Business Commerce Network: Driving Better Collaboration

Vice President, Marketing, Basware, Inc.

Following is the fourth blog in a series based on a discussion between Bob Cohen, Basware VP North America, and Andrew Bartolini, Chief Research Officer, Ardent Partners and author of the recently published study e-Payables 2014: The Quest.  During their conversation, a range of purchase-to-pay trends were discussed, including e-invoicing, e-payments, and social, mobile and cloud enablement. This blog focuses on a critical component of e-invoicing:  business commerce networks. 

Bob Cohen:   What is propelling the growth of business commerce networks?

Andrew Bartolini:  When we think about business today, there are several driving forces that are changing the way business is being conducted in 2014 compared to a decade ago, and certainly when compared to how business was conducted 20 or 30 years ago.  These factors – globalization, technology, and speed – have created a more complex and competitive business environment.  Business is harder, competition is tougher, but with a global marketplace, the upside of success is much greater than it has ever been.      

In this newer environment, businesses have been forced to rethink the way they manage their external relationships and now find themselves increasingly reliant – or interdependent – on their suppliers. Business commerce networks present a huge opportunity for trading partners since they stand at the focal point of enabling better and stronger relationships between buying organizations and suppliers.

These networks do this in a couple of ways.  First and foremost, they enable efficient transactions and then support the necessary communication and collaboration around those transactions. Business commerce networks can connect trading partners in efficient ways, provide visibility, and allow organizations to remove some of the tactical exchanges that take up time, resources and energy, enabling organizations to focus on more strategic activities. Additionally, these networks offer the right environment that fosters other types of services to organically grow, which provide additional value in driving more and better collaboration and streamlined relationships.

Bob Cohen:   What are the biggest challenges in B2B e-commerce?

Andrew Bartolini:   Some of the biggest challenges companies are facing today involve the speed of business and the ability of trading partner relationships to keep up with what’s happening in the marketplace. At the same time, there’s much more information that organizations have access to and they need to be able to process that information to make smart decisions.  

As mentioned above another challenge is globalization, and the complexity of doing business with organizations in different countries and with different tax jurisdictions. The lack of standardization also presents difficulties for  B2B e-commerce.  On the whole, however, the benefits to conducting business globally greatly outweigh the challenges. Organizations are using technology to address global challenges  as well as shift the way that they are communicating and collaborating.

Bob Cohen:   What are some key technologies that are driving B2B e-commerce?

Andrew Bartolini:  Since Ardent Partners looks at the source-to-settle process, I’ll discuss the solutions we focus on that help organizations build better and stronger relationships with the right trading partners. Technologies driving business value include cloud solutions, more streamlined integrations, and solutions that enable companies to get purchase-to-pay capabilities up and running faster, and at lower cost.  

Where the rubber hits the road is at the transactional level – how a purchase order is managed, how an acquisition is  turned into a purchase order, how a PO is delivered to a supplier and then received and managed, and how business services are delivered.  How does a supplier invoice its services and how does the buyer pay for that?  

E-procurement and e-payables solutions are driving and supporting these transactional processes, and together with business commerce networks, serve as the backbone of B2B e-commerce. Solutions such as business commerce networks are enabling these transactions and processes to be delivered to a much larger number of trading partners much faster, which is critical to driving the next level of growth in the marketplace.  Organizations are moving beyond a one-to-one connectivity of getting each supplier enabled on their platform, and are looking at business commerce networks and other solutions that will enable much faster, many-to-many types of conversations, communications and transactions.  

To download the complete Ardent Partners’ report, e-Payables 2014: The Quest, click here »