Published on October 22, 2020
ERPs have improved company efficiency.
Trusted ledger technology will do the same to business networks.
Over the past two decades, companies have invested in their own efficiency by implementing various ERP systems. Presently, the industry leaders say “Company efficiency improvement has reached its limit, new focus should be developing network efficiency in order to improve competitiveness”. Politics, labor market, and global market conditions are difficult issues for any business leader to consider in their company strategy.
The next low hanging fruit can be reached by establishing a digital supply chain strategy as a part of company strategy. In light of COVID, the moment for this seems to be perfect but the companies should carefully plan around all the mistakes done in ERP system implementations. Millions of euros in investments have been spent, but very little has been done to achieve actual systems interoperability.
Fresh technologies like modern APIs, distributed ledger technology, and machine-readable document standards have reached maturity for implementation and deployment. This offering is now available as a platform for business networks or even ecosystems. We should avoid the mistakes done in the last two decades and focus on the platform to platform interoperability to secure future data flows.
There are simple control questions to be asked by any business leader when moving on to use platforms:
“Do you support global business document standards?”
“Are your API integrations based on relevant standards?”
“Are you offering a testbed to support systems interoperability development?”
It is not in any single company’s interest to develop their own standards for business processes, documents, data elements, and business rules, since this is all done by global standardization organizations. Experienced CIOs say ”Standardization is something you should not do in-house”.
Traditional system integrations can be notoriously complex and difficult to maintain. Properly designed and loosely coupled APIs can, however, bring about much more easily maintained integrations and save costs.
Distributed ledgers make sure that data is secure and immutable, so other members of the network can rely on it. For the first time in technology history, the owner of the data alone can have absolute control over the use of it.
When all these are in place the data will flow in real-time, error-free, and complete with exact timestamps. We call this “trust technology”. In the Core Platform and easy-to-use Core Portal user interface, you will find all these in place.
Published on October 1, 2020
Blockchain technology is still relatively speaking a new kid in the block. Over the past few years, it has been seen in the tech trend charts in various positions, from emerging to world changing, all the way to a failed technology. Most well known application of it is still the cryptocurrency. Most well known potential business application for blockchain is the management of supply chain information. Will it ever happen?
There are several factors which have to be considered for any individual technology to be seen as a mature, let alone a breakthrough tech. The timing has to be right, meaning that everything the tech in question has to mesh with has to be exactly in place and ready - otherwise it just won’t happen. The relevant business scenarios which utilize the technology have to tip from the side of nice-to-have on the side of must-have, or it just won’t happen. Finally, the teams and companies pioneering the application of the technology need to see their way clear all the way to the end, and keep from slipping towards the easy outs and half-measured efforts - or it just won’t happen.
As the perfect timing goes, the relevant international business messaging standards have spread and developed far and wide enough that they can be effectively utilized in a distributed database context. COVID-19 showed us that the supply chains are the most vulnerable targets in times of societal disturbance.
As far as the pioneering team goes, DBE Core has been at it as long as anyone can say they have been - and being an academic research spinoff company, in some aspects for longer than most. We have several years of hands-on experience with software development in blockchain technology. We have researched our way to understanding the critical and peripheral data flows necessary to planning and running supply chains. We have been active part of the work done in international business messaging standards associations and committees, and have learned the ways of applying them in real-world business situations. And we at DBE Core are confident in telling you that it will happen.
Published on September 7, 2020
As someone who has grown up surrounded by modern information technology, the lack of automated or standardized information sharing between organisations is really surprising to me. I did my master’s thesis on the subject. I also worked for a while as a project researcher in a university level research project. There I conducted research interviews in order to find out why automation and standardized information sharing between organisations is not yet the de facto standard.
A large amount of documents are still being exchanged manually. This means emails, csv files, excel spreadsheets, paper mail etc. Automating the information sharing between organisations would, among many other things, bring cost savings and enhance the quality of the shared data by reducing the need to re-key the same data many times.
One of the aims of the research was to get a better understanding on what the current level of information sharing automation actually is in companies. The interviews were conducted in Finland. The interviewees worked in various positions in the manufacturing maritime industry. The documents selected to the interview questions were order, shipping order, waybill, notice of arrival and invoice.
