Supply Chain
Trade Compliance

Transactions, Processes, Volume, and Complexity: 4 Challenges in Compliance, Supply Chain, and the Whole Technology Space

Grant Sernick

May 9, 2017

We have been developing and implementing solutions across the supply chain for many, many years. We have seen many different kinds of organizations with a myriad of issues that they have trouble articulating and more trouble addressing.We have worked with people up and down the organization and across the broad spectrum of the supply chain. What is very interesting is the shortage of people who can disassemble their situation and succinctly express the salient issues they are dealing with and begin to formulate a strategy to address their set of problems.As application software designers and developers we continually are categorizing and classifying. We have to review processes to understand whether they are the same or different than what we have done and what we understand. When dealing with data, it is the same story. Are there patterns that can be exploited either in the data structure, in the process, in the work flow?It is like dealing with fractals (a mathematical concept). It is about recursion and reuse; being effective and minimalistic, being able to lever small things into something much larger and substantial.Looking for patterns, trying to understand what they might mean, and how they might be exploited to our benefit is something we focus on and stress.When working in the supply chain and with GTM (Global Trade Management) solutions we are continuously seeking out patterns and then testing them against experienced deviations to determine their validity as a foundational concept pattern. While our experience can be distilled and expressed across many different aspects of the supply chain, this discussion will focus on one: what drives organizations to spend time, effort, and money on changes of their systems.Our experience has shown that there are four main categories of issues that drive organizations in the supply chain to seek out better approaches:

1. Transaction Control

The required transaction set is incompletely described in the supporting data structures and the control applications. Because of this, work and efforts are compromised and waste abounds. The response of many organizations is to patch something together, often using Word or Excel. The solution is usually cumbersome and time consuming. It is not easily repeatable and subject to operator error. In addition, the transaction set is not under control and cannot be easily made compliant with external quality requirements and standards.

2. Internal Process Control

The internal processes are not well suited for the control and execution of the transactions. This is expressed as redundancy and missed targets, either time, quality, or accuracy. Often older processes are ill suited for the adaptations they are put to. Broken or ineffective processes require a redesign of the process supported by more modern systems techniques. Process demands are found all over the supply chain. Since the supply chain involves the provision of services and meeting of requirements of third parties outside the control of the organization, process control and oversight are extremely important and valuable. In many organizations there internal processes are deficient and require remediation. The benefit is increased control, accuracy, timeliness, and visibility in a less demanding environment.

3. Volume of Work

Volume and scale bring their own demands. Things that work well under a lower volume demand can fail when pressure tested at scale. Volume determines action. When volume escalates, constraints become evident. Volume demands more effective transaction handling at speed. Lack of response implies greater error rates, failures of service and missed deadlines, fatigue and burn out, and redundant efforts.

4. Complexity

Interactions and the dynamic nature of relationships impose their own demands and complexity which, in turn, require their own responses. When talking of complexity, the discussion relates to the external environment which is beyond the direct control of the organization or individual. If we are talking about internal complexity, the situation is inherently under more control. Internal complexity can usually be described and addressed under the Internal Process Control category. External complexity needs to be accommodated at the point of interactivity rather than controlled (unless control can be mandated). Complexity issues demand understanding of the broader environment and are inherently more difficult to address. They abound in the supply chain. As a result, solutions need to be supported with considerable expertise, experience, and sensitivity to the external reality. Effectiveness means having very good coping mechanisms.

We have explicitly left off the emotional and user interface issues as determinant classes, as these are generally based on individual preferences relating to visuals, feel, branding, and reputation, and are outside the realm of problem definition and pattern recognition. They are much harder to quantify and are much more subjective in nature.If you are interested in further discussing these points or discussing how this might relate to your own experiences and requirements, either in the supply chain or generally, please do not hesitate to contact me at or through Linked In. I have worked in this area for a long time and am looking to further extend my model for addressing client issues in a defined, organized structure.