From an ecommerce perspective, Community Enablement is a recognition that in order for a supply chain to be improved through the use of technologies such as EDI and data synchronization, there must be a defined program for participants to follow and that the large majority of participants in the supply chain must be on board with the program.
Most programs leverage standardization as their first goal. Logic and practice dictate that if an organization can standardize its processes, data requirements and ways of doing business, they are in a better position to focus on driving their business forward, rather than expending energy and resources trying to remember or manage the intricacies of each relationship.
The use of both EDI and global data synchronization is a terrific starting point in terms of technology. Over the years centralized organizations known as Standards Bodies have worked with industry to develop data standards to support standardized usage and interpretations. For EDI here in North America, the prevalent Standards Body is a group known as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Committee X12 – lending their name to the EDI data standard ANSI X12. For Global Data Synchronization the Global Standards Body is known as GS1.
One important distinction that needs to be made is that the standards body creates data standards in consultation with all potential users and industries. This means that the data standards are usually much larger in scope than any one supply chain or organization requires. As a result, subsets also known as implementations or implementation guides are created to express how an individual supply chain or organization will leverage the standards for their own use.
From an implementation perspective, communities can be best visually thought about as gears in a machine. In this concept each organization is its own cogwheel with its trading partners; suppliers, customers, warehouses, brokers and distributors; all cogs. When the cogwheel turns and all the cogs turn with it, everything in the machine functions at its best… however, if one of the cogs is missing or is not the right size, the efficient workings of the entire machine are at risk.
In my analogy, the program (EDI or data sync) is the design of the ideal machine. The cogwheel is the organization for whom the program was designed; while the individual cogs represent the partners that need to be shaped to fit into the machine in order for the whole thing to function. This is where Community Enablement comes in.
Community Enablement works within the framework of the program to help each of the cogs to understand the program and how they fit into it and then to provide solutions and support that enable them to do so.
The services that are provided as a part of a Community Enablement program include (but are not limited to): project management, initial and follow up contact, data collection, education/training, testing, implementation and reporting.
As I said when I wrote my Linkedin profile “Every organization plays a part of their own supply chain communities. In order to realize the full benefits of data integration services, communities need to adopt the technology en masse so that each member of the community can achieve the potential benefits.” Any organization that has a need to improve how their machine is working for them can benefit from a Community Enablement approach.