Supply Chain Shaman

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IBM: You Can Do Better

An open letter to IBM.
Dear IBM:
This week, I attended your Smarter Commerce Conference in Orlando (#IBMCSGS). I am sorry that I had to leave early due to personal reasons (life goes on), but I wanted to send you a quick note with some feedback.
I love the Smarter Commerce message. It is brilliant. It makes me hopeful that a technology provider can make a difference. However, on the main stage in Orlando, I felt that you under-delivered. My specific concern is in the area of business-to-business (B2B) processes.
I have covered the technology market as an analyst for the last ten years. I find the market rife with opportunists. Unfortunately, too few leaders lead. With your century of delivering technology innovation, I expect more.

My Perspective. 

You have a lot of the right stuff: products, global presence and clout.  I strongly feel that Smarter Commerce needs to be more than smarter clicks. I think that bricks matter.  I think that you do too. At the conference, I think that you have missed this larger opportunity.
So, who am I to make such a bold message? And how can I take such a hard stance against an important vendor of technology? Simply put, I am a person that cares. I write for an audience that needs you to do more and I think leaders often need a gentle push to do the right thing. Please accept my feedback.
You can easily discount it. If you share this open letter with your customers, and ask them for comments, they may tell you that I am known for a forward-looking vision. Some may even think that I am “too far out there.” They will probably comment that they had a great time in Orlando and that the event was expertly executed (which it was). My caution is that you will not hear this feedback from your customers. As you read this blog post, think back to the words of Henry Ford, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.” I think that it applies here. I think that you are automating an “old horse.”  Just as a friend has the courage to tell you that you have “spinach sticking in your teeth”, I care enough to give you the feedback directly.

My Plea: Please Lead.

Analytics can help solve the world’s bigger problems. You have great assets. And, wonderful minds. I love the message. Please take my challenge and step up to deliver on a Smarter Commerce B2B Vision. Use new forms of analytics to power the End-to-End (E2E) value network.
Smarter Commerce needs to be more than mining customer sentiment, digital marketing, convergence in B2C, and automating efficient supply chains. I want to see you talk about outside-in processes, digital business, and market-driven value networks that can effectively deliver on value-based outcomes. (For clarity on what Market-drive Value Networks means please reference the recent report that I wrote and posted on slideshare at
In short, I would like to see Watson play more than Jeopardy. I am sorry that I cannot “blue wash” the gap that I see. Yes, I know that you have powerful assets with your acquisitions of Demandtec, Emptoris, ILOG, LogicTools, and Sterling Commerce, but they were built for the last decade. They need to be overhauled to embrace big data, the Internet of Things, visual/social data, and advanced analytics. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has made organizations more efficient, but not more effective. It is about more than the automation of order-to-cash and procure-to-pay.
Some of the concepts that I think are important are outlined in the table below. I welcome your feedback on my challenge. I can go on and on, but let me give you a few examples.:
Field to Fork. I work with agricultural chemical companies, food and beverage manufacturers and grocery retailers. This value chain faces deep challenges. World demand for food has outstripped supply for the last five years. There is 20-30% waste in fresh produce or protein supply chains due to the lack of sensing and automation. I think that it is a great application for Smarter Commerce.
I like what you are doing with the Signal Demand partnership, but I want to see you do more. Optimization needs to be combined with learning systems to orchestrate volume, mix and price to improve decisions throughout the value network. These new forms of analytics for demand and supply orchestration could help power answers to solve compliance issues for food safety and corporate social responsibility.
I would love to see you work with industry to bring new solutions that would allow farmers to connect with suppliers to more effectively deliver on the four moments of truth of agriculture (planning, planting, harvest and finishing) to improve harvests, redefine food safety, and enable green supply chains. This is a big data supply chain problem. I envision the use of social technologies, digital images and mapping, demand insight data and better design of the value chain to eliminate waste.
Health and Wellness. We all agree that health care needs an overhaul. One of the issues is that we are focusing on the wrong outcome. How so? Our current value chains focus on efficient sickness (check in and out of the hospital, effective distribution of government subsidies, and automation of records) versus health and wellness (sensing of the body and more effective treatments in the home). I would love to see you lead and drive a new effort to redefine value-based outcomes through the Internet of Things (sensing body conditions), and driving learning systems to improve wellness and then provide sensing to suppliers and the greater medical community. In my research, healthcare providers believe that diabetes, heart disease and obesity are great places to start.
Smarter Cities.  The coordination of transportation also needs your help. Customer expectations are rising. Retailers want smaller shipments that can also have a lower carbon footprint. No single company can solve the issues of empty miles. The number of trucks running empty on our roads is the same as a decade ago. The building of value networks to better manage transportation and fuel requires a new approach. It needs a leader.

Sometimes It Takes Tough Love.

So, in closing, thanks for reading my feedback. As you digest it, please do not waste time for either of us, by unleashing your team of very capable analyst relations to silence me. Instead, please focus on three thoughts:
I would like to be your partner. I want to make Smarter Commerce real for B2B. It is about much, much more than efficient supply chains.
I believe in you. You can do more. I want you to be more effective in building the E2E vision for value networks. It is about more than efficient industry processes. We are at a tipping point.
I care. It matters. We need leaders to lead. We need IBM to be about more than B2C. Let me know how I can help.

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