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Today’s business networks: Breaking barriers and changing lives

I recently returned from this year’s Ariba LIVE Las Vegas, and I’m still thinking about what a great experience it was. The fun and intensity of Las Vegas added to the high energy generated by the stellar speakers, record-level attendance, and nonstop networking as everyone focused on the exciting developments transforming collaborative commerce.

Being immersed in this flood of insights and ideas really brought home to me how far we’ve come—and how much we have to look forward to. The power of business networks is putting remarkable new tools in our hands not only to drive business success, but to make the world a better place. As I reflected on the show, three key trends stood out that underscore this idea:

1. Business networks are becoming mainstream, with adoption levels rapidly increasing across industries and geographies. And as many analysts note, this is one clear instance where a rising tide floats all boats. With more buyers and sellers making business networks a core part of their go-to-market strategy, the critical mass of participants continues to grow—which in turn creates more opportunities and higher value for everyone involved. In previous blogs, I’ve touched on some of these benefits, including:

Industry research backs this up. Andrew Bartels from Forrester described how business networks are evolving far beyond just document delivery to support buyer-seller collaboration on a wide range of activities, with higher spending on new technologies increasing resources and boosting engagement on both sides. Mike Fauscette of IDC pointed to business networks as the key platform for the next generation of business innovation—connecting companies with a broad ecosystem of customers, partners, and information so they can create market-leading solutions and gain the agility to predict and overcome competitive threats.

2. Sellers are experiencing exceptional success through Ariba Network, and their stories are inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. In session after session, sellers shared how they’re using Ariba to effect meaningful change within their organizations, communities, and markets—all while supercharging business growth. Smaller sellers in particular are raising the bar, adopting innovative approaches to overcome the odds and realize big wins. During a panel discussion about Ariba Discovery, we heard how:

    • Sam Crawford from Armed Forces Rehab and Renovations has transformed his small regional construction company into a major national competitor, fast-tracking progress on his dream of providing jobs for veterans in all 50 states.
    • Alexander Ashe of Spendology has dramatically expanded his company’s reach by pursuing “leap” opportunities that stretch Spendology’s vision, netting a 34% win rate and multiplying B2B revenue 25x.
    • Jonah Manning at PeopleOps has leveraged his company’s boutique-style sales and service in a whole new way, landing projects that have doubled revenue growth and opened the door to global business projects.

3. Corporate social responsibility is taking center stage. As concern escalates about threats to the environment, human rights, and social equality, more companies are proactively taking steps to become part of the solution. Reaching into every area of business—from supply chain management to fair labor practices to sustainable procurement and more—a growing number of corporate social responsibility initiatives are benefiting from alliances with nonprofits sharing the same goals. These collaborations can lead to new synergies that accelerate progress towards positive change.

This point is emphasized by Ariba’s partnership with Made in a Free World, a nonprofit focused on eradicating forced labor, human trafficking, and other forms of modern slavery. Together we’ll explore the vital role business networks can play in making things better—providing the transparency, predictive insights, and market tools and intelligence companies need to improve their social responsibility scorecard.

A lot of exciting things are happening through business networks, yet we’ve only scratched the surface—the possibilities are truly endless. We will be continuing this discussion at AribaLIVE Munich June 8-10, 2015.

I’ll also be blogging about these areas and more in the coming months, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts as well.

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