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About this Blog

As enterprise supply chains and consumer demand chains have beome globalized, they continue to inefficiently share information “one-up/one-down”. Profound "bullwhip effects" in the chains cause managers to scramble with inventory shortages and consumers attempting to understand product recalls, especially food safety recalls. Add to this the increasing usage of personal mobile devices by managers and consumers seeking real-time information about products, materials and ingredient sources. The popularity of mobile devices with consumers is inexorably tugging at enterprise IT departments to shifting to apps and services. But both consumer and enterprise data is a proprietary asset that must be selectively shared to be efficiently shared.

About Steve Holcombe

Unless otherwise noted, all content on this company blog site is authored by Steve Holcombe as President & CEO of Pardalis, Inc. More profile information: View Steve Holcombe's profile on LinkedIn

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Entries in recall (4)


Why Google Must - And Will - Drive NextGen Social for Enterprises


This is our third "tipping point" publication.

The first was The Tipping Point Has Arrived: Trust and Provenance in Web Communications. We highlighted there the significance of the roadmap laid out by the Wikidata Project. It was our opinion that:

"[a]s the Wikidata Project begins to provide trust and provenance in its form of web communications, they will not just be granularizing single facts but also immutabilizing the data elements to which those facts are linked so that even the content providers of those data elements cannot change them. This is critical for trust and provenance in whole chain communications between supply chain participants who have never directly interacted."

The second post was The Tipping Point Has Arrived: Market Incentives for Selective Sharing in Web Communications. We there emphasized the emerging market-based opportunities for information sharing between enterprises and consumers:

"We know this is a big idea but in our opinion the dynamic blending of Google+ and the Google Affiliate Network could over time bring within reach a holy grail in web communications – the cracking of the data silos of enterprise class supply chains for increased sharing with consumers of what to-date has been "off limits" proprietary product information."

Introducing Common Point Social Networking

For the purposes of this post we introduce and define Common Point Social Networking:

Common point social networking provides the means and functions for the creation and versioning of immutable data elements at a single location by an end-user or a machine which data elements are accessible, linkable and otherwise usable with meta-data authorizations.

The software developers reading this post may recognize similarities with Github. Github is perhaps the canonical proxy for fixed, common point sharing adoption. Software developers publish open source software development projects, providing source code distribution and means for others to contribute changes to the source code back to a common repository. Version control provides a code level audit trail.

In July 2012 Github took a $100M venture capital investment from Andreessen Horowitz. There’s no doubt that some of this funding will be used by Github to compete in the enterprise space. But we further offer here that Google is better positioned to lead the current providers of enterprise software and cloud services in introducing a new generation of online social networks in the fertile ground between enterprises and consumers. We propose that Google so lead by introducing and/or further encouraging a roadmap of means and functions it is already backing in the Wikidata Project. We have identified an inviting space for common point social networking to serve as a bridge between Google's Knowledge Graph and the emerging GS1 standards for Key Data Elements (KDEs). 

A Sea Change in Understanding

In 2012 there was a sea change in understanding that greater access to proprietary enterprise data is necessary for creating new business models between enterprises and consumers. Yet there remains confusion on how to do so. There is much rhetorical cross-over these days between the social networking of "personal data" and "enterprise data" but enterprise data is - and will long remain - different from personal data. Again, in our opinion, enterprise data is overwhelmingly a proprietary asset that must be selectively accessed at a granular level from a fixed, common point to have any chance of being efficiently shared.

