Top 46 Resource And Optimization Influencers (Plus A Few Others)

Jen Cohen Crompton

resource and optimizationFACT: According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, around a third of all the food produced in the world ends up being wasted somewhere along the production and consumption line.

FACT: Around the world, there are 884 million people who lack access to fresh water; by 2040, at least 3.5 billion people will run short of water.

FACT: The population living in urban areas is projected to increase from 3.6 billion in 2011 to 6.3 billion in 2050. Our environment is changing, and so must the way we do business.

These facts about our changing landscape affects all of us in one way or another, and they all point to one commonality – we need to learn how to optimize our resources for more efficient and effective management to ensure the sustainability of businesses, the economy, and the environment.

As companies realize this urgent call to action, they are working to more properly manage their supply chains to reduce waste and improve efficiency, and looking at sustainability and corporate social responsibility to limit, or reverse, the negative effects on resources.

Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of influencers who can share thoughts and insights on how the world is changing and what we can do to support positive change for businesses and for the greater good.

Here is a list of 46 influencers in supply chain management and sustainability, and 10 companies providing useful information. Enjoy!

Supply chain management influencers

1. Kevin O’Meara – Kevin has over 20 yeasr of experience with logistics and supply chain operations. He enjoys working with all things logistical and supply chain-related and has a special passion for alternative energy.

Twitter: @Logisticsexpert – Website: http://10xlogistics.blogspot.com/

2. Jeff Ashcroft – Jeff is a marketing, supply chain, and retail logistics specialist. He is an agent for green, RFID, social and airships.

Twitter: @JeffAshcroft – Website: scigroup.com

3. Steve Brady – Steve is a professor and has his PhD in supply chain. He is a consultant in areas of inventory, collaborative SCM, and space logistics

Twitter: @SCMProfessor – Website: http://theprofessornotes.com/

4. Sherrie Miller – Sherrie has an MBA and degrees in supply chain management and management information systems, and is interested in strategy, innovation, CRM, and BPM.

Twitter: @SupplyChainSher – Website: http://www.linkedin.com/in/sherriemiller

5. Martin Murray – Martin is an author and About.com expert for logistics and supply chain.

Twitter: @AboutLogistics  – Website: logistics.about.com

6. Brian Hamrock – Brian is a supply chain industry expert, consultant, and social media guru.

Twitter: @scmtechtrends – Website: N/A

7. Dave Meyer – Dave is a senior environmental heath and safety advisor. He is an experienced sustainable business practitioner, advocating for sustainability and supply chain management.

Twitter: @DRMeyer1 – Website: valuestream2009.wordpress.com

8. Dave Inglis – Dave is all about providing practical supply chain management, process mapping, and business improvement.

Twitter: @SCMDude – Website: louisvilleconsult.co.uk

9. Cheryl Berklich – Cheryl has expertise in building top-performing, world-class procurement operations. She has a proven track record of driving dynamic cost reductions and productivity in expense and capital operations for small, mid-size, Fortune 500 and Fortune 50 settings.

Twitter: @cherylberklich – Website: http://www.linkedin.com/in/cherylberklich

10. Dustin Mattison – Dustin is an education innovator, social entrepreneur, teacher, and writer. He is interested in building knowledge platforms that create unique learning environments and interviews supply chain experts for the Kinaxis Supply Chain Expert Community.

Twitter: @dustinmattison – Webite: http://dustinmattison.com/

11. Matt Wilkerson – Matt is a supply chain, operations, and technology transformation leader.

Twitter:@SupplyChainIT – Website: synthesis-advisory.com

12. Mike Stay – Mike is a general manager with experience in leader operations, supply chain, and logistics.

Twitter: @MikeStay – Website: linkedin.com/in/mikestay

13. Tony Colwell – Tony is an executive interim manager and consultant in procurement, supply chain, and change management. He is passionate about stakeholder engagement and effective process.

