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Collaborative Communication Driven Decision Management in Non Hierarchical Supply Chains of the Electronic Industry

Final Report Summary - CONVERGE (Collaborative Communication Driven Decision Management in Non Hierarchical Supply Chains of the Electronic Industry)

Executive Summary:
The European electronic industry faces strong competition with far eastern and US manufacturers and has to respond with improved flexibility to changing requirements and efficient collaborative decision making across the supply chain, increased skill levels and higher cultural differences understanding. To build up trust between different companies in non-hierarchical networks, it is important that other players in a network have a certain degree of visibility of multiple commitments. The speed of development in the electronic industry requires free sharing of data; however the interconnectedness of different supply chains requires a very sensitive handling of confidential information. Companies need relevant information and a save enough environment to negotiate supply deal in such a supplier network. This leads to the need for highly dynamic supply chains, where suppliers need to change rapidly or need to provide new versions or completely new products. Traditional hierarchical procurement processes are not flexible enough to support such a highly dynamic industry. A company needs to know whether their suppliers supply chain is agile enough to meet a new request, if this is not the case the product might be (re-)designed to accommodate a less flexible supply chain or a new supplier needs to be found. In times of mass customization, the production network has to be able to produce the products the customer requests.

CONVERGE helped to close this gap by providing the „Open Decision Management Framework" that includes:
- The Reference Model: The model is made of an extension of the existing GRAI modelling approach (traditionally focusing on internal enterprise modelling and production management decision making) to supply chain management, co-development of products, and to the sales and purchase areas.
- The Deployment Process: The process describes the method to apply the reference model at different usage levels (generic processes for all industry sectors, processes for the electronic industry, for particular networks and for particular companies).
- The CONVERGE prototype: The prototype is based on existing enabling technologies. These technologies were extended and adapted to the new reference model and deployment process. The resulting prototype consists in different IT components that enables the new information management implementation inside and between companies and allows for connecting with existing heterogeneous software systems.

These results are largely based on the knowledge and experience gained during empirical studies with CONVERGE industry partners.

CONVERGE implemented successfully all related workpackages: WP1 (Environment and Requirements), WP2 (System Requirements & Reference Model Definition), WP3 (Secured System Architecture & Integration), WP4 (Adaptation), WP5 (development), WP6 (demonstration), WP7 (Dissemination & Exploitation) and WP8 (Project Management).

The project exploitation plan mainly ensures 1) that the CONVERGE reference model will be further disseminated and integrated by the academic community and 2) that the different prototype components will be further developed and finalised according to their current maturity, targeting product launch in 2012.
Project Context and Objectives:

Current collaboration in non-hierarchical networks is mainly focused on the operational level. The technical support for this collaboration is through ERP-systems. Companies being members of the same supply chain collaborate on different decision levels based on different decision fields, such as production planning, resource optimisation, sales and purchase. These cut across the three management levels: operational, tactical and strategic, which each need relevant information.
At the operational management and shop floor level, existing decision flows within and between companies are already well structured. Indeed, current enabling business applications (e.g. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems) can provide an integrated view of the operational information across the functions within a company and they can be used to build links to other companies. But this does not provide transparency on strategic and tactical planning levels.

At the strategic and tactical levels inter-organizational decision flows are not well formalized and hampered by:
- Process and communication disruptions;
- Low level of internal information integration and aggregation;
- Missing rules for information transactions;
- Reluctance of management due to confidentiality and protecting know-how;
- Lack of knowledge of the strategic and tactical goals of other network partners;
- Lack of knowledge of design changes being carried out in the customer company.

To build up trust between different companies in non-hierarchical networks, it is important that the players in a network have a clear degree of visibility of decision and commitments. The high speed of product development in the electronic industry requires quick sharing of data; however the interconnectedness of different supply chains requires a very sensitive handling of confidential information.

Manufacturing companies need:
a) relevant strategic and tactical information from suppliers and customers and
b) a secure environment to negotiate supply plans all along the supply chains.

