We live in a digital world and are so connected and empowered by information that most of us panic if we are without our mobile devices or lose Internet connectivity for more than a few hours.  And we’ve become more demanding when it comes to technology and what it can do for us. We used to be content just getting online to search for information on products, scan the latest news or find out what our friends and family were up to.

But things are different today. Just like the consumer technologies we use to shop, share and consume, we expect our business software to make our lives easy. To be intelligent and deliver experiences that are personal and relevant. To know things about us and anticipate our needs within the context of our actions and to execute them in line with our personal preferences and company policies.  To help us not only do things faster, but better. 

These aren’t unrealistic asks. Technology has certainly made our work more efficient. But it has also unleashed a host of new data. And by mining this data for insights and delivering them to the right people at the right times, technology can make us more intelligent and ultimately drive advantage.

Leveraging the hundreds of billions of dollars of financial transactions and transactional data along with relationship history that resides in business networks, for instance, buyers and sellers can make more informed decisions by detecting changes in buying patterns or pricing trends and provide confidence and qualifying information on a potential – yet unfamiliar – trading partner.

And, when combined with community-generated ratings and content, they can glean not only real-time insights, but also recommended strategies for moving their businesses forward.  So things like performance ratings where buyers rate suppliers and suppliers rate buyers. Others in the community can use this information to help determine who to do business with or to help detect risk in their supply chain. By accessing the real-time insights into invoice approval status married with historical data on payment patterns of given buyers that business networks provide, banks and other service providers can remove the risks from receivables financing, allowing them to offer more competitive rates and new services to network members that increase revenue.

These aren’t futuristic “what if” scenarios. They’re already playing out today. When looking for alternative sources of supply, for instance, a mid-sized manufacturer of do-it-yourself craft products tapped into the Ariba Network. The network not only provided a directory of suppliers that met their requirements, but offered up insights into each supplier – such as how many other buyers the supplier was doing business with on the network, how many RFPs it had been invited to and won within the past year and how other buyers rated the performance of each supplier – all drawn from structured transactions and unstructured comments and ratings from other network members. The company, which had been looking to move manufacturing of its paint supplies back from overseas, found a supplier located just two miles from its headquarters that could produce them more quickly and at a lower total cost.

Mediafly, a fast-growing mobile marketing solution provider, has been accessing real-time insights into invoice approval status available on the Ariba Network not only to view its outstanding invoices and determine when they will be paid, but to engage in “dynamic discounting” where discounts are offered in exchange for early payments. And the move has transformed their business. “We can now get access to capital at favorable rates when we need it, allowing us to hire new developers so we can take on new projects and grow the business,” says Mediafly CFO and COO John Evarts.

And these are just a few examples. Many more companies are following suit, using networks to push the limits of what’s possible and do business the way it SHOULD be done. And it is to these victors that the spoils will go.

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