Twitter: @tonycolwell – Website: acuityconsultants.com/wp/

14. Lisa Ellram – Lisa is a supply chain researcher, educator, and professional interested in sustainability, value enhancement, cost management, and offshoring/outsourcing.

Twitter: @SupplyChainLisa – Website: N/A

15. Paul Snell – Paul is a procurement and supply chain journalist at Supply Management and Supply Business.

Twitter: @procurementpaul – Website: supplymanagement.com

16. Lisa Anderson – Lisa is a supply chain expert and business consultant who helps manufacturers and distributors elevate business performance.

Twitter: @LisaAndersonLMA – Website: lma-consultinggroup.com  

17. Kenneth Kowal – Kenneth focuses on supply chain logistics, ecommerce order fulfillment, and social media. He has worked with hundreds of companies, from lone entrepreneurs with a vision to Fortune 100 companies, on virtually every aspect of their logistics supply chain.

Twitter: @kennethkowal – Website: logisticsbi.com

18. Randy McClure – Randy is advancing transportation and supply chain management through IT innovation. His current focus is to help shippers and transportation carriers achieve 100 percent on-time delivery and leverage 100 percent of transportation costs.

Twitter: @mcislog

19. Mark Gavoor – Mark is a supply chain and quality consultant, writer, speaker, and professor.

Twitter: @mgavoor – Website: http://cr-supplychain.com

20. Tom Napier – Tom focuses on discussing supply chain management, innovation, logistics, and project management ideas.

Twitter: @Tom_Napier – Website:  PSIengineering.com

21. Paul Baris – Paul is a supply chain guru and senior executive, involved with purchasing, distribution, forecasting, and transportation. He is a supply chain transformer and problem-solver with extensive experience driving results and changing cultures.

Twitter: @scguru – Website: N/A

Sustainability Influencers:

22. Marc Gunther – Marc is a writer and speaker on business and sustainability, editor-at-large Guardian Sustainable Business Us, and a contributor at Fortune.

Twitter: @MarcGunther – Website: marcgunther.com

23. Jim McClelland – Jim is a sustainable futurist, writer, and speaker. As a journalist, he  has written supplements to The Times, and has been quoted in The Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times.

Twitter: @SustMeme – Website: jimtheeditor.wordpress.com

24. Andrew Winston – Andrew is a globally recognized business consultant-speaker-writer, hoping to change minds. He is an author Green to Gold, Green Recovery, and The Big Pivot.

Twitter: @AndrewWinston – Website: andrewwinston.com

25. John Elkington – John is the co-founder of Volans, an environmental and sustainability data service. He wrote 18 books and blogs at Volans, CSRWire, and Guardian.

Twitter: @volansjohn – Website: volans.com

26. Chris Price – Chris is a young profession and entrepreneur in LA who is deep into everything green and sustainable.

Twitter: @ahtohg – Website: N/A

27. Dave Stangis – VP Public Affairs/CR for the Campbell’s CSR Foundation. He has experience in working across all levels of public corporations (Board of Directors to front lines), non-profit agencies, and with policymakers.

Twitter: @DaveStangis – Website: campbellsoupcompany.com/csr

28. Hunter Lovins – Hunter is a social entrepreneur who consults to large corporations, small businesses, communities, and dozens of nations around the world. She was named the 2008 Sustainability Pioneer by the European financial community for her 30 years of work framing the sustainability movement. She is also the Millennium TIME Magazine Hero of the Planet.

Twitter: @hlovis – Website: natcapsolutions.org

29. Jeffrey D. Sachs – Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He is the author of To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace.

Twitter: @JeffDSachs – Website: jeffsachs.org

30. Jo Confino – Jo is an executive editor of the Guardian, chairman and editorial director of Guadian Sustainable Business, and advisor to Guardian Media Group.

Twitter: @joconfino – Website: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/joconfino

31. Christian Figueres – Christian is an executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and her passion is fighting climate change.

