The Socialization of the Supplier Integration Sector

In my daily work as an Industry Analyst and Solutions Advocate, I am finding that the terms, “social supply chain”, and “supplier collaboration” are showing up with increasing frequency. However,  the inclusion of  opportunistic communications supplementing a supply chain infrastructure (these include EDI-based systems such as ordering automation, e-Invoicing, and generic supplier enabling); needs to be well understood and carefully implemented. I am  emphatically a proponent of fresh ideas, and  firmly in favor of  enhancing supplier autonomy.  However,  many B2B platforms, even those developed by experienced companies, fall victim to featuritis – the addition of functions without a concomitant understanding of what or who they serve.  If the industry as a whole simply must conceptualize the benefits of social media on supply chain IT, let’s at least think it through, together. Here are some elementary concepts in brief:

Today, we practice top down supplier management – something that  looks and feels inflexible to most suppliers –

cloudap

“thou shalt use this Implementation Guide”, thou shalt use X12 850 or EDIFACT ###,  with these modifications”. – – -well…that seems at odds with any vendor’s ideal model. The VANs, as a group, have offered communications and connection to ERP and order + shipping. That’s nice. Continue reading

MIcrosoft could increase search share overnight with Name change, says branding experts

A group of Linguists and Brand Equity analysts have determined after conducting an extensive survey, that Microsoft could increase its search market share in the Mature user Populations by changing the name of its search engine, from “Bing”, to “Bingle”. The lead scientist on the project, Dr. Moshe ben-Maimon, of the University of Tel Aviv, says that, “the older populations are more prone to trust two syllable on-line brands that end in “…le”.

The Japanese researchers contributing to the project concur with a set of targeted cultural adjustment for Asian demographics.

MIcrosoft should change Bing to BIngle. The Nice young lady, that social networking researcher who cries at conferences…..declined to comment for this report. Danah Boyd, that’s it, she has never written anything on this phenomenon.

Twitter Downtime is semi intentional

I have it on flimsy authority that some of the problems facing Twitter’s technical architecture were addressed long ago, and that somehow, the madcap idea was to let the problems linger as test of the community’s loyalty, or rather, its “index of need”.

By letting the problems fester while keeping the lion’s share of what needs repairing in a back pocket, the management at Twitter has divined what few can answer via surveys, i.e., how much do people really want and need this service.

I have often said, (mostly to myself as I have no industry profile or juice), that the problem with most social networks is that they have no mission critical use case; well, now we know, what with all the articles and posts on nothing but Twitter downage, Twitter Architecture, Twitter Monetization, that Twitter does have a mission critical use case – whatever that is to each user.

Keeping the repairs in abeyance is a stroke of genius. A good friend of mine who writes messaging applications for BIG distributed finance systems says that, “This Twitter thing could just be done right as a ground up restart, we carry much more traffic with a far more complex transaction and message profile.”

Sacramento – the sacred place where no tech gets done.

None that you have heard of, anyway. That’s because what goes in the valley, behind the funding, the side deals, the dirty deeds, is profane. Just like a David Lynch film title, town monikers such as Sunnyvale, conjure a veil of hidden evil. Sand Hill Road, envisions a den of vipers hiding in the obviously gritty substance.

The Bay Area will garner fame yet again for the redundant capital placed in YAVSS and YASN. Yet Another Video Sharing Site and Yet Another Social Network will be our legacy for this upcoming foul year of our lord 2008.

The vortex of financial woes in the larger economy, which thankfully shall not be repeated here, will extend inexorably toward the cherished technology forges of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area tech shops, crammed full of ‘Silicon Valley Undertakers’; men and, increasingly women who have developed a serial reputation of raising, burning, and selling off half started technology properties, many of the last round, clones of YAVSS, and YASN.

So Sacramento may have an exalted name and no tech credentials, but the Silicon Valley is unholy altogether in it’s capitalization practices of late.

It sometimes happens that vertical markets with proven business models in the old economy, primed to take advantage of the new Web 20 technologies that have sometimes languished in consumer ventures, are slapped down good’o, by those who should know better. These smaller, saner markets deserve a hearing, but are often shut out by the noise of the YAVSS and YASN. The unholy gatekeepers? Please – the VC partners. The blood of the valley will ultimately be on their hands by way of their closing every avenue to some of the best blue-collar mobile ventures.

And, no, I’m not just speaking of ThruDispatch, my errant venture. I’m speaking of tales of woe gleaned from entrepreneurs with much better credentials and curriculum vitae than myself.

This article shall be extended when I cool down.

The Demon Bride of Twitter

The Demon Bride of Twitter

“I am eating”

“I am Going here…”

“I have Come from there”

“I have baked a cake”

“I am happy”

“I am sad”

“I am a Gentile, I am a Jew”

“I am at XYZ place;anyone here want to meet up?”

Phew….I worry about the Demon bride of Twitter – a swinging hip chick with a modern job in the crossover laced techno-branding sphere. Profiles on Flickr, Facebook, Myspace, and umpteen other presence services.

She is, by anyone’s measure, riding the new wave of social media. I’m sure she has a Second Life, if even only as a professional dalliance.

I worry about the Demon bride of Twitter. I worry about the industry as a whole the way I worry about family members. Maybe I need to worry more about my consulting practice? Continue reading

Ejected from Business Incubator: Brilliant, Bipolar Hiroshi – Part One

So, you want to start a small, services based mobile messaging venture to serve the independent automotive trades-people. Fine, you will need a J2ME client for the Nextel platform (90% of towing and auto trades are Nextel accounts with 1 or 2 phones). Then you need a server and portal architecture, etc.