I have here 2 charts that show the current automation level and future automation plans according to the interviews. The number of responses doesn’t add up since some documents were skipped in the interviews if they were not applicable for the interviewees.
As seen in the first chart, invoice is by far the most automated document type. Order is also somewhat automated but there is still work to be done to achieve full automation. All the others documents: notice of arrival, shipping order and waybill are lacking behind in terms of automation levels.
The good news is that many interviewees stated that there were plans to start or continue automating many document types in the future. As seen in the 2nd chart here, invoice, order and notice of arrival were document types that many planned to automate in the near future.
Some interviewees also stated that they had automated some of the less widely automated document types already but were not able to benefit from the automation yet because their business partners had not automated their processes.
It is safe to say that there is still a lot room for improvement regarding digitalization and automated information sharing between organisations. But the way forward is clear.
Published on September 7, 2020
Speed is the new black. Companies can have significant impact on the working capital by making their processes faster. When goods flow faster between companies, it means money flows faster and companies can release tied up capital from the supply chain.
How does this relate to exchanging supply chain documents such as purchase orders and order confirmations and purchase invoices?
Here is how: when making your purchase orders digitally available to your suppliers they can deliver the goods faster and with less errors. Supplier can read in automatically your issued purchase orders and direct them correctly to production without user intervention.
At the same time, you will increase contract compliancy and you can be sure that agreed contractual terms are being followed and make sure you get DPO on the level where you are targeting with your payment terms.
When sharing documents digitally in an ecosystem platform you can have your order base financed in new ways and release working capital even more by adding financing services into the mix. In best case you can have a win-win situation with your supplier where supplier can be paid faster, and you can extend your payment term.
It is quite common to share materials such as documents, presentations and spreadsheets in platforms where the benefit is that you know you are always accessing the latest version, you can share it with anyone and you can see the version history.
When sharing your purchase documents in a platform you do not get only these benefits but in addition you help automate your business partners processes and you have new ways of accessing financing services to improve working capital.
At DBE Core Ltd, we have created a digital platform which solves the problem of incomplete information exchange between companies. Thinking behind it is based on scientific research on business process automation and information models, and the solution which has been created is genuinely disruptive. Our network platform can be accessed through a cloud based interface, so you can run your business from a laptop - in the end, the network functions best when integrated directly in your purchasing management software.
Each business process can be described in a message, and we are supporting the UBL standard’s core version of such messages. This is the basis of our information model, and Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric blockchain takes care of the data integrity and trust between parties. To begin with, we can help digitize most of the routine purchasing workflows between you and your business partners. Immediate cost savings emerge from faster and fault-tolerant work processes in both ends.
Our Core Portal turns a buyer's order into a pre-filled order response from the suppliers side. Core Portal makes it possible for you to offer correct and reliable information to the supplier, who in turn can then complete the order information and confirm it. Having these two processes synchronized all the way up to the invoice will significantly reduce errors and unnecessary work.
However, this is not the end of this story. As soon as information can be trusted, several new aspects will emerge. A banking sector professional commented on our platform: “When the buyer and seller agree to share business transaction data with the financer, each transaction can be considered reliable and visible in real time. This allows for quicker financing, for example for the purpose of securing working capital. You can add the reference information in such a form to the invoices of micro companies that invoice information moves accurately to payment transactions.”
This is yet another truly disruptive change brought on by blockchain technology. Suppliers, if willing, can simply click ‘OK’ for automated financing, and the only base requirement is to participate in sharing reliable data in real time. When both the buyer and seller participate in the DBE Core Platform, to start with using the DBE Core Portal, their businesses can reap the benefits of digitalization. Let go of the emails and move on to the blockchain cloud!
Applying the DBE Core information model will make direct ERP integrations to the Core Platform faster and simpler. You mostly need to configure your firewalls to let the traffic pass, and fine tune your existing APIs to work with ours.
There is good news for the people who are in the front lines actually making sure that these processes happen! We have early research evidence that using our platform has positive associations for human values such as security, taking care of your colleagues and business continuity. People will feel better when they know that errors and mistakes are being eliminated automatically. What we are seeing is that digitizing your routine business process work will also foster innovation and give you room to prosper!
October, here we come :)