Twitter: @CFigueres – Website: unfccc.int

32. John Friedman – John Friedman is an award-winning communications professional and internationally recognized sustainability expert with more than 20 years of experience in internal and external communications, and a decade in corporate responsibility and sustainability. He currently works within Sodexo Corporate Responsibility Communications and is a Huffington Post blogger.

Twitter: @JohnFriedman – Website: huffingtonpost.com/john-friedman

33. Leon Kaye – Leon has over 2500 articles published on The Guardian, Triple Pundit, Inhabitat and Earth911 since 2009. He has insight on issues including environmental sustainability, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, water stewardship, and clean energy.

Twitter: @LeonKaye – Website:  greengopost.com

34. Tim Mohin – Tim is an author of Changing Business from the Inside Out. He is the director of Corporate Responsibility at AMD and has worked in CSR at Apple and Intel, and in policy at EPA and the Senate.

Twitter: @TimMohinAMD – Website: http://www.amd.com/us/aboutamd/corporate-information/corporate-responsibility/Pages/information.aspx

35. William McDonough – William is a designer, advisor, and co-author of Cradle to Cradle. He is a TIME Magazine Hero of the Planet who is changing the design of the world.

Twitter: @billmcdonough – Website: mcdonough.com

36. David Quilty – David is the founder of the daily environmental web magazine, The Good Human, and developed it into a well-respected and widely-sourced “green” brand. 

Twitter: @thegoodhuman – Website: thegoodhuman.com

37. Mike Barry – Mike is the director of Sustainable Business Marks and Spencer. He was voted Sustainable Business innovator of the year in 2011 and is leading the Plan A journey.

Twitter: @planamikebarry – Website: https://twitter.com/planamikebarry

38. Ramon Arratia – Ramon is the Sustainability Director for Interface EMEAI. He is an author of the book, Full Product Transparency and is avidly campaigning for radical sustainability.

Twitter: @RamonArratia – Website: interfacecutthefluff.com

39. Peter Gleick – Peter is the President of Pacific Institute. He is a climate/water scientist and a member of the National Academy of Science.

Twitter: @PeterGleick – Website: gleick.com

40. Sally Uren – Sally is the CEO of Forum For The Future. She is on a mission to create a sustainable future and focuses on sustainable business, sustainable food, and change.

Twitter: @sallyuren – Website: forumforthefuture.org

41. Stephanie Moram – Stephanie is an educational environmental lifestyle blogger and social media consultant. She is a freelance writer for ecosnobberysucks.com and founder and Editor-in-Chief of Good Girl Gone Green.

Twitter: @GGirlGGreen – Website:  ecosnobberysucks.com

42. Alexandra Michalko – Alexandra is a CSR/sustainability professional (currently at REI) with a decade of experience in the private and nonprofit sectors across industries. She has an MBA and a Master of Environmental Management with concentrations in strategy, environmental economics, and social entrepreneurship.

Twitter: @AlexRMichalko – Website: sustainablevalue.wordpress.com

43. Cindy Hoots – Cindy is a believer that a company’s true character is revealed by what it does when no one is watching. She is engaging stakeholders through their CSR initiative and sustainability issues.

Twitter: @ethicalbiz – Website: N/A

44. Beth Terry – Beth is attempting to live plastic-free and blogging all about it since 2007. She is advocating for the movement that we all could lead a plastic-free life.

Twitter: @PlasticfreeBeth – Website: myplasticfreelife.com

45. Steve R – Steve is all about sustainability – social responsibility, corporate and personal responsibility, energy, housing, and food and water conservation.

Twitter: @SustainablSteve – Website: N/A

46. Sarah Wechsberg – Sarah is a foodie, entrepreneur and vegan. She is passionate about sustainable business and a sustainable food system.

Twitter: @TheEcofoodie – Website: N/A

…and here are some companies to follow for supply chain management

Supply Chain Network – Supply Chain Network is a network developed to connect supply chain and logistics professionals to the people and information they need.