This leads to the need for highly dynamic supply chains, where suppliers need to change rapidly or need to provide new versions or completely new products. Traditional hierarchical procurement processes are not flexible enough to support such a highly dynamic industry. A company needs to know whether their suppliers supply chain is agile enough to meet a new request, if this is not the case the product might be (re)designed to accommodate a less flexible supply chain or a new supplier needs to be found. In times of mass customization the production network has to be able to produce the products the customer requests.


To get an overview of the complex situation in production networks of the Electronic Industry, the decision makers in companies need sufficient and reliable data and information to make adequate strategic and tactical decisions. Companies need to have visibility of order and product development plans and related critical issues across all the supply chain they are involved. They need to be aware of potential tactical and strategic decisions of their suppliers and customers so that they can plan their own activities accordingly. This information must come from network partners, based on agreed terms of information sharing. Each partner in the network must be able to make its own tactical and strategic decisions based on the multiple supply chains, they are part of. Within non hierarchical networks, these decisions cannot be taken centrally, but rather local subsections of the network must be empowered to align their own decisions according to the overall supply chain context. CONVERGE aimed at supporting decision making at whatever scale is required.

CONVERGE aimed at developing a collaboration framework on strategic and tactical management level, in the so called “Open Decision Framework (ODM)”, consisting of models, methods and tools solving coordination problems of non-hierarchical, decentralized networks.

The framework should ensure that local and distributed decisions made by the managers all along supply chains are achieved based on relevant and up-to-date-information from other partners in the network.

The targeted Open Decision Framework consisted of:
- A Reference Model for collaboration in non-hierarchical networks, based on the extended GRAI-approach to inter-organizational level
- A Deployment Process to apply the reference model at different usage levels (generic processes for all industry sectors, processes for the electronic industry, for particular networks and for particular companies)
- A Prototype based on existing IT-Tools extended and adapted to the new reference model enabling the new collaboration concept inside and between companies and connecting heterogeneous software systems
Project Results:

In the scope of WP1, the project started by setting the baseline for its innovation activities. A shared understanding of the project environment was first developed in the state of the art (see deliverable D1.1). While there is a lot of research on supply chains, decision making and information exchange, this research is fragmented originating from very diverse research communities. This work led to general definitions of supply chains, basic figures and characterisations about the electronics industry, the identification of research questions related to information flows (e.g. related to communication, characterisation of strategic and tactical information, information security), the identification of collaboration scenarios and a state of art of computer support systems. This work demonstrated that the exchange of operational information is already well supported by existing computer tools, however the tactical and strategic information still occurs in an ad-hoc way. The nature and challenges of the exchange of tactical and strategic information is still ill understood and no specific tools exist to date. The second WP1 study addressed directly the needs of the CONVERGE end-user beneficiaries (see deliverable D1.2). Numerous interviews led to a description of their supply chain activities, their products and their requirements for inter-organisational collaboration enhancement. These requirements focused on connectivity, configurability, extensibility and reliability but also on the confidentiality of shared information as well as the appropriateness and usability of the tools and concepts. This study showed that CONVERGE should 1) take into account both development and manufacturing phases, as well as both formal and informal information exchanges and 2) be usable in the offer preparation phase.


In the scope of WP2, in order to set up our theory on decision alignment along the supply chain, we introduced first the concept of the „Focal Company"(FC) i.e. a company, which launches activities to answer specific requirements of customers and need support and agreements from its suppliers. We studied then the structure of a sub-network called „Triad" consisting of one customer, the Focal Company and the 1st supplier layer, . We stated that our approach should be adapted to any place of a supply chain i.e. could be applied to any larger parts or to other parts of the supply chain.

