Sunday, March 09, 2008


Synchronizing the World of Commerce

My most recent lecture (2008-03-05) in my Document Engineering course was about the "Co-evolution of business patterns and technology." This lecture marks the transition between the first part of the course in which I teach business model, process, and information patterns to give students some abstract conceptual foundations for the second part, in which I teach analysis and design methods for identifying and applying those patterns.

One of the themes of this co-evolution is that information about goods now has value independent of the value of the goods. That is, information about where products are, who uses them, and when and how they are used can be worth more than the products themselves.

So it was a nice coincidence on the day before my lecture that I was gazing outside my office window and noticed the UPS delivery truck parked in front of South Hall, the home of the School of Information where I work at UC Berkeley. Because of UPS' ubiquitous brown delivery trucks, most people would think that UPS is in the "delivery business." But it isn't. The slogan on the side of the truck is “Synchronizing the World of Commerce," which emphasizes the information about deliveries that UPS captures and manages, not the deliveries themselves. None of my students knew "what business UPS says it is in" when I asked them during my lecture, but they do now.

There have been many other posts here that touch on different aspects and case studies of these "information supply chains." Here are some of them:

Paperless international shipping

Antonio, Your Ships Are Lost -- Don't Borrow from Shylock!

Food Information Services and "Produce Provenance"

RFID May Be Key To Finding Latest Mad Cow Case

-Bob Glushko

This is a very interesting post, and the comments are also fantastic to read. I will have to have a little re-think about my own contact form on our new website, as this poses some interesting questions!
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