This blog is about business model innovation and disruption in the delivery of collaborative Supply Chain Management processes. The story starts in the Adelphi theatre in London that’s hosting the musical: Kinky Boots. People that know me a bit will not be surprised that I would normally avoid musicals, especially if they are about middle aged man dressing up like their mom. I couldn’t have been more wrong! We were out with the Quyntess Team in London and had decided together to see this typical British musical together.

The storyline: The musical is after a true story: A traditional Northampton shoe factory making brogues. The son Charlie, the 5th generation Price shoe makers, doesn’t see any life in the business of his father and heads off for London. The father suddenly dies and Charlie is in charge and feels the responsibility for the staff, many of whom he knows since his childhood. After an unplanned encounter with a drag queen called Lola who is harassed by two men, the real story starts. The company re-invents itself starting to make high end “kinky boots” for drag queens in man sizes, leveraging the traditional handmade shoe making techniques. The members of staff also go through radical transformation: Most of them being very conservative they are tossed and turned between losing their job, completely accepting change in what the company is about, how they think about gay people, etc.

Most companies will not change the business model that made them successful and generate their revenues and profits. This is why disruption generally comes from outsiders that see that things must be done differently. Disruption is probably the most over used business word of 2016. Radical transformation however is very strong if it’s not forced upon a company but coming from the DNA that pushes you to always challenge yourself and the things you did so far.

What is so kinky about the new shoes of Supply Chain Management?

  • They are Network Powered
  • They represent the consumerization of business applications
  • They increase the speed of change

Network Powered

Most SCM applications today are delivered as a “suite” by large ERP conglomerates acquiring competitors and offering SCM collaboration models “inside out”. Business Networks have been around for more than a decade, starting typically with EDI connections and evolving into SCM functionality. Virtually all of them were acquired by the IT giants who put the acquired network in the center, not the user.

The essential difference of the Tradeshift platform is that it puts the supplier in the center. We are all suppliers and all of us are selling something! The platform is free for the buyer and completely open: Tradeshift will build apps on the platform, but so can other companies like Quyntess. Even partial competitors like Microsoft Dynamics build their own app and so can a customer like Nike. The main challenge in SCM collaboration is reaching the community. With an open and free platform, the hurdle for adoption is the lowest one possible.

Consumerization of business applications

Last year’s buzz word was “Millennials”. In the meantime, the millennials aren’t quite the decision makers in companies yet but the middle aged executives are all hooked to their smartphones as well. They get used to go out and find this very specific app that does exactly what they need. In Supply Chain Management there is huge pressure to deliver, to collaborate faster and more effectively with more partners in the supply chain. To absorb mergers and deliver results much faster than both IT departments can only decide how they are both going to use SAP together.

One CIO of an early adopter of our SCM apps told me: “I realize now that I must completely rethink how we will deliver functionality to the business with such a platform”. Although we are all talking about being user centric and agile, the reality is that the business environment requires changes to be made so quickly that a center led organization simply can’t cope with the speed of change and management of the integration challenges. With 200 3rd party apps in the App store by the end of 2016 and even more developed by 3rd party best of breed specialist, the Tradeshift app store isn’t quite a match to iTunes but certainly changing the game how consumerization helps SCM.

Speed Of Change

Our Kinky Boots only steal the show if they have an audience and the audience embraces them. This inspires the real changes that takes place if companies start collaborating. It’s great to see how suppliers are exploring our business network themselves, looking for other customers on the network and inviting them to collaborate on this platform as well. Have you ever seen an add campaign for Whatsapp? That’s why.

Conclusion

If you recognize any or some of the 3 fashion trends mentioned above you should consider to change your old shoes, repaired and polished for too long, with some real “Kinky Boots”. You can gladly keep your old beloved shoes for the “indoors” and head on new paths towards collaborative business models with the new ones. To use Lola’s quote (lead character from the musical) however: “Change your opinion and you will change the world”.

Enjoy the easter holidays and a “kinky” 2017!

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