Twitter: @SupplyChainNtwk – Website: http://www.supplychainnetwork.com

Inbound Logistics – Inbound Logistics is an educational and supply chain resource for businesses seeking to better match demand to supply, and orient operations to support that shift.

Twitter: @ILMagazine – Website: http://www.inboundlogistics.com/cms/index.php

SupplyChainToday.com – Supply Chain Today offers social and business information relating to innovation, collaboration, and strategy.

Twitter: @SupplyChainBlog – Website: http://www.supplychaintoday.com/ 

Supply Chain Digest – Supply Chain offers supply chain related news and insights.

Twitter: @scdigest – Website: http://www.scdigest.com/

Supply Chain Management Revieve (SCMR) – SCMR is a magazine with content geared toward supply chain management professionals.

Twitter: @SCMR – Website: http://www.scmr.com/

Sustainability:

TreeHugger.com – Treehuggers shares links, ideas, and opens communication to foster conversations about all things green.

Twitter: @TreeHugger – Website: http://www.treehugger.com/

HuffPost Green – Huffington Post Green features the latest news on energy, environment, animals, and plenty more “green” content.

Twitter: @HuffPostGreen – Website: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/green/

Guardian Environment – The Guardian Environment offers green news, commentary, and more.

Twitter: @guardianeco – Website: http://www.theguardian.com/environment

Grist – Grist is an online new organization that uses humor to interpret green issues with the overall goal of inspiring environmental action.

Twitter: @grist – Website: http://grist.org/

Sustainable Business – Sustainable Business is the global voice for cutting edge sustainability comment, debate, and expert insight.

Twitter: @GuardianSustBiz – Website: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business

————-

See other influencer lists

 

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About Jen Cohen Crompton

Jen Cohen Crompton is a SAP Blogging Correspondent reporting on big data, cloud computing, enterprise mobility, analytics, sports and tech, and anything else innovation-related. When she's not blogging, she can be caught marketing, using social media and/or presenting at conferences around the world. Disclosure: Jen is being compensated by SAP to produce a series of articles on the innovation topics covered on this site. The opinions reflected here are her own.

How Fonterra Earns The Trust Of Dairy Consumers Around The Globe

John Ward

These days, great taste isn’t the only thing that consumers want in the foods they buy. Increasingly, issues like food safety and product traceability matter a lot, too.

Such concerns aren’t lost on the folks at Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited – a global dairy company owned by around 10,500 New Zealand farmers.

“Fonterra’s vision is to make a difference in the lives of 2 billion people worldwide by 2020,” says Andrew Longwill, the information services manager for Fonterra’s Australia operations. “To earn consumer trust, you need the ability to track and trace all the ingredients that go into your milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy foods.”

Looking for process perfection

Two billion is a big number.

But Fonterra already has customers in more than 140 countries around the globe. In fact, this New Zealand co-operative is responsible for approximately 30% of the world’s dairy exports.

Fonterra helps ensure both the taste and safety of its products by using only the highest quality ingredients – like fresh milk from grass-fed cows – and by maintaining a global view of traceability data across its extensive supply chain. This rigorous oversight extends to the company’s milk processing facilities as well.

When milk arrives at the various Fonterra sites, it is transformed into dairy foods under individual process orders.

“There are a lot transactions needed to complete just one process order,” says Longwill. “And to ensure product quality and safety, there are confirmations to perform and data to collect all along the way.”

Recently, Fonterra implemented a custom app designed to streamline some factory operations that once relied heavily on paper production information (PI) sheets.

“The PI sheets we used were old and clunky,” says Simon Crowley, chief enterprise architect at Fonterra. “We’re looking to digitize the plants and offer our people a more consumer-like set of process interfaces.”

The project started with a design thinking workshop that gathered the input and ideas of the factory workers. Then the team provided operators and production supervisors with a mobile interface featuring a simplified user experience covering more than 200 individual process order management tasks.