Further studies on FC decision processes in the triad environment led us to consider that the partners could be "white boxes" (allowing modelling all pertinent processes), "grey boxes" (allowing restricted modelling) or "black boxes" (only allowing data sharing). Based on these first concepts, we started developing modelling formalisms, an algorithm and a framework 1) to map key decisions made within the FC (both "internal" and "frontier" decisions); and 2) to identify and analyze the dependencies between decisions. To this aim, we exploited the "GRAI" modelling approach that is one of the main enterprise modelling methods used to analyse and to design decision management systems. This method is usually used for internal Business Process Re-enginering (BPR) activities and focused on production and resource management. Therefore, we had to extend it to supply chains information flows modelling and also to product development projects modelling. The new resulting CONVERGE framework (see deliverable D2.1) uses modelling formalisms from the "traditional" GRAI modelling method and the Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) graphical representation, but also a new extension of the GRAI approach -"GRAI-project"-adapted to product development projects. Inter-organizational information flows are identified by using the GRAI grids while the new "information exchange" formalism allows for flows characterization. The CONVERGE end-user intensively supported the modelling framework development through several experimentation iterations thus validating existing components and identifying missing concepts.

While first WP2 conceptualisation work focused on one node of a non-hierarchical network, further work (see deliverable D2.2) was dedicated to the development of an "information exchange taxonomy" to characterise basic exchange patterns between the partners of networks. Some usage scenarios were described by showing the data trajectories within the modelling framework. We concluded that the application of the information exchange taxonomy need 1) "governance rules" for collaboration framework but also a technological roadmap to support the integration of the prototype with existing IT solution at end-user sites. These concepts were further developed and experimented in the scope of WP4 and WP6.

In the scope of WP3, we set up an IT architecture describing how to integrate and improve existing technologies in order to support the WP2 modelling approach. This architecture is addressing core security challenges: security of data transmission, confidentiality of the transmitted data (related to authorization), the integrity of the data (i.e. the transmitted data was not changed) and the non-repudiation (i.e. tracking the data transmission). The core components of our preliminary architecture are: 1) the CONVERGE Portal personalized for each decision-makers (identified by the GRAI Grids) including "portlets" (pluggable user interface components) able to retrieve information both from different internal or external sources (identified by the Information Exchange Model); and the 2) the CONVERGE Mediator Engine that will support collaboration security in a well-controlled way and make the management of such security-related issues easy to manage (see deliverable D3.1).

WP4 worked on approaches for the deployment of the Open Decision Framework. Our first concerns was to define 1) how to implement efficiently at the end-user sites the modelling approach of WP2 and the WP5 prototype and 2) how to control the implemented information exchange system (based in the "governance rules" concept introduced in WP2). The deployment method was described as follows: 1) Sector specific, 2) Network specific (according to the supply chains of the focal company) and 3) Company specific (see deliverable D4.1 - version 1). A generic model of collaboration and deployment was set up. Adaption in terms of application sectors peculiarities were addressed taking into account the different types of collaboration, the periodicity of reconfiguration of the supply chain and the different information exchange need and security issues. A taxonomy of collaboration types was developed as well as a taxonomy of data allowing to track the exchange trajectories and the relationship between data exchange and the type of collaboration within company, and to analyze the solutions to conflicts that may happen during the data sharing.. Based on the preliminary results of WP5, further work in WP4 then considered the IT prototype adaptation within an illustrative case (see deliverable D4.1 - version 2) .

The „Open Decision Management Framework" had to ensure that local and distributed decisions made by managers all along supply chains, are achieved based on relevant and up-to-date-information from other partners in the network. To this end, the project provided in the scope of WP5 a prototype based on existing technologies.
The technology providers first selected and tested some of the key technologies to implement the CONVERGE reference model, e.g. some security techniques and technology for the CONVERGE Portal. The preliminary implementation of stable components was achieved (see deliverable D5.1) based on the functional requirements defined in the earlier work packages. The technology providers concentrated on implementing the three subsystems of the prototype indentified in the prototype architecture:
1) the decision management portal (Portal);
2) the access policy definition and enforcement (Policy) and
3) monitored data access with metadata extraction (Data).

An additional "knowledge explorer" helps the users finding similar information into the database thus helping to capitalize and share existing know-how.
An "execution flow viewer" was also developed in order to graphically monitor running processes and support process traceability (as required in WP1). The work finally concentrated on integrating the subsystems and completing their functionality. A release plan was set up in order to allow for continuous evaluation in the scope of the end-user cases and for improvement until the end of the project. After each release the other beneficiaries had the opportunity to attend a training session (as online session or physical meeting).


