We live in a networked economy. As consumers, we tap into personal networks to learn, share and shop better. And with increasing frequency, companies are harnessing the insights and intelligence of business networks to break down the barriers to collaboration and drive innovation and competitive advantage. Like social networks, business networks are an efficient, effective way to connect with a global network of partners and transact business. And they have fast become the defacto standard for a number of key processes, such as sourcing. But the real power of business networks lies in what goes on inside them – all the interactions, transactions and commentary, and the massive amounts of insights and data that they generate. And innovative companies are leveraging this information to move beyond simply transacting and engaging with partners in new ways that give them a leg up on the competition. Take MSC Industrial Supply Co., a leading distributor of Metalworking and Maintenance, Repair and Operations ("MRO") solutions, services and supplies to North American manufacturers. More than a decade ago, MSC joined a network to provide its customers with a fast and efficient way to find and purchase the products they needed. Today, the company is taking things to the next level, mining the insights, intelligence and transaction data that reside on the network to help its customers run their businesses with greater efficiency and effectiveness. When MSC learned that employees at one of its customers' locations had to walk a mile to get to a centralized storeroom where supply replacements were housed, it suggested they install vending machines to put inventory closer to where the work was being done. In doing so, MSC enabled its customer to save time and money, making it a more strategic and valuable partner. In their initial phase, networks were all about connecting companies so that they could buy and sell more efficiently. Today, as MSC demonstrates, they're all about collaboration and enhancing and expanding relationships. Buyers are using business networks as a vehicle to find the right partners and optimize their spend and supply chain. Sellers are leveraging them to engage with customers when, how and where they want to be engaged to increase satisfaction and wallet share. And in today's networked economy, these trends will continue and accelerate.
Dr. Chakib Bouhdary leads SAP's Ariba®Network, and is responsible for leveraging the world’s largest business-to-business trading community to create the next generation e-Commerce platform, enabling connectivity across the value chain between millions of businesses and managing hundreds of billions of real time business transactions.