In Games of Thrones, The Wall is a colossal fortification which stretches for 300 miles along the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms, the Wall is reported to be over 700 feet tall and is made of solid ice. The lands Beyond the Wall are mostly uncharted but are thought to be huge. Not much is known about the creatures beyond the wall, but rumours of the last White Walkers are enough to keep the Brothers of the Night Watch nervously patrolling the Wall.
If fantasy fiction is not your thing, consider the walls with unknown environments which also appear in history, with the earliest states of Mesopotamia building walls around their cities. Even the usually all-conquering Romans had enough when they got to Scotland and so put up a wall, which they then manned for a hundred years.
In some ways businesses today are acting like the Night Watch or the Romans: nervously looking out at their business partners, not sure how they should be interacting or even who is out there.
In the Networked Economy, fear of the unknown can be removed and you can start interacting with those strange critters beyond the boundaries of your ERP system.
There are four phases in engaging Beyond the Wall
Take a View from the Top of the Wall: In order to consider engaging with other businesses you need to take a look who is out there and what they are doing. In a previous blog posting, I called this the “lurking” period. You can see which of your business partners are already connected, how, and what volume they are doing. You can use this data as a basis for the business case, and see which business processes would benefit most from connecting. Buying? Selling? Cash Management? Logistics?
Raise your Standard from the Ramparts: Having had a peek, it is now time to enter your Profile into the Network: this is the equivalent of a flag flying from the wall. The profile not only describes your company and services, but also tells potential partners what E-commerce connections you offer, and how.
Make one Gate, and Guard it carefully: Any defender knows that a gate is the weakest point in a wall. So you should only have one hole through the firewall, and make sure that it is up to date with all the best security standards. Different business units will be asking you to connect in different ways to a variety of partners, through all sorts of technologies. It’s safer and much more efficient to connect once to a Network, and let the Network make all the connections.
Trade with the Natives: Now it is time to do business. This may be as a seller looking for new markets, or a buyer looking for new suppliers. You may be an IT manager trying to remove complexity from your business, or a controller trying to get out of a mountain of paper.
In Game of Thrones, it turned out that the natives turned out to be friendly after all.