Still building your own API or EDI Connections? Are you seeking to learn how to connect and communicate with your supply chain ecosystem effectively and efficiently? Would you like to gain access to the right data, then turn it into actionable insights? Watch Erik Kiser, our CEO and Founder, along with panelists, Gary Master, President and COO at Agile Business Media, Brian Glick, CEO at Chain.io and Inna Kuznetova, CEO at 1010data talk through it during a panel discussion called “Leveraging Today’s Digital Supply Chain – Role of Data Sharing and Collaboration at Manifest 2022.
Gary Master, President and COO, AGiLE Business Media
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to our session. I’m Gary Master. I’m president and COO of AGiLE Business Media with two brands DC Velocity and CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly.
We’ve got a great panel today, and I’m excited because we had a half an hour planning session for the session today. And we actually went an hour and a half, and I had five and a half pages of notes of what they wanted to talk about. We’ve got some really passionate, intelligent individuals here. I want to just tee it up a little bit… you have the ability to type some questions, and I’m going to ask you to hold off on that in this session. I’d like you to ask the questions afterwards because we want to let them go and have some fun giving you some great content.
So we’re going to talk about the whole world of the supply chain crisis and all the things going on with the supply chain under siege with all the different changes going on. And we’re going to talk about the digital supply chain. How many people have been in a digital supply chain session at some point in your life? How many have really, really liked them? Few of you, that’s great. Sometimes though, you get in that digital supply chain, you’re at 40,000 feet, you’re talking about everything about the digital supply chain, you can’t even sometimes agree on anything. And you walk out, you had an out-of-body experience, and you’re going, “What was that about?”
The panel here today, they were asked to keep it real, to put it down to real examples, real world examples and life examples. So I just wanted to let them introduce themselves. And again, we’re going to have a lot of fun. We’re going to talk about why data sharing is important because that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Then we’re going to go to what are some of the real world challenges of it, and where some of the real world challenges or opportunities in it. So Inna, if you would start.
Inna Kuznetsova, CEO, 1010data
My name is Inna, I’m the CEO of a company called 1010data where we pay analytics companies. So we’re a service of very large retail chains, such as Dollar General and Family Dollar, and other national retailers in groceries and pharmacists, and who provide them with retail analytics tools that they use internally, as well as a sharing data between retailers and CPG providers, including a supply chain such as stockins, stockouts, and on-time in full.
Brian Glick, CEO, Chain.io
I’m Brian Glick, I’m the CEO of Chain.io. We are a data integration network that connects freight forwarders, shippers and software companies, largely in the international supply chain. So dealing with visibility, but also things like PO management and customs compliance and sort of the larger issues around supply chain.
Erik Kiser, Orderful founder and CEO
My name is Eric Kiser, I’m the CEO of Orderful. Orderful is a cloud EDI platform. What we do is we make it really easy for companies to integrate with their trading partners. We are reimagining the way that EDI should be traded. Instead of our customers building their own custom point to point integrations, what our product provides is one hub where our customers connect to our API. And then on the back end, what we’re doing is actually transforming, validating and communicating data on their behalf. In a very short amount of time, we’ve been able to build a trading partner network of about 1,500 trading partners that are published and all of those connections are reusable. So anybody that connects to our API can immediately start trading with anybody that’s already published. I’m excited to be here.
Welcome our panel please. First question, let’s get started. Why is data sharing even important? Why are we here?
So we all have this vision of an intelligent supply chain that is flexible and predictive and reacts immediately to customer demand changes. It’s like Santa Claus, it’s wonderful and everybody talks about it and does not exist yet. But we kind of understand the journey of an intelligent supply chain and it starts with digitizing everything and I think as an industry we’re getting close to that or at least on the way. And then you need to apply certain standards to data and then you need to share the data across the chain because if you cannot look at the same data together, you cannot optimize anything, right? You cannot optimize end to end shipping, you cannot optimize stockins and stockouts between retailers and CPGs, if you don’t have a chance to look at the same data, hence data sharing.
I think the reason data sharing is important has actually changed since I’ve been in the industry. My first job ever in this industry, on my first day, I had to install a scanner and a CD-ROM burner. So that as a customs broker, we could scan paperwork and send it to our customer. I used to take the discs on a train because we didn’t trust the mail to get them up there and take the discs to New York and install them on our customers. The reason data sharing was important then was mainly compliance and execution. I need to get this shipment moved, it was very specific to a thing. I think if we look at what Inna does, the reasons for data sharing now are about decision making and creating new value that didn’t exist yesterday. So all we were doing was replacing a fax machine back then, but now it’s about creating new things that just didn’t exist in the world, unless you take data from lots of companies and put them together.