I started all of this with an actual system that I built in Salem NH where the focus was a Fax to Nextel gateway and a Web dispatch console. What I needed was a new architecture for automated ‘flow-through’ dispatch. I didn’t think my personal (dwindling) resources would be enough to bootstrap the venture (I should have  done so a year ago), so I went in search of capital.

Never mind being employed as a freelance analyst for product sector research. As someone who occasionally contracts for institutional investors –  I was unable to get traction on the dilution path. I had moved from Boston, working on the Peninsula for six months and venture campaigning for six months (wow, a year).

I’m a little worn out, I’ll tell ya. What is it gonna take to get a sane venture off the ground? I need an enthusiastic programmer / engineer that believes in the business’ potential, or one who is bored and needs a project to sink teeth into in order for us to get to functional prototype. Where oh where?

Back to the incubator to track down a guy I met briefly, but who seemed suited to my strategy: the brilliant, bi-polar, Hiroshi – the man who dreams in code.

Like everything else connected to the launch of ThruDispatch, this was to be somewhat of a fiasco. But dear reader, believe me, ThruDispatch is a good, solid idea that will foster a sustainable, Web-based business that shall truly serve its users with a real, not imagined, business oriented social networking service.

Read on:

Continue reading

Bedrock Needs, Social Network Fluff

This is a story of un-served and under served markets. This is also a tale of saturated markets that also happen to be speculative in their very nature. Lately, Venture Capital has been flowing into a considerable number of ventures piloted by a dubious mix of characters. There is an oft heard adage quoted many times in the cannon of startup literature, “the team is more important than the product – rather a great team with a ‘meh’ product than a brilliant product with a ‘meh’ team. How can you argue with that?

But we are seeing a flood of money being poured into ventures that, in all honesty, can’t be called serious. If it was merely the duplication of existing and unproven models, then you might argue that the cadre of privileged VC fund partners who are responsible for the Pilate-like ‘thumbs-up-down”, then maybe the funds are just playing the odds. They feel the need to play in the space, and dare not be left out of the madness.

Obviously, I wasted much time as a lone wolf trying to pitch ThruDispatch to these funds; I’m not even sure I want to be the CEO, CFO, CTO amalgam that the grant of such benevolent dilution confers.

But again, what can you say when the attributes of a real, recession-proof, service-based venture is proffered and rejected so…summarily. Here we have an under served market, a real business, even a modest one, that is based on real, preexisting client constituency who has been well surveyed and who are eager to pay subscriber fees to use such a system.

It must be ….me? Fine. No academic credentials, bootstrap career through the trades, and now, very modestly self-employed. I have a few nice recommendations and one or two marquee clients. Im not VC material.

And as of now, I don’t want it anymore. They don’t want me, I don’t want them. Lesson learned.

So if it only took me since 2005 to learn this, and there is still absolutely no competition in the hosted mobile dispatch for independent automotive services space?

I will persevere by seeking partners in the conventional mobile workforce management space, and keep trying to find a small development team that might take this on the cuff for equity, while I work the marketing and field build-out.

Social Networks: New Age Solution to Problems of the Old Economy

I’m a curmudgeon, a hard headed analyst. I compete with much larger agencies to help companies find alternative product strategies when first efforts are running out of steam. I point out weaknesses and overlooked opportunities, find partners, and debunk shoddy market volume figures proffered by staff in order to keep projects funded, or to justify their existence of such. My advice is often ignored – until much later after my contract is long over. That’s when they dredge up my reports and presentations and go over them with a highlighter.

Strategies for Social Media, in particular, have been a challenge when soft pedaling my services in the outreach phase. Companies want to just jump in and create systems from whole cloth, offer white box services, or create Facebook apps – all without a thought as to what interactions they are trying to foster, who they are endeavoring to connect or enable, or what model they are trying to exploit. Forget any reality checks for monetization, even in the soft sense of labor savings or process streamlining.

No, when an organization has made up its mind, the strategic issues are often put aside, and the project proceeds apace to implementation. Bad for me, good for the latest crop of Social Media systems designers; all power to them. We will see how it shakes out, long term.

But I am a staunch advocate of applying New Age solutions to Old Economy problems. Continue reading

A Sleigh Full of Angels; another day in the life of ThruDispatch

I was soooo nervous; Mr. East Coast Analyst turned entrepreneurial adventurer mooching around the city of San Francisco, riding up to this fine loft South of Market to pitch to…..who were these guys again? Yes, yes, a group of accredited investors – angels. These gents agreed to see me, and here I was riding their private elevator.

Woosh. There I am right in the suite, the home of Daniel Xavier Thornton (not his real name), a fabulously wealthy retired gent who made his fortune in the heyday of HP, Intel, Xerox. He worked for them all as an engineer, executive, advisor, and board member. For over 20 years, he and his close cohort have been placing seed funding east and west. These fine gents were notable for sometimes placing bets on good ideas from team-less subject matter experts; they are not impressed with voluminous business plans, they invest on the gut. Sometimes (often) they help build the teams and go hands on with operations. Sharp, mature, modest,  wise angels.

Whenever they addressed me they always used my first name in an almost formal manner, “Alan, we hate most of these Web 2.0 guys, we want to get back to investing in real inventions”. “Alan, can you tell us more about your background as an electronics technician?” “Alan, please don’t tell people who we are, you can do that blog thing, but change our names and location”.

Sure guys. Continue reading