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Social Networking & Contracts

July 18, 2013

Today I turn once again to Logistics Viewpoints as the inspiration for my comments. Adrian Gonzalez has been exploring the impact of social networking on the management of supply chains. In summary, he makes the following points:

* Social networking is not about socializing, but about  facilitating people-to-people communication and collaboration, which is  at the heart of managing and executing supply chain processes.

* Social networking goes well beyond Facebook, LinkedIn, and  Twitter-it includes virtually all of the leading software vendors that  companies currently use to manage their business processes.

* We’re seeing the rise of Supply Chain Operating Networks -the business equivalents of Facebook and LinkedIn, which are enabling  communities of trading partners to communicate, collaborate, and execute  business processes  in more efficient, scalable, and innovative ways.

* If deployed and used correctly, social networking will result in less work, not more for business professionals.

I am not sure that I agree with the final point. It seems to me that increased connectivity has actually led to mushrooming of work volume, not a reduction. But there is no doubt that networking tools allow us to do things quite differently, much faster and in many ways better than in the past. And regardless of how we feel about them, they are certainly on their way.

Practitioners in contract and commercial management are right at the heart of supply chains. It is therefore critical that we understand how these networking technologies can affect us. We have not been amongst the early adopters of business software, preferring to believe that ‘automation’ does not apply to knowledge workers. Indeed, when we think of social networking tools, I bet many of us are considering the risks and dangers associated with their use, rather than the business benefits that could flow.

Increasingly, failure to adopt and adjust to technology makes any group appear out of touch and disconnected from the reality of the business world. So grasping the initiative on how we might make use of emerging network tools is not only useful, but perhaps fundamental to our continued relevance. Among the more obvious areas that strike me are:

- how should social networking affect the timing of involvement? For example, can we use such tools to be far more engaged with our counter-parts in customers or suppliers at an earlier phase, or indeed as a part of the on-going relationship?

- how should social networking tools affect some of our traditional contracting practices and terms, for example anything to do with notices, or change management, or performance reviews?

- how should social networking impact performance management and the creation of common repositories and versions of the truth? How can it bring immediacy to reporting and problem solving, rather that relying on periodic data that may be irrelevant by the time it is available?

To what extent are you actively exploring this area and its potential for competitive advantage? And what other aspects of social networking should we be considering as we prepare for the future?

Improving our use and understanding of technology is one of the topics that will be addressed at the next IACCM Americas conference – see http://www.iaccm.com/amer13/ for details

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