The Problem If you\u2019re going to have a truly integrated supply chain, one that allows you to see your partner\u2019s inventory while your partner is immediately aware of the demand on your end, you need tools to facilitate that high degree of transparency and connectivity.The Hype Collaboration tools are becoming a standard piece of the modern Internet, with everything from instant messaging for individuals to collaborative workspaces on B2B sites. In theory, collaboration tools and practices allow every company involved to benefit from their business partners\u2019 product information?such as inventory, price and the manufacturing schedule.The Facts Soviet Communism worked in theory, and we all know how that turned out. In a sense, collaboration?in its truest cross-supply-chain form?strives for business communism. At the very least it requires companies to give up their greatest competitive advantages, the aforementioned information and knowledge. And that\u2019s assuming that the technological hurdles presented by a company\u2019s own systems can be overcome. Simple collaboration is happening. Jim Wicker, vice president of information technology for Dynamex, a Dallas-based same-day transportation company, collaborates with FedEx and other shippers through XML connections and Web interfaces. It\u2019s a good way to do business, but Wicker says that anything more than purchases and orders would require too many cultural and business process changes to be feasible. And this level of collaboration is an option only if a potential collaborator doesn\u2019t have information trapped in legacy systems. If your own systems aren\u2019t up to snuff, "what is the point? Why should I open my kimono and show you my data when I know that my data isn\u2019t any good?" says Andy Macey, vice president of supply chain for consultancy Sapient in Cambridge, Mass. Even if your data is in an easily exchangeable form, it probably isn\u2019t in an industrywide standard format. Without standards, suppliers have to tailor their data to each business partner. And even if they could do that, letting their customers know how much they paid for a certain product, or how much they have in stock, flies in the face of accepted business practices.