BDP International is a global logistics services company with over 200 offices worldwide in 140 countries. We are one of the largest privately-held non-asset-based logistics companies in the world, with a particularly strong foothold in the chemicals and life sciences industries. We tend to specialize in moving things that require sensitive handling – either physically, or in regulatory requirements as international borders are crossed.
Running BDP’s technology division, I’m excited to see the application economy start to change expectations across our customer and employee base. Information, technology, analytics and market needs are shaping new opportunities for digital products.
For the past several years, I’ve run large technology divisions and digital lines of business. My organizations, like many of yours, have become very flexible, able to morph appropriately with changing customer expectations, fluid market demands, changing business opportunities, and the like. We are not only business partners who enable traditional offerings, but also line of business owners with digital offerings taken directly to market. The adoption of cloud-based solutions combined with the mindset of running like a software shop - moving fluidly in advance of customer needs - is what helped get us to this point. Nevertheless, I think CIOs, and even cloud-based vendors/providers, think too narrowly about the potential.
If there were a CIO Cloud Playbook, Volume 1 would be all about commodity. This includes adoption of SaaS solutions with out-of-the-box business processes to avoid reinventing the wheel and achieve quicker delivery, or moving infrastructure to a utility- style model in an effort to cut costs, achieve stability and scalability, and the like. What I would call Volume 2 of the playbook is all about data and integrations – access to shared data, data storage and computation, collaboration and analytics platforms, and so on. This is what we see in the market today, and these platforms help us differentiate. The CIO’s Cloud Playbook Volume 3 should be about convergence, an open platform model used as a massive accelerator of business and societal change.
While all of us in the IT community have built our organizations to be quite flexible, the technologies in our estates, even the most contemporary, tend to be purpose built. If we’re smart about our architecture, we craft these systems so that they are component-based and can be used for many purposes over time, and we use commoditized SaaS solutions where we can. Most IT shops are still working on systems which must communicate through purpose-built integrations with our customers, suppliers, vendors, and partners. In this sense, the tech industry has yet to realize the potential of digital transformation.
Think about what we know is coming: constant connectedness, sensors everywhere, sophisticated analytics making sense of the massive data streaming in from those sensors, things interacting with users and environments and other things, robotics, and so on – all which will be increasingly used together - to deliver breakthrough capabilities for customers, new knowledge and opportunities for workers, and so on. So what platform and standards exist to help us treat all of the above as part of a single ecosystem, accessible seamlessly and easily and even automatically? If we reorient our thinking away from fixed business processes or transactions towards a customer’s perspective not only as it relates to our company, but to all other partners and suppliers, we can start to see the potential of convergence. Today, all of us have a set of services, applications and data stores to serve our customers across the channels we own. All of these services and applications and data stores were designed to support how we run our enterprise, which is considered best practice. But now think about the other service providers your customers have, and what the customer has to do to get to a single view of end-to-end activity across a business process?
At BDP, we talk a lot about customers’ visibility across their supply chain. While customers may outsource logistics and some adjacencies to us, manufacturing may be outsourced to another organization, and so on. Customers do not typically outsource their entire supply chain operations to a single entity. In order to optimize across supply chain processes, they might hire BDP or a management consulting group to optimize the broader network. It’s an explicit activity in which analysis takes place and recommendations are made. But shouldn’t the supply chain be fluid, constantly adapting based on known optimization goals, capacities and participation of the players across the platform? Those players might be corporate entity types - customers, consignees, shippers, logistics providers, manufacturers, etc, - or they may be things like container sensors responding to events, weather patterns or other data flows, or user triggered events across an ecosystem. Rather than an explicitly built massive e2e supply chain solution built for a single entity, imagine a platform on which all entity types can operate cleanly and efficiently, increasing the speed of business, integration, environmental considerations, and other broadly-held optimization goals.
The world we operate in is dynamic, but most IT systems and application development practices are not. We need to work to bring those together. We need more dynamism in our solutions and in how we produce those solutions, because we can’t make the world more static.
Now is the time to be thinking about this. For the first time, we can reasonably craft these sorts of platforms.