GS1 and Whole Chain Traceability

From 2010 through 2011, Pardalis Inc. catalyzed a successful research funding strategy in a series of “whole chain traceability” funding submissions seeking to employ the use of granular, immutable data elements in networked communications.[1] The computer networking aspects of this food supply chain research was based upon a granularization of critical tracking events (CTEs) with a high-level derivation of Pardalis’ patented processes for registering immutable data elements and their informational objects at a fixed location with meta-data authorizations. See Whole Chain Traceability: A Successful Research Funding Strategy. At the solicitation of co-author Holcombe, GS1 gave an early letter of support to this process, and GS1 was subsequently kept “in the loop”, too. This successful research funding strategy has from all appearances subsequently been given a favorable nod by GS1 in one of its recent publications, Achieving Whole Chain Traceability in the U.S. Food Supply Chain - How GS1 Standards make it possible. Here’s an excerpt -

"To achieve whole chain traceability, trading partners must be able to link products with locations and times through the supply chain. For this purpose, the work led by the Institute of Food Technologists described two foundational concepts: Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and Key Data Elements (KDEs). With GS1 Standards as a foundation, communicating CTEs and KDEs is achievable."

So who is GS1, you ask? GS1 is "the international not-for-profit association dedicated to the development and implementation of global standards and solutions to improve the efficiency and visibility of supply and demand chains globally and across multiple sectors." You know that unique barcode symbology you see on the products you purchase? That barcode is standardized by GS1 and may include KDEs.

We applaud the introduction of KDEs by GS1. The inclusion of KDEs is a necessary step for moving beyond the lugubrious one-up/one-down information sharing that is overwhelmingly prevalent in today’s enterprise supply chains. Enterprises have long been comfortable with one-up/one-down pushing generic products down the chain. But it is a mode of information sharing that doesn’t fit well at all into today’s consumer demand chains that desire to pull real-time, trustworthy information. Furthermore, one-up/one-down information sharing significantly contributes to the "bullwhip effect" within supply chains that cost enterprises in a number of ways as explained in more detail in The Bullwhip Effect:

"The challenge is not one of fixing the latest privacy control issue that Facebook presents to us. Nor is the challenge fixed with an application programming interface for integrating with Facebook. The challenge is in providing the software, tools and functionalities for the discovery in real-time of proprietary supply chain data that can save people's lives and, concurrently, in attracting the input of exponentially more valuable information by consumers about their personal experiences with food products (or products in general, for that matter) …."

But KDEs by themselves will not necessarily rid supply chains of the bullwhip effect. Without implementing a more social, fluid nature to the sharing of information in supply chains, KDEs may even increase the brittleness of one-up/one-down information sharing between database administrators, just more granularly so with "digital sand". For instance, industry standards for granular XML objects may be a bane … or a bon. It largely depends on the effectiveness of hierarchical administrative decision-making processes overseeing each data silo. Common point social networking holds forth a promise for implementing KDEs in a manner that overcomes the bullwhip effect.

But even with the most efficient and effective management processes, it is almost unimaginable to us that the first movement toward enterprise-consumer social networking will come from incumbent enterprise software systems. Sure, the first movement could potentially come from that direction, but we’ve just had too many experiences with enterprises and software vendors to put much faith in that actually happening. Conversely, we can much more easily imagine a first movement toward nextgen social from the "navigational search" demands of consumers. In our second tipping point blog we illustrated this point in some respect with Google Affiliate Networks. This time we are making our point with Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Navigational Search As A Business Model

Google's Knowledge Graph was announced this year as having being added to Google's search engine. Knowledge Graph is a semantic search system. Of course it’s not the only semantic search system. Bing incorporates semantic search. So do and Wolfram Alpha. Siri provides a natural language user interface. But no matter what the semantic search engine, the search results are revealed as a list of ranked, relevant “answers” (or perhaps no answer at all because there isn’t one to give). Searching for real answers in real-time is still kind of a navigational mess either in commission or omission.

"For the semantic web to reach its full potential in the cloud, it must have access to more than just publicly available data sources. It must find a gateway into the closely-held, confidential and classified information that people consider to be their identity, that participants to complex supply chains consider to be confidential, and that governments classify as secret. Only with the empowerment of technological ‘data ownership’ in the hands of people, businesses, and governments will the Semantic Cloud make contact with a horizon of new, ‘blue ocean’ data." Cloud Computing: Billowing Toward Data Ownership - Part II.