I don’t really have much to add, but I do think that Brian’s points are spot on and Inna’s points as well. We need to integrate, it’s obvious supply chains have to integrate data and connect, to do business. What’s happening now is that with technology, companies are actually able to take it a step further. So instead of just building an EDI integration or connecting with a trading partner, companies are more worried about the workflow of that transaction. So more interested in the lifecycle of, “Did I actually receive this photo request? Did we accept it? And can we track all of the steps that happened within that process?” I think with modern technology, with all the advancements that have come out lately, you know, API’s, etc, people can now actually track those workflows and visualize where their goods are. To Brian’s point, you’re now seeing data visibility platforms, you’ve got project44, Fourkites, you know, they’re leveraging this background, automated data, to help companies make better decisions. And I think that trend is going to definitely continue.
So let’s get real. Let’s talk about some real life examples of where the problems are right now, we all have tons of data, right? We’ve got data all over the place. So where are some of the problems on sharing data internally and externally?
Trust is a big problem, we still run into companies that don’t want to share their data for various reasons, a lot of which are just cultural. So I was on the phone with the head of supply chain for a large hospital chain this week. And I was suggesting to them that they reach out to some of their suppliers and ask their suppliers for more data so that they could do better planning. The procurement environment that they had made it where the supplier, he didn’t believe the suppliers would be willing to share data because there wasn’t trust that it wouldn’t be used against them or mechanized. I think a lot of us who’ve been in the supply chain a long time are used to sharing data with our competitors. You know Company X is a 4PL and Company Y is a 3PL and you have to give them the data, and we’re sort of used to that. But, I think when we look at other areas of the industry, outside of transportation, it is still a new world to let data out of the four walls of your organization. So that’s a big stumbling block.
I think Brian picked up on a very important point. It’s not about technology, right? It’s about people. And level of trust is one thing, then selecting the right form of sharing, and I’m sure Erik will talk more about that. How are you actually going to share what you can? How can you have control over what you’re sharing as opposed to over sharing? And this may be where you do need some help from technology, but those technologies exist as well. And the third point is, we’ve talked for so long about data being the new oil, a lot of organizations are afraid to give that oil away, right? So a good stimulus for that is the new data into money, monetize your data, share it through monetizing but then you have to share it in a way that the other side gets value from it, and this is where certain know-hows come into play.
Yeah, it takes resources to share data, it takes people. As I mentioned, having the right people to actually do the job I think is where a lot of companies struggle. And this is why the supply chain is still integrated over flat files and FTP servers because a lot of companies aren’t investing in the right talent at an early stage to help get them out of the legacy way of trading. I think there are big opportunities for organizations to invest and improve their data operations.
And I think on top of that, there’s a challenge that I see a lot, especially say, inside of a logistics organization, you know, a 3PL or a freight forwarder, where they have a lot of data, and even internally, they’re not quite sure how to wire it between the systems, what to do with the data. So the business process mapping and the best practices. I have another customer, they bought a rating engine, and they have their TMS. The reason they came to us as opposed to just building internally is they didn’t know what the business process should be to share that data. Even internally, they knew, “Okay, we definitely need some sort of price to make it into our TMS, but how do you do that, and what’s the best practice?” It’s much harder than returning the XML file into whatever it has to be.
It’s getting really complicated. Companies are now buying best of breed software. Look at the ERP space, you have these big behemoths like SAP and Oracle and Infor, and an organization would buy their whole product suite. And they would advertise, “We have this integrated product suite. Good luck.” And everybody would struggle to try to even get their own systems talking to each other. But we’ve seen a trend in the market where every leader and their category or industry is moving to a best of breed software model, where you’re not just buying all of SAPs products, you’re buying the best visibility product, you’re buying the best EDI product, you’re buying the best MRP, or whatever it is. That causes a ton of work around data collaboration and sharing. It’s going to continue to be a big challenge. You’ve seen companies like Workato, who’s an iPaaS, I think they just got a $9 billion valuation or something crazy. But you’re seeing more value and turning that job, that collaboration job away from a technical engineering kind of development task into something that a business user can do. Because there is so much of it to do.
