How Can Business Leaders Spend Better?

As businesses grow, so does the data that is gathered and companies are turning to artificial intelligence and other cloud-based technologies to unleash tremendous value in the process.

Below Pat McCarthy, senior vice president and general manager of SAP Ariba, addresses spending concerns, explaining why it’s time to create an intelligent enterprise to match.

It seems that everyone, from schoolteachers, police and songwriters to microbiologists, and even monks— is embracing predictive analytics to extend their capabilities. Of course, industry is no exception. The world is indeed more connected, but the intelligent economy is well and truly underway, and as it expands, we’re seeing it turbocharge growth, fuel collaboration and accelerate innovation.

If you take into account cross-border commerce, logistics and finance – these were all previously standalone functions – they now all operate in one digital network. Through their unification, an intelligent economy has emerged, where cloud-based cognitive technologies are able to present opportunities that unlock value that would have otherwise not been possible or even considered a few years ago.

The internet illustrates a perfect example. Even after twenty years in the software business, I still marvel every time a web browser completes my thought before I do. Or when I pull up a shopping site, and its suggestions get slightly less creepy as the systems improve. Or when a streaming platform suggests new music or movies, and I end up liking them! By remembering previous activity — searches that led to purchase as well as those that didn’t — these sites tailor algorithms to anticipate what we want. It happens before we know it. In return for this convenience, we reward them with purchases and loyalty.

What if we could replicate this convenience for business-to-business commerce?

Typically, business-to-business platforms have lagged behind business-to-consumer systems in regard to their ease of use and predictive capabilities. With the onset of cloud-based technologies however, they’re catching up fast. With the help of cognitive technologies, digital networks are giving rise to the intelligent enterprise, where data-driven insights provide businesses with the ability to predict not just what their customers want, but how they want it delivered and when they need it for.

In procurement, for example, digital networks are able to find bottlenecks in the supply chain and work around them before they stall operations. These networks provide newfound visibility into data that was previously siloed, shedding light on unseen patterns that could help businesses.

Not only do digital networks help the businesses themselves, but trading partners also, no matter how near or far they maybe they can collaborate in real time of product design, operational alignment or joint marketing efforts. By opening transparency into the operations of millions of buyers and suppliers, digital networks can recommend trading partners with compatible brand values. For example, does a potential supplier have the necessary governance structures in place to root out forced labor from its sources of raw materials? Does it boast a track record of responsible stewardship of natural resources? Does it award contracts to businesses owned by historically underrepresented groups? Digital networks cast a laser-like focus onto these and hundreds of other compliance-related and values-based criteria. In understanding them, businesses can act in ways that positively influence not only their own operations, but those of the world around them.

It’s more than just efficient and ethical decision making that the intelligent enterprise can help facilitate. People are integral to propelling a company forward and businesses can expect a transformative effect on their workforce. When technology comes on to the scene that can liberate workers from mundane, boring, tiresome tasks – you can expect employees to perform at their highest level. Digital networks in procurement are taking on many of the manual activities associated with sourcing, purchasing, contracting and payments. Now, professionals can focus on tasks that hold greater value that cannot be machine driven just yet, such as strengthening relationships with suppliers, pursuing innovation alongside them, and managing risk affecting mutual operations.

When technology comes on to the scene that can liberate workers from mundane, boring, tiresome tasks – you can expect employees to perform at their highest level.

Our world is becoming more fast-paced than ever before and business is no exception to this. Companies are becoming more interdependent, dynamic and diverse, and so is our global economy – the prospect to become an intelligent enterprise, connecting partners and supply chains is becoming more sought after. The good news is, thanks to digital networks and the cloud-based applications connecting them, business leaders are able to create an environment of prosperity for their companies – and most importantly spend in a way that creates maximum output.

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