Networks And The Future Of Business

Rachel Spasser

man learns from business networkNetworks drove the first wave of business transformation. And the second is officially underway. Initially designed as a more efficient way to connect and collaborate, business networks are fast becoming a platform for innovation. But these aren’t your Father’s networks. They’re smarter, faster and more global than ever. And they have sparked a revolution in the way business gets done.

In a video on the Networked Economy, IDC Group Vice President, Michael Fauscette, describes how business networks are changing how businesses engage — and how they are tapping into this new hyper-connected environment to create business value. Harnessing the insights and intelligence of entire communities, companies large and small are breaking down the barriers to collaboration and enabling new processes to run their business in entirely new ways.

1.  Enhancing relationships

In their initial phase, networks were all about connecting companies more efficiently to perform a discreet process – buying, selling, invoicing, etc. Today, buyers are leveraging their connectivity and insights to find the right partners and optimize their spend and supply chain. And sellers are using them to engage with customers when, how and where they want to be engaged to increase satisfaction and wallet share.

2.  Driving efficiencies

In a recent study by Ardent Partners, chief research officer Andrew Bartolini reported that 85% of enterprises use business networks to support purchase orders, 76% to manage invoices, and 79% to handle payments. The result? Lower costs, higher revenue, improved cash flow, increased efficiency, enhanced agility and greater profitability.

3.  Collaborating without boundaries

Companies today are more connected and mobile than ever. And they are leveraging this to collaborate in new ways and enable processes that are only possible in a networked environment and drive innovation across their operations. Processes like dynamic discounting that allow them to secure discounts that can be reinvested in research and development and funding to expand their business. Or contingent workforce management through which they can identify and manage highly-specialized resources needed to develop that next-generation product.

4.  Fueling innovation

Want to find out if your next great idea is possible, probable, or marketable? Business networks are now being used to get earlier feedback and even costing from suppliers and partners. And crowdsourcing can provide valuable feedback that can lead to preemptive design tweaks, and eureka moments for products or service offerings.

5.  Seeing the future

Just as consumers tap into personal networks to learn, share and shop better, companies are tapping the ‘knowledge of crowds’ and insights from business networks to not only sense the present, but see the future and proactively shape it to their advantage by anticipating risks and trends in the market and developing plans and adapting processes to execute on them before anyone else.

What’s evident is that the use of business networks and social enterprise software is becoming a competitive differentiator.

Just like the assembly line 100 years ago, business networks are among the most disruptive technologies of our day. But disruption fuels innovation. And innovation drives advantage.

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