Knowledge Graph is a "baby step" toward navigational search that provides a kind of Wikipedia "look and feel" experience designed to help users navigate more easily toward specific answers. Ever used the "I’m Feeling Lucky" button provided by Google? That button taps into Google's semantic search system to provide a navigational search resulting in a single result. This is an attempt to provide a purposeful effect instead of an exploratory effect to your search request. Yes, it's still a "hit or miss" artifice but - make no mistake - it is has been introduced for pushing forward navigational search as a business model.  Google's business intent for navigational search is to discourage you from going to other search engines for your search needs. Knowledge Graph is designed to cut short a process of discovery which may take you away from Google to a competitive search engine. This move toward navigational search is exactly why we are proposing that now is the time for common point social networking. Without common point social networking, navigational search will largely remain a clever, albeit unsatisfactory, solution for what consumers really want. What consumers want is real-time, meaningful, trustworthy information about the products they buy or are interested in buying. As Amit Singhal, Senior Vice-President of Engineering at Google, says:

"We’re proud of our first baby step - the Knowledge Graph - which will enable us to make search more intelligent, moving us closer to the "Star Trek computer" that I've always dreamt of building. Enjoy your lifelong journey of discovery, made easier by Google Search, so you can spend less time searching and more time doing what you love."

Conclusion: Whole Chain Communications from Navigational Search

So much of the information that consumers desire about the products they buy - or may buy - is currently locked up in enterprise data silos. But the realistic prospects for common point social networking means that navigationally searching for enterprise data - as a business model - is no longer an impossible challenge akin to Starfleet Academy's Kobayashi Maru. The ultimate goal for Google's navigational search is essentially that of providing not just whole chain traceability but real-time, whole chain communications for consumers via their mobile devices. The ultimate goal for GS1's standards for granular whole chain traceability is to similarly provide opportunities for real-time, navigational search.

 Google’s Knowledge Graph indeed represents the first step of a toddler. To fully develop a “Star Trek Enterprise computer” Google must drive nextgen social for enterprises by fostering the placement of common point social networking between the the bookends of navigational search and whole chain traceability. There is no other technology company better positioned or more highly motivated to do so. And we believe that it will. In backing the Wikidata Project, Google is already on a pathway to promoting common point social.




Steve Holcombe
Pardalis Inc.



Clive Boulton
Independent Product Designer for the Enterprise Cloud
LinkedIn Profile



1. In these funding submissions co-author Holcombe introduced and defined the phrase of "whole chain traceability" in reference to his company's patents.

The Bullwhip Effect (Part III)

Return to Part II.

The writing is on the wall. The writing is on the Facebook Wall, like it was on the Berlin Wall. Only this time the writing is in real-time. The is in the real-time that it takes to save a life or protect an innocent company from bankruptcy by suspicion. From bankruptcy by the Bullwhip Effect.

Ironically, it won't be the really bad guys who are caught in real-time. You know, the ones who commit out and out fraud. Instead, It will be the companies who really are trying to play by the rules. Who are doing their best to keep the trust of their suppliers and their customers. But even those good companies who are caught up in a recall will benefit from the elimination or reduction of deaths, sicknesses and legal liabilities that would otherwise occur under the good 'ol one-up/one-down paradigm. Instead of hundreds or thousands of people becoming sick from a pepper salmonella contamination over a period of months, flattening out the Bullwhip Effect will mean that significantly fewer people will be sickened before the government regulators react with real-time information at their finger-tips. 

As an attorney who has had a fair amount of jury trial experience, I find myself wondering what a jury of Facebook users would think about questions like these in determining a food company's liability?

  • Could the company have responded in real-time to the food safety incident?
  • Did the company take full advantage of real-time technologies for providing food security for its customers?
  • Was the company a good corporate citizen or did it recklessly ignore real-time technologies to the detriment of its consumers’ health? 

Actually, it's not inconceivable that a jury comprised entirely of users of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) would be seated even today. I wonder how much ag and food companies have thought about that? It may even now be almost impossible for their attorneys to avoid juries who in their daily lives are reading the real-time writing on the Facebook Wall. But the companies who early adopt and bring forth VRM and whole chain traceability will be the companies who will benefit even if they end up in court. At least they will be able to look the jury in the eye and say, "We acted as good corporate citizens with the best available real-time technology. We saved lives that might otherwise have been lost. We played by the rules and we didn't try to bend them."

