The USM concept of the link

From USM Wiki

Our fragmented and connected society requires all organizations and teams to act as links in supply chains or networks.

Supply chains

By definition, supply chains are composed of links. These can be varying links (the upper chain in the image below), or standardized links (the lower chain in the image).

The two options have significant effects on the interoperability, and, therefore, on the performance of the supply chain.

Each actor in a supply chain can be considered as a link, whether it is an organization or a team within an organization.

Two options for a supply chain: varying links (upper chain) or standardized links (lower chain)

Standardized links

USM provides the concept of a universal link, for the optimal interoperability between the actors in a supply chain or network. This applies between and within any organization.

The concept of the USM link is based on two fundamental requirements:

  1. For strong supply chains, we need to specify strong and uniform links for each actor.
  2. For acceptable cooperation models between actors, we need to limit the specification to the outside of the link, without interfering with the internal responsibilities of the actor domain.

USM supply chains are composed of USM links

On requirement 1: A strong link must be based on a clear and strong architecture. The USM concept of the link is based on Systems Thinking, specifying a service management architecture, with an explicit definitions set, a series of explicit building blocks, and a set of rules on how to apply these: the USM principles of the USM method. Based on this Service management architecture, each actor can create a similar service management system for maximum interoperability in the supply chain.
On requirement 2: If an actor is a link in a supply chain or supply network, within or between organizations, it should be obvious that some level of standardization of its contribution cannot be avoided, and yet this appears to be the biggest threshold of all organizations. It is precisely that lack of standardization that enhances complexity and reduces efficiency and effectiveness of supply chains and supply networks. On itself this shouldn’t be a surprise: who likes to be told by others how to do their business? Therefore, the level of standardization must be acceptable for all actors in the chain or network: it should not limit the internal degrees of freedom of the organization for setting up their organizational structure or for selecting their tooling. Any enforced standardization should preferably only concern the outside of the link, ensuring the required interoperability. That is how the standardized approach of the USM Method can serve economy and all organizations in it.

Universally applicable

The USM concept of the link can be deployed integrally for all service organizations, whether they are service providers in healthcare, government, industry, finance, information technology (IT), education, or any other industry, and whether they are organizations or teams within an organization. USM explicitly offers the capability to promote cooperation and integration – and thus interoperability - between these domains through the standardization of the management systems of actors that behave as these links.

The concept of the link is based on the USM Customer-Provider Interaction Model (see the image below). The customer-provider relationship is repeated in each actor of the ecosystem (see the supply chain image above). Each actor is a customer as well as a provider: from the perspective of one actor, there always are one or more customers to the left and one or more providers to the right. The USM Customer-Provider Interaction Model can now serve as the uniform link that enables endless service ecosystems, as in the well-known effect of LEGO blocks.

The USM Customer-Provider Interaction Model

The interface

As demonstrated in the image of the Customer-Provider Interaction Model, the concept of the link standardizes the interface between the actors in the supply chain. This interface includes two components:

In both cases, the interface can be specified, and therefore standardized, in terms of facilities and support. For a three-layered government ecosystem, this leads to a standardization of the interface as expressed in the image below.

Example of a government ecosystem with a standardized USM interface model