Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leveraging information technology to revitalize mature industries and marketplaces 4: adding the underlying business model into this discussion 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 27, 2014

This is the fourth installment in a series in which I discuss and analyze businesses as information management systems, and in which I characterize their competitive strength and marketplace capabilities in corresponding information technology implementation terms (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 273 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I have been writing this series up to here as a discussion of strategic and operational processes as carried out strictly within a business, and from a primarily inside-only perspective. And to highlight that point while more fully noting the overall thrust of this series, I repeat from Part 1 that:

• From a traditional by-industry perspective, businesses are evaluated for their competitive strength in terms of the competitive marketability of their products and services and their capacity to generate revenue streams and profits from them. Consider this an externally measured, marketplace-based standard.
• From an information systems perspective, those same businesses can be evaluated according to the efficiency and effectiveness, and the due diligence risk management of their business processes and systems – their of-necessity information based processes and systems. And this is largely a more internally measured standard as it can be applied when comparing between businesses, or it can be applied just as cogently within a business when mapping out its current capabilities and what they can be developed into – or away from.

And my overall goal for this series has been to explore in at least some detail, the approach to understanding and analyzing a business as laid out in that second bullet point. Then at the end of Part 3 I at least intimated that what I am discussing here might be a “largely a more internally measured standard” but that does not mean “entirely so.” More specifically, I stated at the end of that series installment that my goal for this one is to discuss wider stakeholder involvement and to more fully discuss in-house information management systems and connecting them into supply chain and other externally reaching contexts.

• When a business can develop increased operational and financial efficiencies through supply chain or other business-to-business partnerships and collaborations,
• Then best practices approaches for developing, performance tracking and maintaining their own more internally facing operational processes and their internal information management implementations of them, means designing and building those systems so as to facilitate strategically selected outward connectedness too.

The balance of this posting addresses and expands upon these two bullet points, and particularly the second of them. For specific background information that addresses the first of these points, I cite a series of reference works already live on this blog, and outside references cited in them:

Fine Tuning and Adjusting a Business in the Face of Change 7: tapping into supply chain partnerships and collaborations,
Reconsidering and Rethinking the Supply Chain 1 and its Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 continuations. (Note: these four postings comprise a sub-series within a larger, 35 part series: Moving Past Early Stage and the Challenge of Scalability, which can be found in its entirety at Startups and Early Stage Businesses as postings 96 and following), and
Where Are the True Boundaries Between a Globally Connected Company and its Supply Chain and Value Chain Context? and
Supply Chains and Value Chains as Drivers of Sustaining Value.

For purposes of addressing the second of those bullet points, I begin by formally drawing a distinction between channels of communication between partner businesses in supply chain and similar systems, and what is shared between these businesses through those channels. And I begin here by focusing on the communications channel options themselves:

• For most businesses and for most types of information exchange that might take place between them, it is both easy and secure carrying out these transactions through standard protocol-defined channels and using standard, thoroughly vetted and proven secure technologies.
• This, to highlight some of the commonest options available as of this writing, includes resources such as secure hypertext transfer protocol (S-HTTP) or the more standard HTTP Secure protocol (HTTPS),
• Use of Transport Layer Security technology or its still used predecessor: Secure Sockets Layer (see same reference link)
Virtual Private Networks for file transfers and related purposes, and of course
public key cryptography. Phil Zimmerman first released his Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) software and its underlying algorithm in 1991 and while improvements in available computational power at progressively lower costs have necessitated an increase in the length of encryption keys used, this and similar products have proven remarkably effective as information security measures.

If I were to write this type of list in just a few years, it is likely I would update its entries but the basic parameters for the types of resources to select here are probably going to remain relatively stable:

• Any best-solution information sharing mechanisms in use between businesses as they work together through supply chains, has to work for and be correctly used by the participating businesses and their hands-on involved employees. It the tools provided are simply ignored or if they are used but incorrectly, they will not provide a positive benefit for anyone, except perhaps for would-be intruders who pick up on the fact that secure communications channels and protocols are not being used.
• This means they have to be easy and quick to use, and they need to be able to transmit information with wide bandwidth so transmissions go through cleanly and quickly too.
• And as a final entry here, at least for now, any even just good-solution information sharing mechanisms in use between businesses need to be easy to set up so as to automatically capture usage tracking and auditing data, so due diligence personnel can identify who was transferring what data or files to whom, and from where to where, and when. This way it will always be possible to rapidly perform effective forensic audits of information sharing between business partners in a supply chain or other collaborative network in the event that proves acutely necessary – and on an ongoing periodic basis anyway as part of overall due diligence review processes.

I wrote the above points in terms of two communicating businesses, but the types of systems that I write of here can be more open-ended as far as numbers of participating businesses are concerned.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn from the perhaps more standardized of what communications channels to use, to the perhaps more customized issues of what content would be transferred through these channels, and with what content-level safeguards. This posting and that next series installment are both identified by title in terms of underlying business models in place, and I will bring this discussion more fully back into that focus in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. You can also find this and other related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and at the first page to that directory.

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