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Imagine that you are the key account manager with a large component manufacturer catering to global OEMs. One day when you login to your business network account that enables you to manage all your business transactions with your customers, an alert awaits you. The network alert highlights that one of your key customer has been frequently revising his orders upwards after release. Having recently added some production capacity in one of your plants, you realize that this might be a potential opportunity that you could leverage, not only to improve capacity utilization but also to cement your position as a proactive and trusted business partner. In a normal world, this would have probably gone unnoticed under the crushing work loads under which order fulfillment professionals operate or masked under the garb of supply chain fluctuations which are quite common in the manufacturing industries.

This use case is just a peek into the power of an intelligent business network or Business Network 3.0. A cutting edge business network which not only transmits information and documents across millions of nodes, but also analyzes trends, patterns and anamolies alike which can help organizations on the network drive business value by reacting faster to the every changing demand and supply dynamics.

Business Networks have been evolving for the past decade and a half but have hit mainstream pretty much over the past 5 years. With the leading business networks in the world having over a million suppliers, transacting over 300 bn in spend annually, we are reaching an inflection point in the business network space. With every category of spend having its own network, we are looking at the next generation of networks to be a network of networks, a “One Network to connect them all” if you will.

Tracing the evolution of the business networks, an interesting picture emerges.The first generation of business networks were purely transactional. They addressed just one need- automate transactions and document exchange while doing away with the need to maintain complex one to one EDIs. The key value proposition was to drive efficiency in the process they enabled and reduce cycle time.

The second generation of business networks focused on driving effectiveness in the processes they enabled. This was done by making the networks smarter- by enabling business rules specific to the processes the networks supported. For e,g, Invoice automation rules which prevent erroneous invoices from hitting your system through a set of business rules on the network. In many cases the validation is done even before the supplier submits the invoice, which drives effectiveness across the process chain.

The third generation of business network will be an intelligent network, which continuously senses, analyzes, learns and adapts based on the supply and demand dynamics, order and invoice patterns and other data flows which it facilitates. Combine this network intelligence with “Internet of Things”, we might be looking at touch less supply chains that are self adjusting. Smart bins with sensors, auto replenishment triggers, intelligent business networks, the future of supply chain and procurement, never looked so exciting, and we have just gotten started. With millions of transactions flowing across the world, with spend volumes amounting to entire GDPs of economies, the impact of an intelligent business network promises to be far reaching. It will not only make the world run better but run simple!

This blogpost originally appeared on LinkedIn: Here

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