But the fraud-committing bad guys, they'll surely run the greater risk of being bankrupted into oblivion.

Juries rest at the foundation of democracy here in the U.S. They give voice to the voiceless. They send messages (i.e., verdicts and liability judgments) out to our society that are often heard as clearly as if the President had signed significant Congressional legislation. They're not real-time messages but sometimes they kind of feel like it because they often seem to come out of nowhere.

 A few years ago I prosecuted a prisoner for escaping from a penitentiary. He wasn't a bad guy in a violent sense. In fact, he wasn't violent at all. He was a middle-aged, property thief who was a kind of 'nice guy' among bad guys. The prison warden even designated him as a trustee so that he could work on the farm outside of the walls of the Big House. At least until he tried to escape at all of about 15 mph (24 kph) on a farm tractor. It didn't take long to catch him.

The prosecution of escape cases rarely go to trial because, well, what's the point? I offered the prisoner's attorney the minimum sentence of 2 additional years to do just so we wouldn't have to pick a jury but he said that his client wanted a trial. What? Huh? Why? "He wants a trial and I don't know why," the attorney said with a shrug. He was as perplexed as I was. Both of us knew that the prisoner risked receiving the maximum of 7 additional years in prison for making the judge and members of the jury go through an unnecessary procedure. That is, for wasting everybody's times.

So one afternoon the prisoner was transported over from the Big House to the courthouse. We picked a jury. I rested my case. The prisoner took the witness stand. He swore to tell the truth. His attorney asked him to tell his story. The prisoner said, "I escaped".

There is a tenet among trial lawyers that you should never ask a question that you don't know the answer to. I didn't have to ask the prisoner a question at all. He was going to be convicted. He knew he was going to be convicted. The jury's decision was made for them. There was no need for deliberation. The jury members were relieved that they would all be home well before dinner. But I had to ask him because I genuinely wanted know, "Why have we gone through this process of picking a jury and conducting a trial when you admit straight up to escaping?"

"I've been in and out of prison my whole life," the prisoner said. "The 5 or 6 times that I've been put back in prison was because whomever my attorney was at the time told me to plead guilty. I always did what I was told. This time, I wanted to do it my way. I wanted my day in court. I wanted to be heard. I escaped ... but now I have had my day in court. That's all I wanted."

The jury was touched. There was even a knowing smile or two in the jury box. They quickly came back with a verdict - the 2 year minimum that I had offered to begin with. The prisoner went back home to his cell in the Big House that night with a smile on his face. He had had his day in court. A jury of his peers had actually listened to him. And heard him.

 I was touched, too. It was one of those teachable moments that we find ourselves surprisingly carrying with us, and from time to time reflecting upon. People want to be heard. People don't want to be managed into "doing the right thing" and muzzled in the process. Even in a losing effort. The need to be heard is a powerful human need. That's the bull's-eye that VRM is aiming to hit. It's the right target.

I began this three part series of journal entries referencing comments that Frank Yiannas made at the second annual meeting of the Arkansas Association of Food Protection. He said something else that I hadn't mentioned. He said that when he first took on the food safety position at Walmart that their marketing department wanted to broadcast the message that food safety was now a priority at Walmart. Yiannas said that - to the surprise of the marketing folks - he nipped that at the bud. His reason? Food safety is not a priority because ... priorities change. Food safety is a commitment ... and commitments don't change.

If we can just get VRM and whole chain traceability connected with Yiannas' corporate philosophy of food safety committment, there will be a whole lot more customers feeling like they are able to do it their way with companies who are truly acting as good corporate citizens in a real-time world. Lives will be saved. Customer loyalty will be increased. Liability risks for companies and industries will be eliminated or reduced. Lots of money will be made.* And maybe, just maybe, the global trust bust - identified as being real by the largest retailer in the world - will begin to fade away.