In parallel to the development of the Open Decision Framework, we selected and specified the evaluation scenarios that should support the demonstration of the combined results from WP2, WP4 and WP5. The specification was continuously improved and updated according to the ongoing results of WP4 and WP5. It included the evaluation strategy, the evaluation method and the implementation plan.

We achieved the verification of the prototype readiness for demonstration and the preparation of the test environment (integration phase) for the first demonstration at MMSE premises based on the first version of the prototype. The work done to develop this first evaluation facilitated the application by the three others industrial partners. A generic list of evaluation criteria has been worked out dealing with the evaluation scenario and the related constraints, with process oriented aspects and the usability of the CONVERGE tool.

The evaluation form was deduced and adapted from ISO 9126 and based on experiences and an intensive literature review. Filling of the evaluation form took the users about 30 minutes. The evaluated criteria are for instance the functionality, internal acceptance, the expected impact and the customizability of the tool.

The CONVERGE's overall evaluation approach contains the following steps:
1. Definition of use cases (participants: evaluation managers)
2. Customization of the tool to the specific partner (participants: evaluation managers)
3. Preparation of the evaluation form (participants: evaluation managers)
4. Online training workshop for the modellers
5. on site evaluation preparation session (finalisation of step 1 to 3)
6. On site training workshop involving all evaluation participants
7. on site evaluation coordination session (if needed) involving all evaluation participants

According to the size of the end-user project, the technology providers organized a preliminary training session with the selected test users. This training was done simultaneously with the finalization of the end-user test scenario and taking into account business constraints of the end-user. This training at MMSE occurred in July 2010 for MMSE, in August 2011 for MILT, in September 2011 for DELTA and in November 2011 for SIEGERT. Just before starting the demonstration scenarios, an overall coordination session of two hours was achieved with all the involved test users.

Further questions were then addressed directly while running the demonstration case. Furthermore, for MMSE, an additional, interim training workshop was held in the middle of the evaluation week in order to summarize and explain frequently asked questions.

As a whole, internal end users acknowledge the good usability of the CONVERGE tool and appreciated it high level of flexibility. However, it is this high flexibility that contains stumbling blocks for the end user and requires high efforts concerning the configuration of the tool. The evaluation results were continuously submitted to the WP5 team in order to ensure continuous tool improvement (see deliverable D6.1 as draft version).

Key lessons learned were:
- The efforts during the configuration phase is high and will need clear guidelines while going for market deployment beyond the end of the project
- The training sessions needs to be well prepared and personalised in order to focus immediately on end-user priorities
Potential Impact:
The overall target of CONVERGE was to support increasing the capacity of industrial SMEs to operate globally in an agile manner, within various supply chains, in order to adapt to the rapid evolutions of existing and future markets.

The fulfilment of capacity related goals allows adapting to the rapid evolutions of existing and future markets. Non-hierarchical networks are an upcoming option of production networks. The network underlines the increasing need of adaptability e.g. in terms of supply chain management and low cost manufacturing:
1) "The ability to offer a complete range of manufacturing services - from box-build to complete supply chain management - is now virtually a prerequisite for medium- to larger-sized European EMS companies. They are also facing industry consolidation and increased competition from low-cost producing regions."
2) "An ability to offer low-cost manufacturing will remain a key trend throughout the period to 2011 and [...] this will be a major factor in East and Central Europe showing significantly stronger growth than West Europe."

The new CONVERGE management approach and enabling ICT-Tools lead to a shortened reaction time to changing production requirements of EMS companies. CONVERGE increases the overall capacity of industrial SMEs by implementing an up- and downstream information management of tactical and strategic decisions aligned with operational processes. The possibility of a quick and mutual exchange of information about decisions in and between companies improves planning processes and enables them to adapt quickly to the dynamic changes.

