much as possible, but to end customers are not getting what they wanted. So, the idea for resilience is how do we get access to yours, level one, level two, and level three, kind of supply chain, . your suppliers, you know what's happening. But we could keep going back to that kind of restaurant,problem where chefs ships get stuck in the Suezis canal, and people get to know, weeks afterward, that they were all impacted, and. tThis is where the resilience means you get in contact with some level one, two, and three. And you kind of trap to hold and walk as one multi enterprise to ensure that, you're getting from point A to B. C cost is just one of the factors, now not the only factor, the many lights on the most important.
Are IT budgets low priorities?
TM: Visibility plays a very big role when you have everything there. So, I just found a recent Gartner report, and they're just interestingly saying that about 69%, securement professional, saying that’s the technology spend, which is a less focus on them at this point, . Bbecause of all those differences the IT budget got shrink, and 71 percent% thinking that. is Is IT budget low priority. Do you see any of those changes? Or are they just reinvesting into some other technology?
AR: I think that's a very interesting question. I think the spend is less than what was in the last couple of years or the last three years when people were kind of expecting the worst. So, there were a lot of standards. How do we still get to our customers? That question, Wwe're getting back to sort of the previous trommel, where we are thinking about more than just one direction. So, it used to be just digital transformation, then it became just supply chain, . I think the real balance is where the investments are being made where and we can't lose control of our supply chain anymore. But we need to have the end-to-end or the hybrid businesses that were kind of sprung up where people who have never done direct to consumer started selling to consumers, . Lot none of those businesses have to rethink their policies and,. is Is my business really set up for that? And if it is, and it's succeeding, do I need to keep doing that? Aside from the work that I used to do before. I think there's a lot of consult reflection and readjustment that's happening in the market. But at the end of the day, there's a lot of work that needs to be done to keep going, and I think we can't just stop as industry on the span.
How industries are reacting to the shift from traditional supply chains to multi-enterprise
TM: So how industries are reacting with this new norm, from traditional supply chain to the multi-enterprise? Are they seeing this change or are they resistant to apply this on their own network?
AR: I wouldn't call it resistance anymore. There used to be complete reluctance. Before COVID, and other disruptionsestruction. At this point, there is a realization. But I would say there's lot of consideration of what is the right investment, . Is that a control tower? Does every company need a control tower? Is it collaboration? That areIs it the business processes that needs to be corrected, before we talk about everything else, ? bBecause it's not just about technology. You can have the best technology, but if you don't have the users, if you don't have the business ready to adapt that technology, that doesn't fulfill the promise.
So, I there's a lot of deliberation that we're seeing in the market, where they're instead of just saying, I want an E commerce channel, or pickup in store or in curbs, that's how COVID started. To oh, I want to know, where I am in my supply chain, and then go in control towers. What is required and the focus that we're seeing is more towards the collaboration side of the enterprise, which is more business process, and thaen technology. These two-go hand in hand.
TM: How can the enterprise choose wisely, where to start from?
AR: That depends on the enterprise where they are in their overall supply chain, their journey, how much their maturity level is on different things. Some enterprises are built towards visibility, some are built towards just fulfilling the customer demand, some are built towards just living with the customer in a timely manner. The idea is based on where you are, . Tthat's where I think the path has to be aligned, . Ffor a business which is very focused towards you, meaning all your suppliers, might be the biggest kind of consumer for them, something like a control tower makes absolute sense. So, you're talking about rare commodities, or a very controlled process that you have, .other parties. Basically, other parties they don't want to invest in to get the best, . So, yes, control towers, and these kinds of things work. But if you're in diverse burners, where your supply changes constantly, your suppliers change the focus more towards visibility, without controlling is the key that when you can be resilient without controlling, where you can adapt before it hits you. But again, not everything is in your control, somewhere in between. So, it's the right path.
Which industries are early adopters of multi enterprise supply chain?
TM: Which industry, do you think can be the early adopters or already adopted in this process.?
AR: Utilities have always been in control of these things. Industries like transportation has traditionally not focused towards, visibility as well as resilience, .Bbecause the idea was, this is my practice made out, this is my customer. But at this point, because there's so much disruption, the choices sources are changing much more quickly. Because as a retailer I might be working with these four companies for the last 20 years to get my stuff, . Bbecause I have to change those four companies, and maybe I have 20 suppliers. My transportation company, can not it connect to all 20 in those new routes, ? If I can't, I have lost the partners business that I've had for last 20 years. So, I don't have a solid base anymore. So, reacting to that by going to new lines or new routes is the key. How do you do that? You collaborate with basically other carriers to ensure that you provide a consistent experience at the right cost. Right cost is again the key thing where your costs have been very stable for a long period of time. W where you don't get much difference, but at the end of the day, you can do business every single time if you keep delivering on time. At this point because of all of these changes. , cost pressures are also there, . Sso all these things take you back into having the right partnerships, having the right network, having visibility of your network and taking control of your network, . Yyou have control of your network, and you can react to all of these things. You don't have control over your network.
