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The Strategic CIO: Using Business Networks to Win in the Digital Economy

As a CIO today, you face a daunting array of challenges. On the one hand, you’re called to be a transformational leader—able to identify and implement emerging technologies that can drive ideas to cash quickly. On the other, you have to stay on top of the escalating demands of the digital economy: juggling the needs of diverse lines of business (LoBs) while securing myriad internal and external solutions, with more and more business processes happening outside your corporate firewall.

As the pressures intensify, you might feel like Hercules battling the Hydra: every time you chop one head off, two more grow back in its place. Yet with help from the right resources, Hercules won the day—and by leveraging business networks, you can too. Business networks provide the capabilities you need to meet the challenges of inter-enterprise business commerce, enabling you to:

  • Become a valued LoB partner and securely manage your company’s strategic objectives
  • Gain full visibility into all your collaborative systems with external trading partners
  • Protect the security of data leaving your enterprise
  • Easily support your organization’s compliance requirements

Not just another solution

If you’re thinking “But we already use EDI!” or “We have too many solutions as it is—why add another one?” consider the following: business networks extend, rather than replace, your existing systems and processes, providing a highly scalable, global, and secure environment that drives collaboration and efficiency across all solutions and activities with your trading partners. By making business networks a core part of your IT platform, you can get more value out of your existing infrastructure while capitalizing on five unique differentiators:

1. Business networks simplify connectivity and support LoB goals. With LoBs purchasing an ever-greater percentage of business technology—often without an eye towards IT compliance—your ability to manage internal and external solutions becomes increasingly crucial. At the same time, you need to not just support innovation, but also serve as its source. “IT needs to get ahead of its customers and lead, not follow, when it comes to exploiting technology,” notes KPMG’s Marc Snyder in The CIO Advisor.

The best business networks help you achieve both goals. For example, Ariba Network offers a standardized, open integration framework that makes it easy to connect a wide range of ERP and transaction systems to support business commerce activities. This gives LoBs and business partners a single platform for collaborative innovation with powerful resources to meet key objectives, including:

  • Allowing procurement to access a qualified global supply market, maximize cost savings, and enhance supply chain efficiency
  • Giving finance visibility into invoicing and payments and automating compliance
  • Helping sales and marketing streamline sales processes and grow revenue with new and existing customers

2. Business networks enhance data security. As the trifecta of outsourcing, strategic partnering, and globalization shifts more business processes into cloud-based solutions outside your organization, you need new ways to secure critical transactions and communications. Business networks offer a holistic, multi-tiered, and internationally compliant security model that keeps your collaborative commerce data well protected.

3. Business networks facilitate multi-enterprise collaboration. According to survey results reported by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 93% of organizations say they create value through collaboration, while 86% view collaboration as a strategic capability. And in the 21st century, business networks have become the linchpin of collaborative commerce. By serving as a de facto “control tower” to orchestrate relationships, systems, and information, business networks give you and your trading partners a single view of the truth—so you can agree on actions and manage change effectively to meet shared operational and financial goals.

4. Business networks drive compliance. Automated validation of rules and requirements reduces errors and eliminates the manual work normally needed to ensure regulatory, tax, partner, and workforce compliance, mitigating risk and saving time and money.

5. Business networks optimize decisions through collective intelligence. Real-time access to network analytics, third-party data, and community-based insights gives users relevant information when and where they need it. This leads to smarter, better decisions about trading partners, operations, pricing and market trends, working capital, and more.

Seize the day: Become an IT champion for business networks

According to IDC’s “Worldwide CIO Agenda 2015 Predictions,” 57% of CIOs expect to be defined in terms of delivering business innovation to increase revenue, margins, and new products within the next two years—and by 2018, 50% will adopt open, standards-based frameworks in place of traditional modes of technology control.

But you don’t have to wait that long. As any successful change evangelist can tell you, winning depends less on the challenges you face than on the actions and timing of your response. By embracing business networks now, you can give your company a transformative strategic advantage in this evolving digital economy that pays off big for years to come.

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