In a competitive environment that has been reshaped by business networks, smart companies are learning to collaborate more efficiently, connecting and interacting with ever-expanding communities of customers, suppliers and peers. These businesses are using social tools and networks to improve not just their productivity, but also their profits.
How are they doing it? The practices of this emerging class of committed collaborators are explored in a new report, Collaborate to Win, produced by CFO Research in collaboration with Ariba and available for download at www.cfo.com/research. The study is based on in-depth interviews conducted with academics, authors, consultants, and executives, many of whom share the assessment of Vivek Kundra, the first CIO of the United States: "This network effect is more transformative that we can ever imagine."
By communicating more freely, the report concludes, fully networked companies unearth new opportunities, from innovative product ideas to valuable market insights; they reduce R&D costs, compress product-development cycles, and outpace competitors when it comes to introducing new products.
Those benefits, the report notes, aren't derived solely from external networks. Companies are also using networking tools within their workplaces to tap into the creativity and expertise of employees at any level or location. By creating a "culture of collaboration," as the report puts it, employees can find new and productive ways of working together, further boosting the flow of innovation. "A great idea can come from Indonesia and get shared with the U.S. team," says Rebecca Brown, director of social media at Intel. At Home Depot, the internal network has "honestly made our company much, much smaller," says the manager who oversees it.
The two-way flow of information and ideas is most visible in the ways networked companies now work with their suppliers, the report says. Using tools that enable them to share information instantly, companies and their suppliers can work cooperatively to manage inventory and capitalize on opportunities in a timely fashion. Sharing forecasts with suppliers inspires them to have "a more holistic view" of the supply chain, the report says, often revealing opportunities for further streamlining.
No matter how fully networked a company may be, it still can't afford to ignore newly emerging collaborative technologies. The report points out that "collaborative tools have just begun to change how employees work together and how enterprises manage their outside relationships." Companies that fall behind in their collaboration skills risk losing their competitive edge in this ultracompetitive era.
About CFO Research:
CFO Research is the sponsored research group of CFO Publishing LLC. CFO Publishing LLC, a portfolio company of Seguin Partners, is the leading business-to-business media brand focused on the information needs of senior finance executives. The business consists of CFO magazine, CFO.com, CFO Research, and CFO Conferences. CFO Publishing's award-winning editorial content and loyal, influential audience make it a valued resource for its readers as well as an effective marketing partner for a wide range of blue-chip companies. CFO Publishing has long-standing relationships with more than 500,000 finance executives.
About Ariba, Inc.:
Ariba, Inc. is the world's business commerce network. Ariba combines industry-leading cloud-based applications with the world's largest web-based trading community to help companies discover and collaborate with a global network of partners. Using the Ariba Network, businesses of all sizes can connect to their trading partners anywhere, at any time from any application or device to buy, sell and manage their cash more efficiently and effectively than ever before. Companies around the world use the Ariba Network to simplify inter-enterprise commerce and enhance the results that they deliver. Join them at www.ariba.com
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