Erik brought up a very good question, actually, the question of integrating data, and the balance between doing things in-house versus bringing in an expert. And we can talk as much as we want, but you don’t pull your teeth yourself and you don’t do certain things, you bring in a professional. But in so many cases, we see companies with very lean organizations still relying on IT organizations for such decisions. And for IT organizations it’s a bonanza, right, give me more people and give me more money. And in two years, I will develop something. And they may forget that sharing data is not dumping all your data into a data lake and providing someone access to it. You have to actually do it in a very controlled manner, in a very secure way, with certain reporting in place and certain applications running and certain queries running. And they may not realize that it doesn’t have to take two years, it may take a few months to start if you bring in the right vendor. And this is not a sales pitch for us. There are other vendors who can in different ways integrate data depending on their areas of expertise, whether it’s retail, logistics or shipping, the point is making this loop of trust and understanding that technology vendors will always update software faster and put more effort into new interfaces and new updates and in security because they spread those efforts across multiple companies. And that’s another issue of trust, if you like that we deal within the industry a lot these days.
So you talked about trust. If you go beyond trust, and you look at all the different sources of data for everything across the supply chain, you talk about really data sharing. I don’t even want to mention the word harmonization because that’s just something that we’re not going to go into right now. But as far as sharing the data and making it compatible and everything else. Have you seen some real challenges there, maybe a real world example of a challenge there?
Totally, it’s pretty awful the way that companies actually integrate data today. You know, we represent major retailers and major enterprises. And before our product, what they, what everybody does if you want to have a supplier or a carrier integrate with you, is share a PDF file over email. And that’s the instruction to integrate data with that company. And then maybe the carrier builds an integration, they send the data over an FTP server with an ABC 123 password, not secure. Then they expect the, we call them leaders, but they expect the retailer or the shipper to receive the data. It’s really bad. The way this works today is super archaic. Part of the problem is the way of doing business is so embedded in the supply chain, that it’s really hard to get away from it. But that’s just kind of how it is. Part of the challenge is just having the right people that can help you get through that.
And there’s also the question of the breadth of this industry. And you kind of said that, Gary, but how many different not just pieces of data but uses for data? And, you know, on a surface level, if you just looked at the tech of the two companies, our companies do the exact same thing. And we have the same model, which is to take data from lots of different sources in different formats, put it into a standardized model, and then give it to other people. But we don’t run into each other, particularly in bids. And I certainly refer business to Erik’s company all the time because the areas of expertise in this industry are ones where as we’re buying more and more SaaS, as we’re building more and more integrations, you need specialized partners for different things. We are not great at, in fact, we don’t have a single like deliver this to Walmart interface in our network. And we probably do a better job than you and some of this stuff around like deep international compliance stuff. So it’s not about making the one supply chain thing to rule them all. It’s about really being precise in what you need and finding the right partners.
I think Brian said it very well. A lot of companies are engaged in data harmonization, which is bringing in multiple datasets and integrating them together and then running applications on top of that. But we all do it for different types of data, and have expertise in those areas, which is very important. We have standard connectors, we have standard ways of dealing with data, we have tools for spotting bad data and preventing it from entering into the system. You know, in fact, we use machine learning and a lot of other companies do the same to prevent bad data contaminating the sources, and then you get garbage in garbage out.
I will try to maybe cover a positive example of what we’ve seen in the last few months. So a part of what we do is helping retailers to get over hundreds of datasets into one single platform, and then provide a view for the retailers on their sales and marketing and basket affinity and stockins stockouts and velocity of sales and different stores. And we’re talking big chains, 10,000 stores for themselves and stores, as well as even local corps of maybe 20 to 30 stores. One of our clients did not charge their CPG providers for violating stockins, they were nice to them the nice stores. And they’ve been sharing a lot of other data. They were monetizing their sales data and their assortments data and getting paid by the CPG providers who get enormous value from receiving this data and planning their assortments better. When supply chain issues came in the retailer realized they needed to start setting the fines. But it’s not about getting the fine. It’s about helping their partners to avoid the fines. So one of the first projects that we jointly kicked was actually sharing on time and full data, in addition to everything else they’ve been sharing.
So looking at inventory in very different ways, bringing all those datasets in, publishing reports internally about how different CPG providers are doing it. And then started sharing this data with the CPG providers and it helps both spotters to collaborate very efficiently because they now can look at the same data about how much product you have in the data center and distribution center in storage, on the shelves and plan better.
