Supplier Networks Beyond the Transaction: A Radical Revolution (Part 2)

Today, we continue with Jay Merenda's list of what's available today and the possibilities for the future in the next generation of business networks. Please click here for Part 1 in this series.

  • Ability to collaborate online with your business partners across a range of business processes securely and efficiently. A current example is contract authoring and eSignatures, but the possibilities go far beyond.
  • Provide visibility to the health of existing business relationships. Sharing of supplier performance and customer satisfaction metrics. Should you renew a contract with a supplier? Will the customer renew a contract? Where can we collaborate to drive improvement so the relationship continues?

    There is a well-known rule of thumb that states it costs 6-7 times more to acquire new business than retain existing customers. From the buyer side, switching suppliers can be costly and disruptive. Everyone can win.

  • Every invoice that passes through the network can be automatically cleansed, enriched, and made available for analysis. Those who have implemented traditional spend analytics solutions know what's required to implement and maintain them over time. Imagine if you could get the same outcome minus the cost, resource and pain!
  • Suppliers will be able to connect to business networks how they want and when they want. Most suppliers need to manage and support multiple ways of connecting to their customers (EDI, XML, paper, manual input, various network requirements, etc). The infrastructure and cost involved is enormous. Interoperability amongst networks will emerge to support this but only a few networks will dominate becoming the "connector of connectors."
  • Business insight. A wealth of information will pass through the network and third party data providers will have the ability to link to it, if you approve, and allow you to subscribe to their intelligence. Areas such as supply chain risk data (credit scores, risk ratings, etc.), market intelligence, spend analytics, predictive modeling (e.g. what's the likelihood your customer will renew their contract?) will be one click away, if you choose to subscribe. Not to mention the free data sources established by the business network.

A shakeup is underway in the B2B network market based on free network onboarding and free transactions. You may ask why providers would give this away, or charge only minor setup and transaction fees? I believe it's because it will allow them to connect businesses faster and grow their business network exponentially. This lays the foundation and creates the plumbing for apps to exploit the power of the platform's established B2B network connectivity. This will drive rapid innovation, and you will see businesses connect in the areas I discussed and areas beyond my current imagination.

I expect a few providers will emerge as leaders, for a few reasons:

  1. They will have the best platform; they must be the Android or iPhone (iOS) of business networks. This means extremely talented engineers who are able to constantly improve, revamp and rewrite the underlying platform to stay ahead of the curve and provide new compelling ways for third parties to build apps to exploit it. In order to achieve this they must separate the user interface completely from the guts of the system.
  2. They will encourage and incentivize third parties to build apps or connect their existing apps to the platform even if it competes with functionality they provide. They must realize you can't be the best at everything. As long as apps leverage the connectivity of the network, everybody wins. Competition will drive innovation.
  3. Interoperability. They will allow competing networks to leverage their B2B connections. Nobody can do it all, and this eases the burden on businesses to connect to multiple networks for the same business process.
  4. Their offering will be based on free (or minimal cost) to onboard business partners and transact. The majority of revenue will come from value-add services, not the basics.

Will this be "the next big thing"? You know what I think.

- Jay Merenda

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