The implementation of CONVERGE will simplify the building of networks of companies and trans-European cooperation in a supply chain. Especially small and medium enterprises will profit from the CONVERGE framework and the software support, because many SMEs have not concerted practices with their suppliers and customers.
Significant reduction of logistics costs, high inventories of current assets and lead times of material and information

In contrast to non-hierarchical networks with many SMEs other branches like the retail industry have successfully implemented collaboration methods in their supply chains. A highly recognized collaboration initiative used is Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment (CPFR). It's success stories have shown that for example Wal-Mart or Metro could increase the forecast accuracy from 83% to 98,5% and the service level about 1% while Metro's number of rush-orders could be decreased about 20% and the inventory levels about 20-30%. Wal-Mart and its supplier Warner-Lambert improved the in-stock level of Listerine from 87% to 98% and reduced lead times from 21 to 11 days.

These numbers show the potential of improved collaborations between actors in supply chains. With CONVERGE, non-hierarchical networks are expected to improve their collaboration and thus increase their Enterprise velocity, i.e. proactive production planning, which will lead to a reduction of delivery times and moreover lead to lower inventory levels along the supply chain.


Companies, especially in the electronic industry, are specialising more and more on their core competencies, and integrate their suppliers closer in their development processes. Therefore, the dependencies on suppliers arise and suppliers' quality and reliability becomes more important. With regard to product development planning activities in non-hierarchical supply chains, problems often occur because of missing relevant information (e.g. details about the customer's start of production and the required amount of products that should be delivered at a specific point in time). This lack of information forces suppliers to estimate the possibly required amounts in order to plan production capacities and to order semi finished products from their own suppliers.

CONVERGE will increase customer satisfaction. Through better coordinated processes the overall efficiency will be enhanced and the product quality will be increased because of better information sharing in development processes. Moreover the delivery times can be decreased through the collaborative forecasts improving capacity and production planning processes.

Tools for overcoming the complexity of operating in several production networks at the same time should facilitate an increase in the business volume
Since cooperation in hierarchical networks and supply chains like the retail industry are easier to achieve with one strong and powerful customer, the CONVERGE consortium expects an increased income and fulfilment of orders. Furthermore, CONVERGE includes a software tool support, which simplifies information retrieval e.g. for quotation activities at CONVERGE's focal companies, which is very complicated, because required information have to be collected by a lot of manual tasks (e.g. phone, email). Due to the connection to suppliers, internal production planning departments and customer relationship management companies using CONVERGE will be able to enhance their profitability through reduced quotation generation cost. Additionally, CONVERGE's focal-companies suppose time savings, that will be achieved by using the CONVERGE approach offering collaborative forecasts and a closer strategic coordination.


Based on the methodology and technologies, many academic papers journals specified aspects of the project were published. The dissemination strategy contained the CONVERGE web site and project flyers which introduce the CONVERGE project to the public.
To interest wider audience and introduce more ideas regarding CONVERGE project, we publische articles in conferences such as iNet-IMS workshop 2010 & 2011, DSM 2010, Design 2010, MMEP workshop 2010, ICE 2010, ADM 2010.
- Zolghadri, M., Eckert, C., Rasoulifar, R.; “Modeling decision and data dependencies in Engineering to Order project management”, DSM 2010
- Zolghadri, M., Zouggar, S., Rasoulifar, R., Girard, P., “Structuring interdependencies between products and networks of partners”, ADM conference 2010
- Zolghadri, M., Rasoulifar, R., Eckert, C.; “Sharing Tactical and Strategic Information to Improve the Efficiency of Non-Hierarchical Supply Chains: Preliminary Findings from an European Project”, ICE 2010
- Rasoulifar, R., Zolghadri, M., Eckert, C.; “The Need for a tool to exchange information in non-hierarchical network of the electronic Industry: an European project”, Design 2010
- Rasoulifar, R., Zhang, X., Zolghadri, M.; “A design support tool for integrating expert-user in the design process: case application on surgical instruments design”, Design 2010
- Liu, Y., Zolghadri, M.; “Power Interaction in Non-hierarchical Supply Chain Network”, iNet-IMS Workshop ICE2011
- Liu, Y., Zolghadri, M., “A Product-oriented Power Taxonomy Framework”, PRO-VE’11
- Scholz-Reiter. B., Rippel, D., Meinecke, C.; “Identification of Requirements towards a Business Information Tool”, CENTERIS 2011 Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
- Scholz-Reiter, B. Heger, J., Meinecke, Ch., Rippel, D. Zolghadri, M., Rasoulifar, R.; “Supporting Non-hierarchical supply chain network in the Electronic industry”, ICE 2010
- Kasza, M., Zoltan Vegh, A., Szucs, V. Rak, Z., Bilicki, V.; Semantic knowledge representation in non-hierarchical supply chains, DBKDA 2012
- (B.Sc Thesis) István Gere; Collection and visualization of semantic information in an enterprise-level environment”, University of Szeged 2010

