My son was watching a magician on T.V. recently and I was reminded of how the appearance of a new product on the market is a bit like the illusion produced by a magician. When new products arrive on the market, they are revealed as if out of thin air, hiding the countless number of hands and minds that went into making them. They simply appear as if they were “born” that way, brought into the world as they now are, a finished good ready for consumption.
But in fact nothing is farther from the truth. When products hit the proverbial shelves, it is the end point of a very long process of innovation and manufacturing, and literally encapsulates thousands of hands and minds that invested in that product’s creation and journey to market. There is something really helpful in this analogy of manufacturer and magician. It reminds us that the “big reveal at the end” is just that, a sleight of hand that hides the significant effort of countless individuals working in concert to produce the finished good.
In reality, of course, to bring a product to market requires an enormous amount of collaboration across thousands of individuals who all have to keep aligned across their diverse roles and responsibilities. This is the “supply chain” of individuals and partners that all have to stay coordinated so that the product can magically appear out of thin air.
The supply chain includes engineers, architects and designers who first imagine, design, and prototype the future product. It includes the partner companies and their sub-contractors that produce the parts to specifications. The supply chain includes the plant manufacturers that assemble the product. It includes the logistics teams that ship the product to market. And, of course, it includes company personnel who market, sell and support the product once it reaches the market. The well-known tech company, Cisco, is a great example, of a company that drove revenue and return on investment by streamlining how its technical sales people could rapidly find information.
It is a vast undertaking to keep all of these roles aligned across multiple companies, organizations, geographies, and specialties. The company Leica Geosytems, for example, must coordinate collaboration across 3,700 employees in more than 120 countries when designing technologies that are used in monitoring the construction of the world’s tallest bridge, Viaduc de Millau (Montpellier). Key to this collaboration is the technical information that must flow from the beginning to end of the process. In fact, it is the technical information that embodies and concretizes this vast collaboration. This technical information, represented in architectural diagrams, engineering specifications, technical documents, notes, and material specifications, is what allows each role to execute its part and pass on knowledge to and trigger the next step in the process. Scania, a global manufacturer of trucks and buses, is another good example of a company that figured out how to do this well, orchestrating the flow of knowledge across 41,000 employees in one hundred countries.
You might think of this flow of technical knowledge like the baton handed off in a relay race. Each role executes its part and hands the baton to the next. Yet, the coordination of technical knowledge across this vast supply chain of contributors is very complex. Each individual must have access to the right information at just the right moment to execute the next step in the process. A person shouldn’t even have to look for the information; it should come to hand. It shouldn’t be out of date or incorrect. Any breakdown in communication can cause a delay, harm a future buyer with a malfunctioning product or expose the company to liability.
You can imagine how critical collaboration and security of knowledge is for DCNS, which designs, builds and supports submarines and solutions in civil nuclear engineering and marine renewable energy. Most product related information is confidential, part of the company’s intellectual property or “secret sauce” that should not get into the hands of competitors. The need to share information has to be balanced by the need to know. Balancing these different requirements is no easy task given that information can also change during the process and that collaboration has to involve partners outside the firewall. Genesys, a manufacturer of contact center software, found a unique approach to keeping technical information secure, while also making it easy for customers to find and download the information they need from the cloud.
Collaboration across the vast supply chain of contributors is thus more like trying to orchestrate multiple symphonies all playing the same score in different locations even while the score is itself constantly changing. Orchestration is no simple act of magic in this age of digitization, the cloud, and a globally distributed workforce.
Many product companies still rely on legacy systems or manual processes to manage their information flow. The baton gets dropped. The orchestras are playing different tunes. The magical reveal at the end falls flat. But forward looking companies are focused on improving the information supply chain as a key strategic initiative. To do so, they are ripping out legacy systems and adopting new technologies and techniques that make collaboration and orchestration simpler, more secure, and more flexible. Many of them, like Scania, Leica Geosystems, DCNS, or Genesys are turning to Alfresco because they understand that the ultimate act of magic requires a thousand hands of collaboration.
Want to find out more about how companies are tackling the flow of knowledge? Learn more about how:
- Scania, a global manufacturer of trucks and buses, is a good example, of a company that orchestrates knowledge flow with Alfresco across 41,000 employees in a hundred countries.
- Leica Geosytems coordinates collaboration with Alfresco across 3,700 employees in more than 120 countries when designing technologies that are used in monitoring the construction of the world’s tallest bridge, Viaduc de Millau (Montpellier).
- DCNS relies on Alfresco when desiging, building and supporting submarines and solutions in civil nuclear engineering and marine renewable energy.
- Cisco, the high tech maker of networks, leverages Alfresco to drive achieve massive efficiencies and drive revenue across the technical roles in the global sales team.