Companies plugged into the Networked Economy en masse in 2013. And in 2014, they’ll supercharge their efforts. Leveraging business networks, they’ll harness the insights and intelligence of entire communities to break down the barriers to collaboration and enable new processes that drive innovation and competitive advantage. But these aren’t your father’s networks. They’re smarter, faster and more global than ever. And they promise to transform business in ways never thought possible. Here are five things you can expect from business networks in the year ahead:
1. Lurkers will get engaged. Plenty of companies took to the sidelines in 2013 and watched as innovative companies embraced business networks as a new model for business. In 2014, they’ll join the game and make collaborating via networks a priority.
2. Companies will get smarter. Networks are the most efficient, effective way to connect with a global network of partners and transact business. But their real power lies in what goes on inside them – all the interactions, transactions and commentary, and the massive amounts of insights and data that they generate. Companies will move beyond transactions and tap into these insights and data to drive competitive advantage.
3. Collaboration will drive innovation. Social tools and business networks have changed the very nature of business and engagement. Companies today are more connected and mobile than ever. And they will leverage this to enable new processes that are only possible in a networked environment and drive innovation across their operations. Processes like dynamic discounting that allow them to secure discounts that can be reinvested in research and development and funding to expand their business. Or contingent workforce management through which they can identify and manage highly-specialized resources needed to develop that next-generation product.
4. Buyers and sellers will get closer. In their initial phase, networks were all about connecting companies more efficiently to perform a discreet process – buying, selling, invoicing, etc. Today, buyers and sellers are using them to enhance and expand their relationships. And this trend will accelerate. Buyers will harness the connectivity and insights of networks to find the right partners and optimize their spend and supply chain. Sellers will use them to engage with customers when, how and where they want to be engaged to increase satisfaction and wallet share.
5. The business of the future will be enabled today. Just as consumers tap into personal networks to learn, share and shop better, companies will tap the ‘knowledge of crowds’ and insights from business networks to not only sense the present, but see the future and proactively shape it to their advantage by anticipating risks and trends in the market and developing plans and adapting processes to execute on them before anyone else.
Business networks are among the most disruptive technologies of our day. Disruption fuels innovation. And innovation drives advantage. Networks will continue to disrupt in 2014 and deliver companies that harness their power to new worlds of excellence.