When companies seek to improve the management of their supply chains, CIOs are usually called upon to help find reliable, cost-effective software. In fact, some CIOs not only implement new SCM technology but also become the top-ranking executives over the supply chain.

As IT’s involvement in SCM issues and implementation increases, tech leaders and staff need solid resources from which to get the latest industry information. Here’s the lowdown on three SCM Web sites, two built by professional organizations that offer general information on SCM, and a portal site that focuses on SCM from an IT professional’s point of view.

Institute for Supply Management
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) site reserves much of its content for members only. This educational association, which can trace its origins to 1915, now includes more than 180 affiliated organizations around the world, linking over 48,000 purchasing and supply management professionals. Membership costs vary due to registration via local affiliates, which can set individual rates.

The layout of the site is somewhat complex, but an ever-present navigation menu helps a great deal. You can click on one of the main section names—such as Conferences & Programs—to go to the area’s main page, or you can select subsections directly from the list that drops down from the main navigation menu. With 14 choices on the main navigation menu and drop-down lists with as many as 16 choices, it can take some time to find exactly what you need. On the plus side, when you become familiar with the site, you can return to a favorite area with just a click or two. If you find the drop-down menus distracting, you also have the option to hide them.

One of the notable features publicly available is the monthly ISM Reports On Business. The report information is collected from 400 companies, and trendsin the indexes that make up the report on business can indicate larger-scale trends in the economy. Selected articles from Inside Supply Management (formerly Purchasing Today) are also available to nonmembers.

An IT staff member who works extensively with the supply chain may consider ISM’s Certified Purchasing Manager program, which delves into various aspects of purchasing, supply, and management. Each exam costs $95 for members, or $135 for nonmembers. The ISM site also offers online courses for professional development.

ISM is one of the organizers of the Supply Network Conference, which will be held September 17-19 in San Jose, CA. Registration costs range from $1,395 for ISM members to $1,595 for nonmembers. Conference offerings mainly cover general supply chain issues, and a few seminars focus on the nuts and bolts of IT in SCM.

The Council of Logistics Management
The Web site of the Oak Brook, IL, Council of Logistics Management also offers some information to the public, although most is reserved for members (annual membership dues are $250). According to the membership profile, the manufacturing sector is most heavily represented in this organization. The purpose of the 14,000-member organization is primarily to promote research and professional development, and it refuses to endorse products, services, or legislation.

The colorful home page features pop-up menus under the main categories, which include News & Highlights, Education, Careers, and Conferences & Meetings. Overall, the site is well organized, and the menu items are fairly self-explanatory. Nonmembers can find some useful free information, including 17 case studies in the Research section. The site also offers a searchable bibliography with over 30,000 abstracts. If you’d like to learn more about SCM, click Education, then Logistics Dates to find a list of upcoming seminars at business schools and other venues.

The CLM Annual Conference will be held in San Francisco, Sept. 29-Oct. 2. Costs range from $995 for members registering before July 1 to $1,395 for nonmembers registering on or after July 1. On Sept. 29, the conference will present an education track on logistics software. After a general session in the morning, attendees will be able to try out software from various vendors. (According to the site, vendors were told that they should provide educational opportunities for participants rather than sales presentations.)

An IT portal for SCM
Although the ISM and CLM sites provide some excellent information for SCM professionals, ITtoolbox Supply Chain takes more of a nuts-and-bolts approach. Its chief strength is in organizing information from a wide variety of vendors in a format reminiscent of Yahoo. The downside is that much of the information on this portal is actually “advertorial” coming from vendor white papers, press releases, or sponsored links.

The left column of the site is news-oriented, topped off with a chart tracking an index of SCM stocks. The box below offers headlines from a variety of sources, including the Associated Press and the New York Times Syndicate, as well as industry-specific organizations, like Truckinginfo.com. Although the box is big enough to offer just a few headlines, you can find more by clicking the SCM News link at the top of the box.

The site’s Job Bank is a message board posting job listings in a classified-ad format. The jobs are grouped into 13 areas of expertise, including Material Handling Systems, Trading Partner Integration, Warehouse Management, and General SCM.

Like the layout found at Yahoo, the top of the central column features a search box. Below that are links to content organized by type, such as Hardware, Software, and Consulting. Clicking one of these resource categories will take you to a page of vendor links with brief descriptions of the services each company offers.

The Books section features SCM books organized by topic, with links for you to buy the book on Amazon. In the Documents section, you’ll find white papers sponsored by vendors, academic papers, links to articles on other sites, and articles submitted to the site by peers.

The site’s real strength is in bringing diverse information together and organizing it into categories and subcategories. For example, by clicking System-wide Applications, then the Workflow subcategory from the home page, you’ll find books available for purchase from Amazon, such as Workflow Handbook 2001; links to software vendors such as TrackForce; a peer-published article titled “Flow Manufacturing is Essential to Supply Chain Management”; and a couple of industry articles from other publications, such Electronic Commerce World. There are also e-mail discussion groups on the site that give users of particular SCM products a place to exchange information. For example, you could join a list devoted to Manugistics, Ariba, or i2.

For CIOs whose workload is increasingly SCM-focused, this site offers a plethora of information to help you tackle SCM issues.

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