Business Networks: What A Difference Two Decades Makes

Marcell Vollmer

Twenty years ago, the idea that the Internet was a viable tool for business was largely viewed as a joke. Today, few companies can imagine doing things any other way. Business networks aren’t just connecting buyers and suppliers to collaborate around commerce, they’re actually creating it. How? By bringing the future-oriented social collaboration and reach of personal networks to the business world. Just like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, business networks allow buyers and suppliers to connect and share their requests for goods and services, as well as to respond to them, in a dynamic, digital marketplace. Except, instead of swapping personal stories and restaurant recommendations, they are managing transactions, finding new sources of savings, and building healthy, sustainable supply chains.

Not your father’s portal

Unlike cloud portals, which connect one buyer with one or many suppliers to exchange transactions (one to many), business networks connect millions of buyers and suppliers (many to many) and provide access to cloud-based applications they can use to manage everything from sourcing and orders to invoices and payments in a few simple clicks.

Picking the right horse

But not all networks are created equal. And with so many choices, it can be hard to select the right one. The best networks can be summed up in three words: simple, smart, and open.

  • Simple – Networks must not only simplify the source-to-settle processes. They need to redefine how buyers and suppliers interact and fuel new ways of operating that drive transformation across the enterprise.
  • Smart – Networks contain vast amounts of transaction and relationship data along with community insights. When combined with cloud-based analytics applications and in-memory computing platforms, this intelligence can be quickly unlocked and used for more informed business decisions.
  • Open – When you have millions of companies connected on one network, you can move beyond automating purchase orders and invoices and do totally new things. You can simplify the process of discovering and onboarding new suppliers or finding qualified leads and converting them into hard dollars. “Network of network” might become the term of the future.

Business networks may have seemed like a crazy idea two decades ago. But they are fast becoming the way that business gets done. Innovative companies recognize this. And they are tapping their power to think and act in totally new ways that are transforming their operations.

Social media used to sit in the marketing department, but now it pervades the business. See In a Live Business, Social Gets Its MBA.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

Marcell Vollmer

About Marcell Vollmer

Marcell Vollmer is the Chief Digital Officer for SAP Ariba (SAP). He is responsible for helping customers digitalize their supply chain. Prior to this role, Marcell was the Chief Operating Officer for SAP Ariba, enabling the company to setup a startup within the larger SAP business. He was also the Chief Procurement Officer at SAP SE, where he transformed the global procurement organization towards a strategic, end-to-end driven organization, which runs SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass solutions, as well as Concur technologies in the cloud. Marcell has more than 20 years of experience in working in international companies, starting with DHL where he delivered multiple supply chain optimization projects.