Social Media Networks (SMNs) are collaborative tools used in an increasing rate in many business and industrial environments. These are often used in parallel with dedicated Collaborative Technologies (CTs) which are specifically designed to handle dedicated tasks. Within this research project the specific area of supply chain management is the focus of investigation. Two case studies where CTs are already extensively employed have been conducted to evaluate the scope of SMN usage and to confirm the particular benefits provided and to identify limitations. The overall purpose being to provide guidelines on joint CT/SMN deployment in developing supply chains. The application of SMNs to supply chain operations is fundamental to addressing the emerging need for increased P2P (peer-to-peer) type communication. This type of communication is between individuals and is typified by increased relationship type interaction. This is in contrast to traditional B2B (business-to-business) communication which is typically conducted on a transactional basis especially where it is confined by the characteristics of dedicated CTs. SMNs can be applied in supply chain networks to deal with unexpected circumstances or problem solving, capture market demands and customer feedback, and in general provide a medium to react to unplanned events. Crucially, they provide a platform where the issues can be addressed on a P2P basis in the absence of confrontational, transactional type interactions. The case studies reported in this paper concern EU based companies, one being a major national aluminium profile extruder, the second being a bottling plant for a global soft drinks manufacturer. In both cases the application of CTs to their supply chains is well established. However whilst both companies could readily identify the strengths of their CT systems (information and data sharing, data storage and retrieval) they could also identify limitations. These limitations included the lack of real time interaction at a P2P level and, interestingly, the lack of a common language used between different CT systems in B2B communication. Overall, the comments of the case study companies was that the SMN provided valuable adjuncts to existing CT systems, but that the SMNs were not integrated with the CT systems. There was a strongly perceived need for a better understanding of the contrasting and complementary capabilities of CTs and SMNs so that in future fully integrated systems could be implemented. Future work in this area will focus on the development of guidelines and procedures for achieving such complementarity in international collaborative supply chains.


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