We talked in the predictions for 2011 about the evolution of visibility for a 'hard to justify' blue sky vision, to one facilitated by a specific use case. Here is what we had said:'Supply Chain Visibility Will Climb on the IT Application Priority List a Manufacturing Companies Increasingly Identify Critical Use Cases to Drive Both Cost Savings and Improved Service Levels'. It was, and remains, the contention of IDC Manufacturing Insights that perhaps companies need to think about visibility in
I think part of the answer may well be that they are not. There is no question that the grand aspiration for comprehensive end-to-end visibility is expensive, requires a great deal of faith, and has largely not progressed. At the same time though, business pain points and uses case like supply chain traceability have moved visibility capabilities forward significantly - just in more narrow, niche ways. And this begs the question of how (or should) companies consume visibility – in other words, how will they embed the capability into their operations. There is something to be said for investing in a visibility layer that sits on top of a broad range of applications – much as companies have done with business intelligence – but this will tend to take one back to the 'invest on faith' and blue sky vision that has proven to be ineffective at spurring progress. It seems far more sensible, in the view of IDC Manufacturing Insights, to embed the visibility capabilities you need into the specific application that is facilitating a particular pain point, or business use case. This way, the cost/benefit trade-off is clear and can be judged in the absence of broader, less quantifiable benefits. Certainly, one down side is that, over time, companies will tend to accumulate multiple instances of visibility, much as companies have done with BI: however, better that, frankly, than to not ever get where you need to be.
What do you think? How has your business embedded visibility capabilites? We'd love to hear from you on the topic.