Social Networking and the Modern Supply Chain: A Dialogue Spanning Multiple Social Networks

Multiple Network Members Questions

It is an interesting aspect of social networking that diverse yet related questions/commentaries can be posed to create an answer stream (think strand commonality) that can collectively result in a cohesive dialogue in which all stakeholders obtain the answer that are applicable to their specific situation.

Although rudimentary in its composition (rudimentary in that it only addresses multiple elements within a single relational strand), this article begins to illustrate the basic principles behind Web 4.0. (Note: Web 4.0 simultaneously manages multiple relational strands consisting of multiple elements. Web 3.0 conversely is structured around the principles of word semantics in which there is an attempt to identify and correlate multiple elements within a single relational strand.)

Therefore, and extending beyond the semantic elements of Web 3.0, Web 4.0 is an “intelligent engagement mechanism capable of assembling and managing seemingly disparate streams of information (relational strands) into a collective outcome that has real-world applicability.” And it is in this real-world applicability that the greatest value from a supply chain perspective can be achieved. Therefore, the primary purpose of this post is to introduce the supply chain professional to the thought process behind an enterprise’s (contemplated) utilization of social networking as a viable supply chain tool.

Original Network Member Comment (Viadeo, June 27th, 2008)

Craig Brown - Senior Manager, Customer Experience Strategy – Allstream (Canada)

Last week the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, gave a keynote address at the Linked Data Planet conference in New York.

Since bringing us Web 1.0 he’s been busy on his next vision – Web 3.0, commonly referred to as the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web extends the World Wide Web such that the semantics of information and services on the Web is defined. In the Semantic Web a computer understands the meaning and context of words. For example, a Google search based on this principle would understand the question, understand and analyze all knowledge available, and link the two.

From a technical and standards perspective, central to making the Semantic Web possible is keeping information free and available to use in the Linked Data format. Said Berners-Lee, “We all want to do stuff with data. Let’s get it on the Web and do stuff with it, and have one standard for doing that. Linked data is a very simple set of rules of putting (this data) on the Web.” (PI comment: Historically attempts at standardization have at best proven to be an onerous and ultimately unproductive task – see my past articles on the Change Management Myth - within even a single enterprise. Therefore, attempting to standardize the “rules” no matter how simple is not likely to succeed in an environment as diversified as the world-wide-web. By using an agent-based model approach, rather than asking the user to change or adapt to a new set of rules, Web 4.0 identifies, understands and utilizes diverse information re multiple elements in its present format. In essence, it adapts to the real world versus attempting to change it.)

There is a dedicated team at the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) working to standardize this framework that if brought to its full potential promises changes in how we use information that are just as revolutionary as we’re experiencing with Web 2.0.

Web Resource Link:

Internet News Article; W3C Semantic Web homepage - contact the author for link details

My Viadeo Response (July 2nd, 2008)

I reviewed the above post by Craig Brown on June 27th and found it interesting.

However, Web 3.0 is in reality the bridge to Web 4.0. And it is Web 4.0 that is critical to sustainable business success for the very reason that it represents the transition from a collective interface to a viable intelligent engagement mechanism capable of assembling and managing seemingly disparate streams of information into a collective outcome that has real-world applicability.

Think of it this way, what are the common element(s) linking the different strands represented by Kodak’s digital imaging marketing strategy, Higher Education supplier engagement programs and the development of regionalized Clusters? (Note: the link cannot be ascertained through the correlation of common words.)

A question of greater importance is how the collective outcome of these individual elements within multiple strands will impact you or your organization? (Note: an added twist is that the collective outcome will likely be different for each individual.)

Web 4.0 will tell you this within a matter of seconds.

What Berners-Lee is talking about with his Semantic Web is just the initial steps toward recognizing the key elements of commonality within a single strand. It’s almost like reaching the conclusion that the world isn’t flat, but round, yet still not having a clear understanding of its actual composition.

The semantic methodology is limited and has a high potential for being unreliable as it focuses on word similarity thereby making the assumption that this is indicative of a relational element. Extensive real-world testing has proven that this is not the case.

That said it is however a step, albeit a small one in the right direction, because the world, after all, is not flat.