So, I’m going to share a story on behalf of Rose from LEGO who was supposed to be on this panel and was not allowed to travel. And it’s not a LEGO story, but she and I worked together 20 years ago, on data visibility for a major apparel company. And her job in that, essentially right out of school, was to get the scorecards together and get on the phone with their suppliers in Asia. And every week, go through the vendor scorecard and ask them publicly, “Why is your data compliance low? Why is all this data not lined up?” And then one of the things that the vendors may not have loved, but that definitely happened, was through doing that with a very, very large apparel company, all of those vendors got better at how they service all their other customers as well. So even though it was a painful process, it benefited them, you know, you think of it as a hammer and nail but the nail benefits too in this scenario, because they were able to just become better companies. And so in that chargeback example, you may get hit with those chargebacks, but you’re going to become better and then all of your other customers are going to benefit from that. So there really are win-wins in partnering and sharing more data, even if in the short term, it looks very painful.
We’re on that positive example right now. Thank you very much for transitioning us naturally to have a conversation here. So think of positive examples and also transition them in for this group. What can they take away? What can they do to help them be better data sharers within the organization and outside? So I’m throwing a lot at you, but I know you can handle it.
I think the future is pre-connected. And when you guys buy software, you’re probably buying software to solve a problem. But then you also want it to have as little friction as possible to implement. And that also includes integrating with third parties. It includes integrating with other software providers. To solve that problem, to solve that frictionless sales cycle, software companies are already building integrations to other systems. It’s very common, look at Zapier, they have almost every marketing app connected to their platform. And the reason why they do that is to make it easy for them to pick up new users, offer more integrations for their customers and to make more money. So I think as we continue in this journey in the supply chain, the way we think about integrations is going to change. It’s not going to be so much a competitive advantage, that’s going to be more about operational excellence and everything will be integrated. I don’t know how long that’s gonna take, but it’s gonna take quite a while for EDI to go away. It’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. But there are definitely opportunities for companies to tap into pre-built connections, whenever you’re looking for new vendors or new opportunities.
I’d say make sure your house is in order, especially for service providers, but also, for shippers. We have to assume in the future that your customer or other stakeholder is going to be virtually sitting over your shoulder for every keystroke every day. And I’ve been kind of ranting about this, at shows in this town for five years, but you know that you have to change your operations to adapt to real time data. You know the old tricks that we all learned of, “Okay, I’m gonna just get this work done and then we’ll go back and clean it up.” Or, you know, “We’ll massage the quarterly business review.” Right?
The duct tape doesn’t lie.
Right? Yeah. Well, it doesn’t. If the person sitting there next to you watches you put the duct tape on, you’re not fooling anybody anymore. So, you know, I still think there’s a great deal of blocking and tackling that every company needs to do, to be a good data partner. And certainly this is one of those unachievable goals, right? You can always be better, but there’s so much room to just get better at how you operate. Or when you’re working with your software partners to say you need to structure your software in a way that my customer can participate in every keystroke, they can be in that web portal and do that live chat with us but that live chat is really integrated. It’s not just sitting on the side it actually can go talk to my systems. You know these very, very basic things, because if you give Inna a pile of bad data, she’s going to give you a pile of bad answers. I’m pretty sure.
I’ll give you a team of data scientists and official intelligence to clear it. But you’re right, not all the data can be cleaned. I think it all starts with a couple of questions. It starts with a question of Why? Why do you want to share data? What do you expect to get out of it? I get a lot of discussions today in the industry, especially in the shipping industry. Given my prior background, people come and say, “You help retailers so well to monetize their data, can you help us to monetize our data?” And my question is always, “Well, who would benefit from your data? Who would actually pay money for your data and why?” It usually means it has to be a win-win. Some of your trading partners, upstream or downstream, have to be able to run their business better based on your data, then it becomes an easy problem to solve. And then the second question is, “Let’s get all the data together and look at it and think, what questions would you like to answer about your own organization?” Because, again, if you can create value for yourself internally, then sharing it as the next step will become very, very easy. So just getting all the data in the data lake is an exciting project for internal IT, it’s not a really useful thing to do, unless you can answer the question “Why?” So start with the why. What would you like to get out of it? Or do you want to get a better demand planning schema? Do you want to get a better view of your assortments? Do you want to see which products are orphaned? And come to us. Not necessarily us, bring a group of data scientists to us with those questions. And then usually, the next step is fun. We get a lot of data into the platform, put a couple of data scientists in, come back with insights, but it starts with the “Why?” Because only the business owner can ask those questions.