Where we are heading with the ERP and the additional operational platform.
TM: In our last episode, we just talked in detail about ERP and AI other areas, and I assume ERP plays a very major role in some of the industry. So recently, there's a new terminology that’s coming up in the market as a digital operation platform. ERP, iIs it related to how this entire industry is moving? Or what is the rationale behind and what do you think that where we are heading within the ERP and this additional operational platform.?
AR: The traditional ERP is the mono left side, and what's acquired is all of these business processes are still required, . Yyour finance is still their audit to cash, procure to pay your, invoice matching, all of these things, or your SEM, is still required. But as we are moving forward, and as these companies are evolving, you can't have a 10-year stable, ERP, . Aand three- or four-years planning for the ERP is two or three years implementing the ERP a 20 year cycle, to go through an ERP, . I think with the changes, and the way the companies are changing, how the market is changing as well, you need to have a solution, which is much more composable, and which can react to all of these changes and help you stay on top of this. So, I think in as a small business becoming headless, for e commerce, it's the same thing, it has to be composable architecture where you, use from Bbest of ERP way of doing things, Best of the Bbest of the breed. So, the combination of all of that, . Aall of these things we have gone through in the last two or three decades. But some of the breeds off the shelves, and then ERP is doing everything in one go and the digital transformation around that. I think where we are getting towards is more of a composable architecture.
TM: I'm sure you work with a lot of different enterprises and multinational billion-dollar enterprises, . Ccan you just share an interesting journey transformation story that you have encountered, where you see, that there was a resistance when you showcase this entire solution? It just shows a bottom-line impact? .
AR: I don't like the word resistance, but there's always reluctance. So, the idea is, I think, like all humans, there's inertia to everything, . Wwe don't want to move. So, this is the same thing which we're tracking, . I've had the same problem all my life, how do we do?. How do I get off the couch and start moving? Once that happens, the journey is much easier, . yYou start seeing the scenery, you start seeing the benefits, your health and everything else, your mental health becomes better, . It's the same thing with these transformations. The first step is always the most difficult, . Sso due diligence can very easily become a non-starter. I've seen companies go through multiple instances of, okay, I need to do something, . Ddo I really need to do something that whole thing becomes a paralysis? But once I think they get started, usually, most companies, especially the large ones, they hit the stride and get going. So, companies which have not changed for 20 years, especially in transportation, when they start moving, and see the benefit, I think they really got on the bandwagon and started moving. So, I think that the key is having the right client and the right kind of due diligence . Tto get started, . but I think the rest of the journey becomes much easier.
TM: Is it also cost effective?
AR: cCost effective in terms of sorry I didn't get it.
TM: in terms of the margin.
AR: So, again, same thing, . Some people like new cars. Why you get a new car? Is it for the margins? Is it for the performance, is it for the for the getting from point A to B, ? Yyour speed might not change, but the whole experience, retaining your customer as well as your own employees become smarter. As you're moving towards the latest status, and the newest technology, your processes are improving, the business is consolidating, and you're set up for a longer term.
So, you don't have an end of life in three years, five years, seven years. You're just moving forward. So, that's a necessary investment in my mind. W whereas, in certain cases, your costs could optimize your ability to do business is another key thing, . Yyou've done business in certain way, you're set up to do it in that certain way. The moment you start churning, reacting to resilience, that disruption and resilience? . Do you have the system for that? Are you set up for that? Or are you set up to be just very stable, very strong and where you are. ? That’s the whole thing. If you're investing, if you are thinking ahead, it becomes much easier to react. If you're not, it just becomes okay, you're very stable, but you will get going down to the stable.
The role of Chat GPT and AI in supply chains
TM: So, let's talk about the elephant in the room, Chat GPT and AI. So, again, in the same report, I was reading that all this investment that was set aside last year was against second order supply chainies, IT transformation, . Nnow, they are reshuffling their budget around the AI. So, what is in AI, and this entire enterprise connectivity module?
AR: AI has been coming. It's been long time coming. We have been seeing some interesting use cases coming to the forefront. In terms of enterprises and AI, I think at this point, we are finally seeing this journal general realization that it is here. The next step is how do we embed that into our processes, . Pproblems remain the same. Chat GPT is not a problem. It's a tool to solve that problem. The problem is what your supply chain you're getting in front of your customers responding to your customers, improving efficiency, . Tthat's still the problem to be solved, . Hhow will you solve it through SCM, through AI, powered SEM towards advanced planning, getting the best kinds of Ooutlook. ? It’s the same problem to solve. There's just one next step in the journey, but we need to adopt it, . Wwe need to make the best use of AI, gGenerative or otherwise. Because gGenerative AI like cChat GPT is just one of those types of AI, . Aand the idea is, how do we embed that into our process? . I think that should be the focus, and that's where, we'll get to once we get through the hype cycle of the technology, like any other technology,
TM: I think that's good. I want to shift gears and want to talk to you; I was looking at the products that you build partly in which you're the brain behind the entire product. Can you just talk about the evolution of that product? What is the solution, where do you stand and how did it start?
