What is the last time you read a manual for LinkedIN? End user training and application manuals are a declaration of defeat for your supply chain collaboration initiative.

On the strategic radar of CIO's we typically find cost reduction, risk mitigation, increased agility and quality improvement. Supply chain solutions typically target cost and risk reduction most of the time. There is an overlooked window of opportunity however as well in increased agility and improving top line revenues by improved supply chain collaboration. Putting Design Thinking in your supply chain strategy helps to achieve that goal.

In our personal lives we are all in love with our smart phones and tablets and use those more at home than our laptop computers. For millennials the mobile devices are their native platform. They probably never read a manual and dump any app if they cannot figure out how it works in minutes. Our business applications and portals however still rely on the clunky user interfaces from the Windows age.

Especially in supply chain collaboration with partners outside your employee base that clunky design has a negative impact: You cannot spend a day to train a customer when you want to sell to him that working with your company makes his life easy!

Now let's look at the upside potential with a case study: One of our customers is making their business out of modal shift: Taking trucks off the European roads and replacing them with rail over the long haul, completed with short haul truck deliveries at the first and last mile. Anyone in logistics knows the reputation of railways, especially for freight, and would say this is a lost battle from the start trying to apply technology from the 19 century to a supply chain building drones.

Still, working together with our customer on how we can make it as easy for their clients as booking a commercial flight online and by pulling the data from the client's in house system without effort on their end that makes the modal shift a one click decision, we managed to increase their business volume by 50% in 3 years. Obviously we never created a manual and there is no user training.

Think design with the end-user experience and process interaction in mind in a way that is as natural as possible. Use invisible guiding workflow underneath, avoiding redundant clicks and page changes. This is the new normal for collaborative user experience. Do not confuse easy to use with easy to do however. This is hard professional work requiring the best designers, programmers and infrastructure. But that's another story.

This week I met with Tradeshift; a company that has built this into their DNA. Although not a supply chain powerhouse today, this will give you a feel for agility in supply chain design that leaves supply chain design modeling and optimization tools a voice of an era as distant as the green screen.