Two flyers were designed and printed. The first describes the general objectives of the project, the participating organisations and gives an outlook on the intended functionality of the system. The second flyer presents the final results of the project. Both flyers are available in English and will be downloadable as PDF documents from the project website. The design of the flyers easily allowed inserting them into the general documentation material of the consortium partner who is distributing them.


On the 9th November 2009 started the iNet-IMS initiative. The objective of iNet-IMS, Intelligent Non-Hierarchical Manufacturing Networks, is to check the feasibility of the extension of scope of the EC-FP7 funded projects REMPLANET (Grant Agreement No. 229333), CONVERGE (Grant Agreement No. 228746), Net-challenge (Grant Agreement No. 229287) and inTime (Grant Agreement No. 229132), with respect to IMS-specific tasks and results. The four projects are under the Call “FP7-NMP-2008-SMALL-2” Activity code “NMP-2008-3.3-1: Supply chain integration and real-time decision making in non-hierarchical manufacturing networks”, and started between May and September 2009.

The overall objective of iNet-IMS are to:
- Analyse the needs that arise from the interactions and relationships between SMEs belonging to Non-Hierarchical Manufacturing Networks.
- Analyse recent technological innovation trends(mainly in terms of IS and IT) to support Decentralised Decision Making.
- Analyse existing standards for information exchange to support Collaborative Processes
- Define a Framework for Collaboration in Non-Hierarchical Manufacturing Network context.

The past/undergoing activities are:
- Activity 1: Workshops & Dissemination: The international workshops are planned during the period of this initiative. We participated in the workshop in 2010 and 2011 with papers published regarding the CONVERGE project. We plan also to participate to the workshop in 2012.
- Activity 2: iNet-IMS Book: A book concerning the entire MTP initiative on the base of workshop results and contributions of all the research projects. The CONVERGE consortium are in charge of three chapter: Network Collaboration, Decision Reference Model and Evaluation of Collaborative Processes.


This workshop brought in Mars 2011 together forty researchers and NMP project officers involved in the twelve current NMP projects on the management and organisation of manufacturing operations – Converge, Copernico, Corona, FutureSME, inTime, LeanPPD, Net-Challenge, Remplanet, SmartNets, Suplight, SustainValue and VFF.
The overall objective of the workshops was to:
• Allow the participants in the projects to meet their peers and gain a technical overview of leading European research in the field.
• Identify common ground and promote cooperation between projects.
• See examples of best practice in action; to allow young researchers to receive training and see outside the confines of their own research projects.
• Exchange ideas on future research priorities and prospects for innovation and exploitation.


An exploitation plan (see deliverable D7.3) paved the way for the exploitation of the project results after its completion by:
- Designing the Converge Exploitation Approach and Methodology.
- Defining and describing the exploitation assets/ results
- Agreeing on the contribution and ownership (single/ joint) of those results by the contributing partners
- Planning the Exploitation activities in terms of how each result will be used from each partner


Methodology academic “certification”
The only way to guarantee the further usage of the scientific results of the project is to pass through the filter of the scientific journals. In fact, during the project run, lots of papers were submitted to the highly ranked international conferences. By the end of the project as all results are available (methodology, models, illustrative case, platform), they have to be presented to scientific journals.
A paper published in such journals has a very wide audience covering all of the international academic community but also the private research centres or the research centres of big forms. Moreover an Impact Factor, associated with each journal, shows its influence in the community.
This target should be reached during the first two years after the project termination. Actually two journal papers are in preparation by CNRS and OU.
The critical success factors are:
- Effective validation activities: publications
- Inclusion of more users, in order to define in a more precise the necessary additions/ corrections in the methodology.