AR: So, I've been very fortunate to be part of Visionet for the last two decades, and I think my journey, or our journey has been pretty, straight forward. We have always been an engineering firm trying to solve problems for our customers in the most efficient way. Years back, when we started working, going from off the shelf, or the customized software, to more of an ERP, kind of a world, right idea was how do we serve our customers better. What are the gaps with the gaps that we were finding? work towards, and aAs we go towards the modular or compose architecture, it is more and more apparent, that there's a world around these systems. How do we make those systems work? How do we connect these systems? How do we ensure that they all work as one, ? and then tThose systems are now getting into enterprises. M through multi enterprise is same extension of that.
So, when you have multiple enterprises, multiple systems, the best of the beaoot system, system that that are custom built, . but hHow do they all talk in a standardized way? So, connectivity is the first step, . and aAs we connect, the idea is how do we bring visibility around that. Because they were all built independently, they all have a different backbone.
So, now that we have given a connectivity backbone, can we also provide the visibility for large enterprises, which have complex landscape for technology. How do we ensure the Burness is not tied between I have a CP versus an MX versus order management system versus five commerce platforms. The idea is, how is that serving my customer? . What is the time from a customer placing an order, and that order being fulfilled, ? wWhat is my accuracy? What are my bottlenecks, technology or otherwise?
Those kinds of things that whole visibility to end to end, and going all the way to your multiple enterprises, . Iif you're not fulfilling, somebody else's fulfillingselling. How do we ensure that your customer experience remains the same? Till then provide that visibility, . Aand the third part, I think that we are recently moving towards that now we have the connectivity, visibility, heart, how can we help plan ahead? How do we allow these enterprises to truly collaborate, plan, share the demands, share their ability to manufacture, or ability to deliver to truly kind of come up with end to end their intuisolution.
Connectivity, visibility and control in supply chains
TM: So, I think that's a 360 circle, the connectivity, visibility and control. How can all three come in. This is important if I take a very layman sort of thing in my home, . I noticed, maybe it's not relevant to the enterprise. But I have a smart lock, with a different app; I have the cameras with a different app, and then other things, . Aa different sprinkler system is a different thing. You are connected, but visibility, I think it's very important, . Iin a layman term, I just want to get it.
AR: That's a very interesting example, and if we talk about these, I think everybody's going through that. And that's one of the interesting places where technology, every layman is also using it. So, all these devices were built independently, . Tthe first step was, can we connect to a Wi Fi or secured network? Something like that. That was the first step and that does solve that industry to get where they came on one or two or three different forms. Next step was, if all of them are there, can I have a home station where I can see them?
First step was I just understand my own devices. But as a customer, I have bought these for over five years, . I didn't know ahead what the best kind of tool was. So, the next step was, have the end-to-end connectivity there. Third part is, what else do I need? When dDo I need to go back to a security agency? Do I need to go back to my utility's companies if there's an outage or something like that?
So that's the next step. We're moving towards that, and it's pretty much the same for most enterprises, Same cycle, and then the next step would be the AI. How do I optimize it? How does that thing talk back to me? Like, in fiction movies from 20 years back. I'm talking to a device that could be Alexa. But that's still not come to a point where they talk back to me and have come up with suggestions and similar things. That's where we're getting to.
Topics to be discussed in upcoming Gartner supply chain event.
TM: Okay. I just want to ask one question, which is, that you are one of the speakers in upcoming Gartner supply chain event, which is one of the largest one, . Ccan we just talk about, what are the topics that you're going to talk about in the supply chain?
AR: I think I'm stuck in the supply chain. I'm just kidding. So, the idea is that we are going with this same thing, ; the resilience, the control and the visibility around supply chain, . Hhow do we best move forward as industry towards that. Things like cChat GPT’s are here to stay. T things like what we have learned last few years are there. Now, do we combine these things and as an industry, should we really move forward? That should be an interesting topic.
TM: And in 30 seconds I just want you to talk about, are you thinking about implementing this into your hiking or enterprise innovation.
AR: tTrying to get time to do the hiking at this point.
AR: I think most things in life quite a lot of times, we are already using apps for that. Buzzer to pick me up every weekend.
TM: Good. The time passed really fast, Ahmed, . Iit was a very interesting, informative conversation. The way that you wrap things up, with making this a layman example, . I'm sure when people understand, we will have, questions coming in, . Tthen, we'll share them with you, but you got to promise that after this speaking session with supply chain, you’ll will come back and give us the overview.
AR: Absolutely and I'm looking forward to talking to you again.
TM: Thank you very much, and all the best.
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