Over the summer from grades 5 to 8, I was a catcher on my little league baseball team. I was a position player, which makes up the majority of a baseball team’s roster. Simply put, a position player is any team member that isn’t a pitcher: an infielder, outfielder, or catcher.

In Major League Baseball, position players are rated according to five key metrics: speed, throwing, fielding, hitting for average (measured by hits divided by number of at-bats), and hitting for power. Few players rate exceptional in each of these categories. For example, players that hit a lot of home runs—the power hitters—may be slow runners or average fielders. Anyone that excels in all these areas is known as a “five-tool” player. Back in my little league days, I may have been rated a three-tool player. I could hit with power and average, and was good in the field. In the throwing and speed categories, I was probably average.

In business, the five-tool organization has likewise been the exception, not the rule. As organizations connect with suppliers and other business partners over a business network, however, that’s changing. The ability to extend business processes outside your organization is leading to new business potential and competitive advantages; or, another way of looking at it, enabling more five-tool organizations.

Preserving the baseball analogy, let’s look at how you might map key business process metrics—the tools—to improving procure-to-pay operations in a networked economy.

• Speed: invoice processing efficiency
• Throwing: % of invoices off purchase orders
• Fielding: ability to manage working capital
• Hitting for average: % of early payment discounts captured
• Hitting for power: % of spend that is contract-compliant

The common thread to enabling these tools is collaboration over a business network. Build strength in any one area and you improve business performance. Build strength in all five areas and you thrive in your industry.

One organization that is moving in this direction is UPS, where its story of procure-to-pay transformation will be featured at the Shared Services Link Global Business Services Summit, October 6-8 in Atlanta, GA.  Jeff Phillips, UPS project manager helping to direct this transformation, will discuss an e-commerce approach that, from one platform:

• Promotes collaboration with suppliers
• Shortens invoice processing cycle times
• Eliminates invoice errors
• Enforces compliance to preferred suppliers and contracts
• Expands early payment discounts

The session, and the event, presents a valuable opportunity to sharpen your tools—or acquire new ones—to help you compete in the networked economy.

Now, back to my baseball career… it ended in 9th grade when fastballs got faster, and I couldn’t hit the curve. Eventually, I switched to slow-pitch softball, and several years ago attempted a comeback. It soon became clear that I was a one-tool player (speed)… until I pulled a hamstring.

In sports and business, total fitness is essential to high performers. Check out these tips on how you can keep your business in top shape as you compete in a networked economy.

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