First ecosystems
The publication of these results in the journals, conferences, and all other kinds of the communication supports such as web site or flyers, would allow the usage of the results by industrialists, other academics and consultants. The CONVERGE consortium members will also look for applying and using these results in various contexts.
Through these applications, new results could come out in conferences and journals. Also, industry associations could ask for further research or improvements. All these feedbacks should be taken into account in order to improve the quality of the proposed results. Meanwhile PhD students could be launched by academics-industrialists in order to apply these results in different sectors.
All these possibilities increase the chance of the CONVERGE methodology to go towards a well-known and established tool for supporting supply chains in their decision-makings.
The best applications of the CONVERGE methodology should be highlighted by the project members. These are the success stories.
• Pilot experiences and industrial applications
• Industry associations enrolment
• Could have also a multinational structure, giving the opportunity to the consortium to start from a local point and then rollout to other countries/divisions as well.
• Creation of success stories
The critical success factors are:
- Excellent communication/marketing activities
- Very good communication between existing users and their network

The very final step is the market expansion that means that a specific communication should be done towards the IT vendors. These companies are interested in methodologies because the industrial tools or platform cannot be implemented in firms without application of a methodology. Obviously they have often their own methodology. However, relying on a well-established and well-published methodology reflects a more comfortable situation for them. The collaboration between ERP firms such as SAP or Oracle Applications with academics is a sign of the hunger of these firms.
Relying on the published and validated results of the CONVERGE project, a specific marketing action towards the IT vendors and consulting companies is the final level of market expansion.
Critical success factors are:
- a very good selection of successful markets.
• Effective use of the existing pool of customers as example


Startup phase:
The first phase is the start-up, where all post-project activities towards the transformation of the prototype into product as well as the administrative issues need to be executed. Activities in this phase include the following:
• Formalization of the CONVERGE terms of commercial use
• Decide on the share incomes from the use of Converge product
• Creation of a template contract of use from the customers
• Activities towards the official agreement and formalization of the above issues

Critical success factors are:
• Effective market validation activities
• Inclusion of more users, in order to define in a more precise the necessary additions/ corrections in the prototype.

Product launch:
Once the prototype is transformed into a commercial product and the consortium has established the formal terms of cooperation, the initial launch of the Converge product will be done.
As this is the initial launch of the CONVERGE tool, the consortium needs to be very mindful in the selection of the initial “success stories”. This means that based on the business model, the product initially should be launched to those customers that will form the first ecosystems based on which the next phase (expansion) will be realized. Those customers have to fulfil the following requirements:
• Could be created by the existing consortium users.
• Have a central role into a network of companies.
• Can act as “Opinion Leaders” in the market in which they operate. This means that these partners should pull the whole market into the need of adopting such solutions.
• Could have also a multinational structure, giving the opportunity to the consortium to start from a local start and then rollout to other countries/divisions as well.
• Could act as “success story” for further market penetration.
The above will act as a central point among (hundreds or even thousands) suppliers and they can have the power to convince them into the use of the new system and way of conducting business.

Critical success factors are:
• Excellent communication/marketing activities
• Very good communication between existing users and their network
• Very good selection of new opinion leaders

Market growth:
Once the CONVERGE tool has the acceptance of the key players, it is expected that those players will affect all organizations that are transacted with. This will have a vertical impact on the expansion of the system in its existing markets.
In addition, the system could also be promoted to in a more horizontal way by involving other industries/application areas. This action is very important since it will focus on a greater market shares by promoting additional functionalities catering the particularities raised for those sectors (e.g. health, automotive, etc.):

Critical success factors
• Very good selection of successful markets.
• Effective use of the existing pool of customers as example

Market Maturity - Adoption by Enterprise Application Vendors/ methodologists
• there is a considerable market (pool of customers for the vendors) using the Converge tool
• Those customers requires integration of their enterprise applications with the tool
Then the vendors will study the possibility of standardizing integration of their products with Converge

Critical success factors are:
• Stabilization of the CONVERGE tool in a considerable market share.
• Effective communication and cooperation with IT vendors.