This is the third and final part of a three part journal entry. Feel a need to comment? Please do so at Data Ownership in the Cloud on LinkedIn.


* And kept from the hands of the dreaded trial lawyers! :-) Like Bill Marler says, "Put me out of business - please!"


The Bullwhip Effect (Part II)

Return to Part I

I ended Part I stating that industry had been essentially leaving the customer out of the equation, too. What I meant was that enterprise class systems like the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems offered by so many companies ...

... are a significant part of the problem.

Customer Relationship Management is about companies trying to manage their prospect and customer relationships. CRM systems contribute (or, maybe I should say, reinforce) one-up/one-down information sharing in supply chains and ipso facto the Bullwhip Effect. And Michael Hinshaw makes the point that even though billions have been spent on CRM over the last 15 years ($9+ billion in 2008 alone), overall customer satisfaction has remained flat. To the right is a simpler version of CRM.

The flip-side to CRM is envisioned to be Vendor Relationship Management (VRM). VRM would provide to people – individuals who recognize their value as customers, and wish to better define the terms of their relationships – the software, tools and ability to manage their vendor relationships, as well as their interactions and experiences.

To the left is a simple picture of VRM in which a consumer is able to conveniently manage multiple vendor relationships. The critical thought leadership for VRM is found with Doc Searls and the VRM Project at Harvard's Berkman Center but VRM in the marketplace still largely remains a vision.

Picking back up from Part I on the concept of viewing food safety regulators as a kind of consumer, and mashing together VRM (from the perspective of customers) with a whole chain traceability system for supply chains (from the perspective of food safety regulators) it would more or less have to look like this:

"OK," you say, "that's a nice, neat, REALLY simple picture but isn't this already happening on Facebook? Can't the Customer, Producer, Wholesaler, Retailer, and even the Government Regulators all become Facebook friends and experience right now this mashed-together vision of VRM and whole chain traceability? And isn't this what Social CRM is all about?"

No, no and ... no.

The challenge is not one of fixing the latest privacy control issue that Facebook presents to us. Nor is the challenge fixed with an application programming interface for integrating with Facebook. The challenge is in providing the software, tools and functionalities for the discovery in real-time of proprietary supply chain data that can save people's lives and, concurrently, in attracting the input of exponentially more valuable information by consumers about their personal experiences with food products (or products in general, for that matter). Supply chain VRM (SCVRM)? Whole chain VRM (WCVRM)? Traceability VRM (TVRM)? Whatever we end up calling it, we know we will be on the right track when we see a flattening out of the Bullwhip Effect, won't we?

On the one hand, Facebook is highly relevant to this discussion because (a) it has over 500 million users, many of them businesses and government agencies, and (b) because it has helped to raise the expectations of its users regarding the availability of - and their hunger (no pun intended) for - real-time information. On the other hand, we are a long way from seeing headlines that read "Facebook immediately identifies and confirms source of salmonella contaminated peppers" or "Facebook tracks food ingredients in dioxin scare" or "Facebookers receive real-time e. coli food recall notices based on their hamburger actual purchases".* For that to happen, we need a few more ingredients added to the mix and one of them is the metadata ...

... by which each of the participants may be empowered to keep the degree of control over their data that will free it up for real-time access (and analysis) by others. Yes, it's ironic. Give more control to consumers so as to get more, better quality data from them about their experiences with food products? Makes perfect sense to Doc Searls and the VRM folks. They get that VRM is the ironic reflection of CRM.

The other ingredients? I'll finish up with those in the next - and final - journal entry. But I will say that I'll be returning to those interesting comments made by Walmart's Frank Yiannas .....


Continued in a final Part III.


* Actually, for an example of an implementation that is technically achievable right now, see my earlier blog Consortium seeks to holistically address food recalls. Substitute in "Facebook" for "Food Recall Bank".