Churning up quality

Fonterra has implemented the new quality app at its Cobden processing plant in Victoria, Australia.

Cobden is home to the award-winning Western Star Butter brand. This facility processes more than 295 million liters of fresh milk a year. Fonterra workers here churn out dairy foods with instant visibility into process order progress and a simplified method for capturing critical production and quality data.

As Rob Howell, general manager of manufacturing operations for Fonterra Australia, observes, “We want our operators and production supervisors to spend their time on what they do best – concentrating on the machinery, the output, and the quality of our dairy foods.”

Fonterra now intends to roll out the custom app to an additional six facilities in Australia by the end of the year. Eliminating the manual data input associated with the paper PI sheets will be an especially welcome change for all the Fonterra employees working the processing plant floors.

Traditional change management won’t work in the era of digital transformation. Learn about The New DNA of Change.

Please follow me on Twitter @JohnGWard3.

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About John Ward

John Ward is an Integrated Marketing Expert at SAP. He has over 30 years of professional writing experience that includes marketing material, sales support, technical documentation, video scripting, and magazine articles.

Blockchain: Hit Or Miss For Supply Chain?

Richard Howells

Earlier this month I participated in an interesting show on the topic of “Blockchain Technology: A Hit or A Miss for Supply Chain Networks?” with Irfan Khan, CEO and president of Bristlecone.

The discussion was based on blockchain’s ability to drive end-to-end value, eliminate inefficiencies, and improve customer experience. Blockchain – a decentralized, distributed ledger payment system using cryptocurrency – is powering digital transformation for companies around the world.

“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

I set the stage by using this quote that has been attributed to several people, from Nostradamus to Mark Twain (who is attributed almost every quote known to man). It works perfectly for blockchain, which, according to Gartner’s latest Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Execution (July 2017), was rated “transformational” but with a market penetration of “less than 1 percent.” The key is to predict and identify use cases to improve transparency, traceability, and performance and that can benefit from secured transactions.

Where can blockchain benefit supply chain processes?

During our discussions, a few areas of opportunity emerged.

Logistics processes

It has been estimated that 90 percent of global trade is carried out by ocean shipping industry, and the cost of trade-related documents and administration is estimated to represent up to 20 percent of the actual transportation cost. And this process relies on a web of disparate systems across freight forwarders, customer’s brokers, port authorities, ocean carriers, and trucking companies. Imagine if we could digitize the process to collaborate across companies and authorities, reduce the paperwork, streamline cross boarder movements, and reduce fraud and errors. Blockchain has the potential to help enable us to manage and track a “digital twin” of shipping containers across the world.

Track and trace and genealogy processes

In many industries, we are continually pushing for improved traceability by both regulatory bodies, and consumers. For example, in the food and beverage industries, we are seeing an increased demand for local and organic products with a clear proof of origin and sustainability.

Let’s look at the simple coffee bean as an example. This starts literally, at the source, in remote farms in Africa where 70-80 percent of the world’s coffee beans are grown. Imagine if we could have mobile machines that could capture the grade, color, size, and quality the coffee carries at source, and by leveraging AI and machine learning, determine a fair-trade price for the specific lot. This could be transmitted to the buyers who could agree a purchase with the farmer and perform an electronic transfer of funds immediately. Imagine also that the quality information and price paid is tracked throughout the harvesting, logistics, roasting and consumption of those beans all over the world. A consumer could have an app that would tell them where the coffee came from, the journey from farm to cup, and even if the farmer was compensated fairly.

This example is not too far-fetched. Check out what a company called Bext360 is doing as a proof of concept today.

