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New Technology: B2B Innovations

This is the second post in this series where I write about the drive for new technology. Is need driving innovation or is innovation driving demand? In this post, I explore an area of innovation focused on business-to-business (B2B) innovation through collaboration involving sales and information sharing. According to B2B Marketing, “It is expected that the global B2B eCommerce market will reach $6.7 trillion by 2020, completely dwarfing B2C.”

What Is B2B?

B2B, also known as e-business, is the exchange of products, services or information between businesses. At its root, B2B is about sales (e.g., when a manufacturer sells to another manufacturer when supplying car parts to a car company or when a wholesaler sells to a retailer like a cereal company selling to a grocery chain). Think about a grocery store—it’s a great example of the challenge and opportunity of B2B integration.

B2B innovation can be examined in a couple of ways. One way is top-down and software/service led whereas the other way is more bottoms up and do it yourself (DIY).

Top Down and Led by Software and Services

Solutions from IBM are a good place to start the top-down investigation. IBM has a number of B2B commerce solutions that accelerate time to value by providing ready-to-use B2B software that’s used to foster effective B2B sales. These solutions from IBM provide a single platform that supports diverse products, services, pricing and promotion rules—controlled by business users without IT involvement. Prebuilt B2B application from IBM areas has functions like order management and configure, price and quote.

Takeaway: It’s easy to see that this is a productive way to get started with B2B using a trusted provider leveraging already built software that is administered by the user community. Support by your IT department may be required, more or less, depending on the software deployment option chosen by the company. There are plenty of challenges implementing B2B innovation, but this approach with IBM solutions certainly provides low risk elements of an overall solution that would be managed in the context of a complete company B2B initiative.

Bottoms Up and DIY

A different approach to this kind of B2B innovation would be to implement B2B tools or applications based on internet technologies or to actively participate in existing B2B communities. B2B tools, applications and systems often use Internet technologies so websites, exchanges and portals are often involved. Company websites can be a tool for B2B sales or a gateway to an internal application set up for this purpose. Sometimes, exchanges are used for supply and procurement. The users of these exchanges are company-purchasing agents. They can shop around or negotiate prices as required by company procurement guidelines. Sometimes specialized industry portal are used. These portals supply deep product information and are also used for buying and selling. Another example of specialized sites are those involving brokers who have unique domains like leasing or renting equipment where particular terms are applied. These different websites and portals are useful and more information is available from TechTarget.

Driven by Need or Technology?

In the B2B domain, most innovations are centered on finding new ways for companies to work together. If inter-enterprise innovation isn’t carefully thought out then companies will struggle to achieve the benefits required to fund the software and services to make the early projects a success. The technology that is needed to support B2B (e.g., web services, IP networks, API programs and cloud), is already up and running and being utilized in both the top-down and bottoms up approaches.

B2B Future Driven by Its Potential

The tremendous potential of B2B, and the demand to support borderless company-to-company trade, will foster B2B market transformation in new and significant ways. Data partnerships will continue to propel innovation across the supply chain, customer service and fulfillment leveraging relationships that offer greater customer choice and supplies faster time to market.