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Remember chat rooms?

During the internet’s nascency, volumes of chat rooms materialized covering a copious array of topics for the like-minded, or perhaps the not so like-minded, to meet virtually and engage in rigorous discussion.

America Online (AOL) not only popularized the use of chat rooms, but quickly developed a more personal method of information swapping when they unleashed AOL instant messenger on dial-up internet users.  In fact, according to the Washington Post, “by 1997, the year AOL launched Instant Messenger as a stand-alone chat product the company boasted an estimated 19,000 chatrooms.  Users spent more than a million hours chatting each day.”

Long ago, during in the pre-digital analog era, global inhabitants had been chatting –most likely face to face, prior to the advent of the telephone – for thousands of years; for simple social interaction, information exchange or collaboration.

Now, as part of the Internet of Things (the interconnectedness of software-driven smart devices, cloud computing and networking), chat has become the popular kid in the digital neighborhood.

Why the renewed appeal of digital “chatting”?

Anonymity plays a part, particularly among social players. But the instant media, information and data sharing provides considerable benefits to business users. Last year Fast Company, the American business magazine, reported, “The long-lost chat room is experiencing a renaissance, and social media companies new and old are hoping to capitalize on the trend.” Due to group chat’s rapid and real-time interactive ability, it is no surprise this tool has emerged as a highly effective and functional way for business communication, flow of knowledge and collaboration. Not quite a complete replacement for email, conducting business via group chat does impressively diminish the inbox clog resulting from iterative, replay-all messaging.

Very recently, the Wall Street Journal not only proposed that group chat has surfaced as the hottest thing in IT, but that “chat is becoming the backbone of many businesses, bringing together both people and multiple software programs.”

What this means for supply chain operations.

Imagine an interface that integrates customer and supplier conversations with back-end applications where extended team players can swiftly and effectively resolve business issues with real-time player engagement and file sharing.

For example, you might have a customer who has very specific requirements for a commodity… at the right price. Armed with the right software and data, through real-time participation among customer, procurement, supplier and –if necessary – second tier suppliers, the lowest cost commodity with optimal specifications may be quickly achieved.

It just may just be time to eliminate endless email threads, unreturned phone calls and detached conference call participants.

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