Asset lifecycle management

Many industries have capital-intensive, business-critical assets (think airplanes, mining equipment, trucks, tractors) that are expected to be in use for 10 or even 30 years. Over its lifespan, each asset will go through numerous upgrades, repairs, and refurbishments and may also go through numerous owners. This ensures that all the parts used to perform these activities are of high quality, from reliable, legitimate sources and are critical for end user or passenger safety and security. We can now put IoT-enabled sensors on every part within an asset and track (Big) Data at a level never imagined a few short years ago. Ensuring the traceability and security of this data is critical to ensure the history and provenance of parts, the or the maintenance and repair history of a capital-intensive piece of equipment.

Blockchain, along with other technologies such as IoT, predictive analytics, and machine learning has the potential to manage assets from the design of the product, through manufacturing and throughout its active life and keep a secure, digital twin that can be tracked and analyzed for a complete history of that asset.

Blockchain is a key part of a digital supply chain

Blockchain, although relatively early in its existence, has the potential to help digitize our supply chains. However, as we discussed, it is not a solution by itself. We see several technologies coming together to enable the digital supply chain. The Internet of Things enables smarter and connected products and assets that are generating amazing amounts of data from all areas of the supply chain. This “Big Data” is the catalyst for predictive analytics, and machine learning adds intelligence to this data and drives automation and artificial intelligence through physical devices. Blockchain’s role is to automate transactions, ensure traceability, and address cybersecurity.

For more on blockchain, see Blockchain: Much Ado About Nothing? How Very Wrong!

Article published by Richard Howells. It originally appeared on Huffington Post and has been republished with permission.

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About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

The Future Will Be Co-Created

Dan Wellers and Timo Elliott

 

Just 3% of companies have completed enterprise digital transformation projects.
92% of those companies have significantly improved or transformed customer engagement.
81% of business executives say platforms will reshape industries into interconnected ecosystems.
More than half of large enterprises (80% of the Global 500) will join industry platforms by 2018.

Link to Sources


Redefining Customer Experience

Many business leaders think of the customer journey or experience as the interaction an individual or business has with their firm.

But the business value of the future will exist in the much broader, end-to-end experiences of a customer—the experience of travel, for example, or healthcare management or mobility. Individual companies alone, even with their existing supplier networks, lack the capacity to transform these comprehensive experiences.


A Network Effect

Rather than go it alone, companies will develop deep collaborative relationships across industries—even with their customers—to create powerful ecosystems that multiply the breadth and depth of the products, services, and experiences they can deliver. Digital native companies like Baidu and Uber have embraced ecosystem thinking from their early days. But forward-looking legacy companies are beginning to take the approach.

Solutions could include:

  • Packaging provider Weig has integrated partners into production with customers co-inventing custom materials.
  • China’s Ping An insurance company is aggressively expanding beyond its sector with a digital platform to help customers manage their healthcare experience.
  • British roadside assistance provider RAC is delivering a predictive breakdown service for drivers by acquiring and partnering with high-tech companies.

What Color Is Your Ecosystem?

Abandoning long-held notions of business value creation in favor of an ecosystem approach requires new tactics and strategies. Companies can:

1.  Dispassionately map the end-to-end customer experience, including those pieces outside company control.

2.  Employ future planning tactics, such as scenario planning, to examine how that experience might evolve.

3.  Identify organizations in that experience ecosystem with whom you might co-innovate.

4.  Embrace technologies that foster secure collaboration and joint innovation around delivery of experiences, such as cloud computing, APIs, and micro-services.

5.  Hire, train for, and reward creativity, innovation, and customer-centricity.


Evolve or Be Commoditized

Some companies will remain in their traditional industry boxes, churning out products and services in isolation. But they will be commodity players reaping commensurate returns. Companies that want to remain competitive will seek out their new ecosystem or get left out in the cold.


Download the executive brief The Future Will be Co-Created.


Read the full article The Future Belongs to Industry-Busting Ecosystems.

Turn insight into action, make better decisions, and transform your business.  Learn how.