The Bullwhip Effect (Part I)

There were interesting comments made last fall at the second annual meeting of the Arkansas Association of Food Protection. The comments made by Frank Yiannas, Walmart's Vice-President of Food Safety, continue to resonate with me.

The first thing that struck me was Yiannas' belief that the U.S. is currently experiencing several food safety incidents per year on the scale of the Jack in the Box incident of the early 1990's. That's a chilling perception. In the e. coli epidemic of 1993, four children died and hundreds of others became sick in the Seattle area as well as California, Idaho and Nevada, after eating undercooked and contaminated meat from Jack in the Box. It was the largest and deadliest e. coli outbreak in American history up to that time.

Another takeaway was Yiannas' belief that the food industry is consequently experiencing a "global trust bust" when it comes to food safety. 



I've been thinking a lot about Yiannas' comments and here are some of my conclusions .... 

A significant reason for the continuing series of food safety crises (notwithstanding the recent passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in the United States) is that the food industry's global and domestic supply chains are increasingly experiencing the Bullwhip Effect. This effect is directly attributable to the inefficiencies of one-up/one down supply chain information sharing.   

What do I mean by one-up/one down information sharing? The requirement of one-up/one-down means that vendors must know what is going on inside of their four walls which means they must know what is coming in and what is going out. Representative laws or regulations requiring one-up/one-down information sharing are: 

  • EU General Food Law
  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans
  • US Bioterrorism Act of 2002
  • US Food Safety Modernization Act

Industry will tell you that one-up/one down information sharing is the way it's "always been done" in supply chains. It ignores, avoids or by-passes many or most of the efficiencies of computer networking and the Internet. It also avoids or by-passes many the thorny "data ownership" and privacy issues presented by the Internet. 

But the "global trust bust" in food safety is building a fire under the boiler, so to speak. And the boiler is reaching its boiling point. It's looking less and less like things can be done the way they've "always been done".

Food safety officials in a recall investigation are like consumers, albeit armed with law enforcement powers. The character above who is wielding the bullwhip could just as well be a consumer as a recall authority. The bullwhip, whether wielded by a consumer or a food saftey recall authority, is representative of a the effect of a demand.

When the Bullwhip Effect appears it is clear evidence of a less than optimal supply chain directly attributable to the inefficiencies of one-up/one-down information sharing. When a consumer makes a demand for a product, the Bullwhip Effect causes product restocking to take days, weeks, or longer ...

... similarly to how it takes days, weeks, or longer for a demand in a traceback investigation to provide the information required for determining (hopefully) the roots of the contamination and how pervasively contaminated a supply chain has become. A consumer who comes to a store to purchase a product that is out of stock causes a Bullwhip Effect in the supply chain. Similarly a food safety recall authority who comes to the store to find out why a customer became sick (or died) also causes a Bullwhip Effect in the supply chain.

OK, so you say, "What can be done about it?"

Well, the food safety recall authorities know what they want:

[T]he regulators want a traceability system that is consistent, speedy, covers the entire supply chain, has electronic records, has interoperable systems, and covers domestic and imported foods. ”


In other words, they want it all! The label they have given to what they want is a "whole chain" traceability system. A "whole chain" product tracing system consists of information elements provided by persons in the supply chain to other persons in the supply chain or to regulatory officials (e.g., during a traceback investigation). See Product Tracing Systems for Food, 74 FR 56843 (3 Nov 2009). To the right is a simple drawing of the real-time, "whole chain" monitoring that government regulators seek in order to overcome the Bullwhip Effect in food recalls.

To drill down a bit more, the government seeks to conduct real-time monitoring of the critical transactional events (CTEs) of supply chains.



And they want to see electronic one-up/one down transactional information sharing like this ...



... to become something more like this ....


The challenge for industry is that government wants "whole chain" traceability and, "[o]n top of that, [they want] industry to develop the tools and to pay for the system."

But that's a real challenge for industry if for no other reason than that the government regulators have left one critical player out of the CTE supply chain, that being ...

... the customer.

But then, come to think of it, industry has also essentially left the customer out of the equation.


Continued in Part II.