Web Resource Link:

Similarity Heuristics, Iterative Methodologies and the Emergence of the Modern Supply Chain - contact the author for link details

Original Network Member Follow-up (Viadeo, July 22nd. 2008)

Craig Brown - Senior Manager, Customer Experience Strategy – Allstream (Canada)

Hi Jon, thanks for your comment – very insightful. I do agree that the ultimate development of the semantic web will have to include more than word similarity and context before we reach our ultimate, desired outcome – the Web 4.0 as you describe it (incidentally I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that term before!).

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on how Web 3.0/4.0 would apply in the context of supply chain management; I can imagine many possibilities.

Original Network Member Question (LinkedIn, July 29th, 2008)

Octavio Ballesta – Management Consultant, Corporate Strategist – Inelectra (Venezuela)

What will be the impact, if any, of social networking in the enterprise?

Social networks have been amazing and powerful tools to get in touch to professionals around the world looking for new job opportunities, entrepreneurs avid to engage in new business opportunities, professionals who want to achieve knowledge regarding the latest business trends, and people who are looking to have fun.

In most enterprises, the usage of social networks like LinkedIn, Xing or Facebook is a practice that still is not well accepted in the corporate context when it is seen as a mere distraction with little or no value for the business.

In a corporate context highly competitive and volatile where knowledge sharing in cultures driven by innovation and customized workplaces that use Technology to propitiate effective collaboration, I can envision a business scenario where social networks with professional value like LinkedIn, will be advantageously utilized in delivering business agility to achieve the business goals.

From your professional perspective what kind of impact do you foresee in the next generation of social networks applied to the enterprise? Do you know from successful initiatives of applying social networks in the enterprise?

My LinkedIn Response (July 29th, 2008)

A very interesting question Octavio, and one in which the initial approach is to first understand the current transition from the Web 2.0 platform to Web 3.0, and ultimately the establishment of Web 4.0. The latter is where true business transformation will take place.

As a means of providing insight into the above synopsis, the following is a discussion that originated in the Web 2.0: The Organization of The Future Forum on Viadeo* (another of the numerous social networks similar to the ones to which you had referred).

*Note to reader – refer to the Viadeo exchange with Craig Brown referenced above.

My Concluding Comment – Both LinkedIn and Viadeo (July 29th, 2008)

To begin Craig, I took the liberty of sharing our earlier exchange within the format of a related question that recently appeared on the LinkedIn network (re Octavio Ballesta).

I also directed the individual (as well as other LinkedIn respondents) to your forum as a means of stimulating an expanded discussion.

Regarding your question in terms of the modern supply chain practice, there are of course two answers.

The first provides a higher level, operational perspective, while the other delves into the technical theory and research methodologies employed to deliver a viable platform.

In the case of the former, and referring to an excerpt from my newest conference Social Networking and the Purchasing Professional of the Future, I take a more “introductory” approach as outlined in the following text:

“As an international speaker and recognized authority on supply chain management, it never ceases to surprise me that very few supply chain professionals know about Social Networking. Although there is a periphery understanding through mainstream brands such as Facebook, only 10% of my audiences are familiar with the term Social Network. An even smaller percent (if that is possible), understands the impact that Social Networks can and do have on their profession both individually and collectively.

The fact that social networks initiate, develop and will ultimately define relationships in the 21st century means that this emerging “medium” will play an important role in effective supply chain practice.”

With only 10% of all supply chain professionals being somewhat familiar with the term social networking, I highlight the key areas as it relates to understanding the core elements of social networking, leveraging its inherent strengths and assessing its risks versus returns. (The risk component is something that has taken on a greater level of importance, especially in light of recent articles such as the one by Robert Parkins in Information Week titles Irony, they name is 2.0.)

From a technical perspective, I will refer you to the following links, which will provide you with the ground level aspects of my research.

Similarity Heuristics, Iterative Methodology and the Emergence of the Modern Supply Chain; Optimization Modeling and the Modern Supply Chain (A PI Q&A); Is Ford’s auto xchange the “Real Deal?" - contact the author for link details

Finally, Web 4.0 is a term I coined some time ago when Web 2.0 first began to appear on the “mainstream” radar screen. Web 2.0 was important in that it provided some context for my work. I will be launching the web4world web site in the very near future.


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