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence. He was the eighth employee of BusinessObjects and for the last 25 years he has worked closely with SAP customers around the world on new technology directions and their impact on real-world organizations. His articles have appeared in articles such as Harvard Business Review, Forbes, ZDNet, The Guardian, and Digitalist Magazine. He has worked in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Silicon Valley, and currently lives in Paris, France. He has a degree in Econometrics and a patent in mobile analytics. 

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Blockchain: Much Ado About Nothing? How Very Wrong!

Juergen Roehricht

Let me start with a quote from McKinsey, that in my view hits the nail right on the head:

“No matter what the context, there’s a strong possibility that blockchain will affect your business. The very big question is when.”

Now, in the industries that I cover in my role as general manager and innovation lead for travel and transportation/cargo, engineering, construction and operations, professional services, and media, I engage with many different digital leaders on a regular basis. We are having visionary conversations about the impact of digital technologies and digital transformation on business models and business processes and the way companies address them. Many topics are at different stages of the hype cycle, but the one that definitely stands out is blockchain as a new enabling technology in the enterprise space.

Just a few weeks ago, a customer said to me: “My board is all about blockchain, but I don’t get what the excitement is about – isn’t this just about Bitcoin and a cryptocurrency?”

I can totally understand his confusion. I’ve been talking to many blockchain experts who know that it will have a big impact on many industries and the related business communities. But even they are uncertain about the where, how, and when, and about the strategy on how to deal with it. The reason is that we often look at it from a technology point of view. This is a common mistake, as the starting point should be the business problem and the business issue or process that you want to solve or create.

In my many interactions with Torsten Zube, vice president and blockchain lead at the SAP Innovation Center Network (ICN) in Potsdam, Germany, he has made it very clear that it’s mandatory to “start by identifying the real business problem and then … figure out how blockchain can add value.” This is the right approach.

What we really need to do is provide guidance for our customers to enable them to bring this into the context of their business in order to understand and define valuable use cases for blockchain. We need to use design thinking or other creative strategies to identify the relevant fields for a particular company. We must work with our customers and review their processes and business models to determine which key blockchain aspects, such as provenance and trust, are crucial elements in their industry. This way, we can identify use cases in which blockchain will benefit their business and make their company more successful.

My highly regarded colleague Ulrich Scholl, who is responsible for externalizing the latest industry innovations, especially blockchain, in our SAP Industries organization, recently said: “These kinds of use cases are often not evident, as blockchain capabilities sometimes provide minor but crucial elements when used in combination with other enabling technologies such as IoT and machine learning.” In one recent and very interesting customer case from the autonomous province of South Tyrol, Italy, blockchain was one of various cloud platform services required to make this scenario happen.

How to identify “blockchainable” processes and business topics (value drivers)

To understand the true value and impact of blockchain, we need to keep in mind that a verified transaction can involve any kind of digital asset such as cryptocurrency, contracts, and records (for instance, assets can be tangible equipment or digital media). While blockchain can be used for many different scenarios, some don’t need blockchain technology because they could be handled by a simple ledger, managed and owned by the company, or have such a large volume of data that a distributed ledger cannot support it. Blockchain would not the right solution for these scenarios.

Here are some common factors that can help identify potential blockchain use cases:

  • Multiparty collaboration: Are many different parties, and not just one, involved in the process or scenario, but one party dominates everything? For example, a company with many parties in the ecosystem that are all connected to it but not in a network or more decentralized structure.
  • Process optimization: Will blockchain massively improve a process that today is performed manually, involves multiple parties, needs to be digitized, and is very cumbersome to manage or be part of?
  • Transparency and auditability: Is it important to offer each party transparency (e.g., on the origin, delivery, geolocation, and hand-overs) and auditable steps? (e.g., How can I be sure that the wine in my bottle really is from Bordeaux?)
  • Risk and fraud minimization: Does it help (or is there a need) to minimize risk and fraud for each party, or at least for most of them in the chain? (e.g., A company might want to know if its goods have suffered any shocks in transit or whether the predefined route was not followed.)

