Social Media Drives B2B Collaborative Efforts in the Supply Chain

Business to consumer (B2C) social networks lay the groundwork for successful collaboration in business to business (B2B) environments


“The platform is designed to provide rule-based interfaces to people depending upon what their function is within an organization,” explained Robert Cohen, Vice President, North America, Basware Inc., Stamford, Conn. “In too many organizations, there is a communication gap within companies and externally as well. If we can internally combine the procurement and the sourcing professionals with those in finance and accounts payable, then we have opened up that social collaboration. Doing so, there is a better flow of information so they can better understand if there is a problem with the supplier, or a problem between the supplier and production or shipping. On the external side, if you are a buying company, now you are communicating better with your suppliers and understanding issues that are there as well. It all comes down to effective visibility,” Cohen continued.

Yet, a perception gap still remains as the average P2P executive “likely views social networking in the workplace as, at best, a trivial pursuit and at worst, a hue productivity drain” according to a report commissioned by Ardent Partners Ltd. and Basware. Its findings show that “changing the language from ‘social’ media and networking to ‘collaborative’ technology and networking will help more businesses focus on and realize the present opportunities.”

“It’s not just about the chat—it’s about the business,” confirmed Keith Collins, Chief Marketing Officer, Gotradelive, Palo Alto, Calif. “Using Facebook or LinkedIn is all well and good but the reality is that those tools are not relevant to business. The application of photo sharing or chatting with your friends is just not the way businesses do business. Instead, they need to think harder about how they can utilize the Internet to be more efficient.”

Additionally, 62 percent of finance executives surveyed in Basware’s “Cost of Control: Disrupted Networks” study claim that connecting disparate parts of the purchase and payment process within their businesses will be critically important in the next 12 to 24 months.

“Purchasing and payables are not talking to one another as closely as they should be,” said Cohen. “If procurement is purchasing—whether it’s for materials or indirect services—and payables or finance isn’t aware of that until the invoice is delivered, then all of a sudden, they are hit with a liability. By having procurement and payables working more closely together to run reports, then finance and treasury can know about that liability 60 days before it’s due.”

Environment data analysis

While the argument stands that the use of social media can be more beneficial to some environments versus others—e.g., retail versus food—the analytic capabilities used to track specific data in one scenario may be relevant across other processes in both environments. Hence, what one collaborative platform may do for a retail environment can provide benefits to other linked processes in the supply chain.

Take, for example, commercial trading and social commerce site Gotradelive. The platform enables businesses to increase inventory turnover and improve their cost of goods sold. Consequentially, this can lead to a decreased loss of perishable items, decreased excess items and can help motivate agricultural industries and growers not only to produce but move product faster, giving them the opportunity to increase profit share.

“There’s this big opportunity in today’s market to mix social and commercial for businesses,” confirmed Collins. “Most platforms are either social or commercial or very consumer-oriented. And while providing business networking is not new, building the applications on the platforms is new as is providing real commercial useful tools for businesses to use with their private networks. Where we are different from eBay and other commercial online tools is that we don’t make a charge based on the transaction.”

Recently launched in California, the trading and social commerce network enables businesses to connect with customers, suppliers and partners to promote, source and sell products globally. Business that want to go beyond the basic service package and further customize and brand their communication and Web pages can do so at $15 per month for the premium service.

“Our mission is really to create a broad range of tools to help people with their everyday business as well as their excess problems,” Collins added. “There are hundreds of millions of small businesses in the world and they are the powerhouse of the economy—whichever nation you are looking at. It is important that those businesses really step up with efficiency and growth to try and solve the world’s economic crisis. What we are doing is providing tools that help that efficiency to small businesses that otherwise would not have been able to access that type of capability.”

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