Last week I was asked to join a special panel at the 2019 IAM Conference in Chicago. On stage with me was the President of BiTA, Patrick Duffy, the Co-founder of Mobility Exchange and industry veteran, Ray daSilva, and moderating was IAM’s Vice President, Brian Limperopulos.
The panel agenda was set squarely on the topic of standards and standards adoption. Planned questions ranged from low-balls like “what is blockchain” to complex and uncertain answers to “how do we start creating an industry-wide data platform.”
IAM included me on the panel because of the relevance of Fr8 Network strategy as well as recent research I conducted for my webinars with another strong industry consortium, FIDI. (Check out part 1 and part 2).
The panel was invite only and for good reason. IAM wanted to ensure lively debate and who better to express their views than the leaders in Mobility. Audience members included executives from the biggest moving software companies, staffers from the US Department of Defense and World Bank, representatives from the major Relocation Management Companies, and more.
In total there were about 60 people in the audience for the two hour slot, and we left an hour of time to field questions and encourage discussion. Humorously, during the open discussion time a software company representative insisted that IAM simply start building a platform for the industry, claiming “nobody here trusts each other to do it, I don’t even trust myself to do it.”
It was clear the audience had familiarity with the concept of data platforms and seemed to agree it would be beneficial; I was pleased to hear concerns about architecture of the platform, as opposed to raw merits. Notable, 15 minutes went to discussing the pros and cons of centralized versus decentralized structures, although with no clear outcome.
Three years ago, the IAM-sponsored standard for “codification of contents for inventories for shipments of household goods and personal effects” was accepted into the ISO. Essentially, this standard finally established a means of universally recording the contents of a mover’s home into a Packing List. It was released and followed quickly after with the “messaging structure for electronic transmission of inventory data.”
Those standards have seen swift adoption by the leading software firms but those same firms expressed a classic network problem: none of our clients have set themselves up to receive the electronic transmissions.
This critical juncture for the relocation industry offers two paths.
In one scenario, companies connect individually with their customers and suppliers in a point-to-point manner; Each connection is unique and will need routine maintenance and bilateral updates.
In another setup, a single industry-wide endpoint is built and maintained. That endpoint is either centralized or decentralized but is governed by a single entity with which each customer and supplier would be connected. This scenario enforces data normalization amongst all integrated companies.
Scenario one resembles the current widely-used cumbersome entanglement of EDI systems. The second is more modern and could be a blockchain network or a Single Window-like system.
I hope IAM and the attendees recognize option 2 as the better one.
From my perspective, the compact and intimate structure of global mobility gives me a lot of hope they could move quickly to an industry platform. If IAM, FIDI, and the other major affiliations can allocate budget to produce standards, form a properly governed foundation, and sign on consumers a data platform, we could very well see something major in a short period of time.