Connecting blockchain with the Internet of Things

This is where blockchain’s value can be increased and automated. Just think about a blockchain that is not just maintained or simply added by a human, but automatically acquires different signals from sensors, such as geolocation, temperature, shock, usage hours, alerts, etc. One that knows when a payment or any kind of money transfer has been made, a delivery has been received or arrived at its destination, or a digital asset has been downloaded from the Internet. The relevant automated actions or signals are then recorded in the distributed ledger/blockchain.

Of course, given the massive amount of data that is created by those sensors, automated signals, and data streams, it is imperative that only the very few pieces of data coming from a signal that are relevant for a specific business process or transaction be stored in a blockchain. By recording non-relevant data in a blockchain, we would soon hit data size and performance issues.

Ideas to ignite thinking in specific industries

  • The digital, “blockchained” physical asset (asset lifecycle management): No matter whether you build, use, or maintain an asset, such as a machine, a piece of equipment, a turbine, or a whole aircraft, a blockchain transaction (genesis block) can be created when the asset is created. The blockchain will contain all the contracts and information for the asset as a whole and its parts. In this scenario, an entry is made in the blockchain every time an asset is: sold; maintained by the producer or owner’s maintenance team; audited by a third-party auditor; has malfunctioning parts; sends or receives information from sensors; meets specific thresholds; has spare parts built in; requires a change to the purpose or the capability of the assets due to age or usage duration; receives (or doesn’t receive) payments; etc.
  • The delivery chain, bill of lading: In today’s world, shipping freight from A to B involves lots of manual steps. For example, a carrier receives a booking from a shipper or forwarder, confirms it, and, before the document cut-off time, receives the shipping instructions describing the content and how the master bill of lading should be created. The carrier creates the original bill of lading and hands it over to the ordering party (the current owner of the cargo). Today, that original paper-based bill of lading is required for the freight (the container) to be picked up at the destination (the port of discharge). Imagine if we could do this as a blockchain transaction and by forwarding a PDF by email. There would be one transaction at the beginning, when the shipping carrier creates the bill of lading. Then there would be look-ups, e.g., by the import and release processing clerk of the shipper at the port of discharge and the new owner of the cargo at the destination. Then another transaction could document that the container had been handed over.

The future

I personally believe in the massive transformative power of blockchain, even though we are just at the very beginning. This transformation will be achieved by looking at larger networks with many participants that all have a nearly equal part in a process. Today, many blockchain ideas still have a more centralistic approach, in which one company has a more prominent role than the (many) others and often is “managing” this blockchain/distributed ledger-supported process/approach.

But think about the delivery scenario today, where goods are shipped from one door or company to another door or company, across many parties in the delivery chain: from the shipper/producer via the third-party logistics service provider and/or freight forwarder; to the companies doing the actual transport, like vessels, trucks, aircraft, trains, cars, ferries, and so on; to the final destination/receiver. And all of this happens across many countries, many borders, many handovers, customs, etc., and involves a lot of paperwork, across all constituents.

“Blockchaining” this will be truly transformational. But it will need all constituents in the process or network to participate, even if they have different interests, and to agree on basic principles and an approach.

As Torsten Zube put it, I am not a “blockchain extremist” nor a denier that believes this is just a hype, but a realist open to embracing a new technology in order to change our processes for our collective benefit.

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Juergen Roehricht

About Juergen Roehricht

Juergen Roehricht is General Manager of Services Industries and Innovation Lead of the Middle and Eastern Europe region for SAP. The industries he covers include travel and transportation; professional services; media; and engineering, construction and operations. Besides managing the business in those segments, Juergen is focused on supporting innovation and digital transformation strategies of SAP customers. With more than 20 years of experience in IT, he stays up to date on the leading edge of innovation, pioneering and bringing new technologies to market and providing thought leadership. He has published several articles and books, including Collaborative Business and The Multi-Channel Company.