What’s the hype? Social Media and the Supply Chain

tmatulis    February 22, 2015

Organization Names: Huffington Post

Industry: Media

Web References: GartnerSamsung, Apple, P&G – Different takes on Co-Creation and Open Innovation,

Where are we today?

The question of social media and how it can and does influence Supply Chain Management presents interesting possibilities and challenges.  I will go out on a limb here.  Unless you are associated with IBM, Oracle, or a powerhouse corporation like Ford, I wonder if social media has gotten anywhere near your supply chain in a meaningful way.

Discounting my own observations and experience, I make this assertion based on a 2012 report by Gartner, Hype Cycle for Supply Chain Management (https://www.gartner.com/doc/2096420/hype-cycle-supply-chain-management), which includes the following passage, “The military term “VUCA” (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) aptly describes the environment in which most supply chains now operate” (passage accessed at http://quartetfs.com/blog/in-memory-analytics-technology-rises-up-the-supply-chain/).  So if the pursuit of running supply chains better suffers from a sort of complexity ‘squared’, how likely or common are deep dives into exotic domains such a B2B social media for all but a few companies.

Let’s try to make some sense of this topic by taking a step back and assuming a broader perspective.

What is the Hype Curve?

The hype curve is a branded framework by Gartner that provides a visual presentation of how technology, particularly the type we might read about in the headlines, emerges from the lab or some skunk works and then takes off.  It is an effective way to understand where an invention or innovation stands both relative to its maturity and relative to other exciting technologies.  It also provides a year-to-year context so that you can follow developments to see the pattern.

The key take away is that ‘high’ tech, that might imply major changes to whole industries, are prone to the hype curve pattern – early excitement followed by reality, and then measured adoption based on market conditions.  I guess there is always a place for  patience.

Raw Hype Curve

The Gartner Hype Curve

The following interview with a Gartner analyst provides some additional background on this very interesting approach to looking at technologies.


Mr. Social Media, have you met Mr. Supply Chain?

Since I have some doubts that social media has yet to meaningfully impact Supply Chain Management (SCM), can we find clues for where we stand by exploring the Gartner’s framework?

The hype curve can readily target segments and the 2013 Gartner hype curve for social software provides a focused look at how little and how far the tools for social media have progressed.

Hype curve for social software

Source – http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2579615

It is important to make clear at this point that this deals with tools and not adoption.  Nevertheless it is helpful to see that tools supporting a B2B related focus are beginning to ‘land’, such as those for mass collaboration, peer-to-peer communities and engagement, and cloud-based systems.  All said though Gartner at least does not see much in the way of targeted SCM social software emerging.  One that vaguely touches this theme is  Social Business Process Management (BPM), however this on its initial wave.

So where does this leave us on the question of social media and SCM?  As always when it comes to social media, with some interesting questions to ponder and unconventional concepts to consider.

It’s all about the business model

Recall my post of last week,  Samsung, Apple, P&G – Different takes on Co-Creation and Open Innovation, where I explained the extraordinary evolution of business models and the emergence of exotic hybrids based on combining value in innovative ways.  Not surprisingly companies working in these modern models often leverage social media in the attempt to displace the incumbents and bust the traditional approaches.

Consider the Beyond Advertising Business Model that Ouke Arts presents.  The decline of print and broadcast media has become an old story based on the proliferation of options for advertising to ever more precise market segments.


Whereas content providers used to be employed by, or were otherwise captive to, major newspapers and broadcasters, they are now free to engage directly with readers through a proliferation of channels.  In fact thought leaders almost certainly now wield the balance of power in the dynamic.  Like it or hate it, think of the Huffington Post and their supply chain that provides 300 stories a day to be recycled across various on-line properties.  Their business model deserves study and no small amount of scrutiny.


Source – http://logisticsviewpoints.com/wp-content/uploads/At-the-Social-Media-Inflection-Point.jpg

Disruption seems to be the name of the game, and there is no shortage of hype around the death of conventional models. Social media arguably enables this hype.  A possible view of the future will see new combinations of tools emerging that mimic the lessons learned from enabling social networks but with the correct mix of capabilities based on the technical needs of business (SAP recently announced the acquisition of  Crossgate). I agree with Adrian Gonzalez that there will be an inflection point when enterprises discover how supply chains can begin to derive value reliably through networking external resources.

Lessons for others

I spent the week surfing the web for anything like a clear pattern of implementations that saw companies leveraging tools and strategies based on the familiar social media model. I found some great ideas and a lot of confident pronouncements on how important the concepts were.  Are their practices connecting supply chains as social networks, probably a few.  Is it too soon to invest aggressively in adopting the concepts for most organizations, probably.

To contact the author of this entry please email at:  gtmatulis@gmail.com

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