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Author's profile photo Debra Curtis-Magley

How Smart is your Business Network?

Code.jpgWhen it comes to business networks, there can be a number of mistaken assumptions. Among them, many companies believe that an EDI connection or outsourced scanning solution is equivalent. Not so, says James Marland, Ariba’s Vice President of Network Strategy. James is a passionate advocate for business networks who seeks to set the record straight. He will discuss the role of business networks in today’s enterprises at Ariba LIVE Rome which takes place April 8 to 10.

According to James, some companies start using a business network for transactional reasons. But the greater value they reap is from the intelligence gained from that transactional activity. With business networks, companies are building an asset.

Ardent Partners reports nearly 75% of invoices are still paper based. As James points out, the information a company can capture from a paper invoice is limited. With a business network, you have access to much richer information because it comes straight from the supplier’s system — machine-to-machine. Instead of moving documents, you are moving information.

I spoke to James as part of an interview series with SAP and Ariba thought leaders on the business trends influencing organizations’ drive towards greater collaboration.

Q.  What are companies misunderstanding today about business networks?

That adopting a business network will be a big change to their business and that they don’t have the time to tackle it. With business networks, come as you are … whether you are running on-premise, cloud or hybrid. It’s easy to connect and there is no rip and replace of existing software.

The other common misunderstanding is that all business networks are created equal. Business networks have many different characteristics and it’s important to understand the capabilities of a network you’re looking to use. For example, can the network extend to multiple countries? If not, it likely won’t be able to scale as your business grows. Intelligence is another important capability to understand. Is the network actually capturing insights? Or is it just storing disconnected data that can’t be easily analyzed to inform business decisions?

There’s more information on this topic in a blog post I wrote on the ten key characteristics of a business network.

Q.  What business trend do you feel is having the biggest impact on business networks?

The Millennials have the potential to make the biggest impact on business collaboration. This generation brings its own habits and work styles, which are more collaborative than previous generations. They will drive change in the way information is accessed, shared, and communicated within their companies. In the process, they will contribute valuable volumes of information that can be leveraged for knowledge management and business intelligence.

Q.  What will Ariba LIVE attendees hear in Rome?

A key point will be that many companies are underestimating the value of the information within their business networks.

There will also be a number of stories from suppliers who will talk about the value they have gained by participating on business networks. That value includes capturing more spend with existing customers, developing more strategic relationships with those customers because they aren’t distracted by the day-to-day tasks of handling invoice issues, and gaining new sales because they have visibility into RFP opportunities on the Ariba Network.

Interesting in learning more? James is a leading expert on business networks. Follow him at @JamesMarland and read his blog postings here at SAP Business Trends and at The Networked Economy.

Follow Debbie on Twitter at @DebCM.

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