This is great. We have three minutes and 34 seconds and counting. And I would like a minute for each of you to give a summary. What can they be thinking about? What can they take home with them as something they should be thinking about? Whoever wants to start, go ahead. Whoever wants the last word go ahead.
Okay, well, I can start. This is the year to rewire the supply chain, right at any crisis. Any disruption is a reason to innovate, improve, and start rethinking the business model. So get that extra from your data monetization, make the first step on the journey. But think about what you want to get out of it. Who in your partnership network in your chain of contacts would benefit from the data? And why? How would you benefit from them having data, then it will be easier for you to partner and find a reliable partner to have those discussions and see what’s available.
Yeah, I would suggest treating your integrations as first class citizens in your business. It’s really easy, as Brian mentioned, to duct tape things together. But that creates a ton of downstream problems like garbage in garbage out, the old adage. If you as an organization can look at understanding why you’re integrating with a trading partner, and really treat it as a first class operation, put a little bit of effort upfront to get the workflow right and make sure that you’re actually testing and getting all your scenarios taken care of. Long term, you’re going to benefit greatly from not having to go back and, you know, fix the duct tape. So I would definitely suggest treating all of your integrations as first class in your organization.
So when you’re building your integrations, and when you’re thinking about them, there’s a tendency, and it gets this first class point to think of them as a subproject inside of some other project. And what that constrains you from doing is saying, I’m putting all this energy into collecting all this data and getting it out of my organization. And I’m only going to use it for one thing, because if I have 11 fields available, and I only need four, I’m only going to put the four into the data stream. If you open up that thinking and say what are the core ins and outs of our company, you just really sort of draw that on a whiteboard, you know that our core ins are demand data and our core outs are delivery data, or whatever those things are and model and work to make that data available to people to use, again in a secure way in a reasonable way. When you encounter these new vendors you can innovate faster, you can say I have that data for you. I may have 100 fields that you need three of but thinking of it in that first class way, and getting that data available, your innovators will find ways to use it that they never thought of. I mean, if you think about the first PC and what we do with PCs today, you didn’t build towards the vision of today you built and let millions of people figure out ways to innovate with their personal computer. And you need to do the same thing with data, get it out there in the world, and let your innovation teams and your vendors’ innovation teams or software companies’ innovation teams, do amazing things with it.
I just want to say, “Thank you”. We are out of time unfortunately. Thanks for sharing, thank you for bringing us in at zero. I’m not sure what happens at zero. Nothing bad has happened, so that is good, but thank you for your time. Thank our panelists.
Learn more about each company represented in the panel discussion Leveraging Today’s Digital Supply Chain – Role of Data Sharing and Collaboration:
Orderful is a complete cloud EDI platform for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and technology companies. Forward-thinking companies are using Orderful to replace their existing EDI infrastructure. Our product is an API that enables companies to connect once and trade EDI data with their supply chain. Our customers get to consolidate their EDI integration complexity, quickly enable trading partners as self-service and reduce costs.
AGiLE Business Media
AGiLE Business Media is the leader in both print and online publishing in the logistics and supply chain fields. AGiLE Business Media publishes DC Velocity, a magazine and website, covering the full spectrum of the logistics market, and CSMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly, the only publication focusing solely on the information needs of high-level supply chain decision makers. For more information visit agilebusinessmedia.com.
For more than 20 years, 1010data has helped financial, retail and CPG companies monitor shifts in consumer demand and market conditions and rapidly respond with highly-targeted strategies. The 1010data Insights Platform combines market intelligence, data management, granular enterprise analytics, and collaboration capabilities to empower better business outcomes. More than 900 of the world’s foremost companies partner with 1010data to power smarter decisions. To learn more, visit 1010data.com.
Chain.io is a cloud-based integration platform that connects partners across the global supply chain. Chain.io helps anyone involved in buying or moving products around the world work with supply chain vendors, customers, and software platforms more efficiently. With logistics expertise built into the heart of its software, Chain.io plugs into any ecosystem seamlessly and makes sure the right data is going to the right people at the right time. Customers leverage Chain.io’s network to optimize critical business processes. Chain.io shines when solving complex supply chain challenges and problems that require integrating multiple types of technologies. The Chain.io network includes shippers, logistics service providers, and the software packages that support them.
For more information on Chain.io, please visit chain.io.