Did you know that organizations today, on average, die younger than their employees? In the wake of economic mood swings, shifting consumer behaviors, and technological advancements that continue to reset the rules of the game, the business playbook is being rewritten. The frequency of disruption is the highest it's ever been in history, and companies are failing to adapt to this increasingly complex environment.
Today's market uncertainties are like quicksand; the more organizations struggle against them in traditional ways, the faster they risk sinking. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored this, exposing vulnerabilities in rigid business structures. To create meaningful competitive differentiation in a market that moves at the ‘speed of digital,’ companies need flexibility, adaptability, and resilience. Achieving these traits is not a single-player game anymore - collaboration is key, and everyone needs to level up together.
Weaving Resilience and Adaptability with Connected Networks
Connected networks are sophisticated peer-to-peer networks linking an organization with its stakeholders—suppliers, partners, customers, and competitors—across processes, systems, and geographies. They allow every stakeholder to see exactly how different parts of the ecosystem interact and impact the customer experience and business outcomes. This single-pane view creates opportunities for better decision-making for more economic leverage.
Take, for example, companies facing value chain disruptions. What if they could access alternative suppliers, partners, or distribution channels seamlessly? Insight into the whole network and the ability to share information would help them move quickly and make real-time decisions. This level of agility is priceless and can go a long way in avoiding production losses and preventing expensive recalls, stockouts, and lost sales.
Connected networks build resilience by:
- Maximizing Channel Visibility: The first step towards resilience in uncertainty is gaining visibility. Connected networks facilitate real-time data flow, enhancing transparency across every facet of the business. This 360-degree view enables companies to anticipate disruptions, understand market dynamics, and identify consumer trends as they unfold.
- Architect Multi-Enterprise Collaboration: Silos are the antithesis of resilience. Connected networks break down these barriers within and outside an organization, enabling multi-enterprise collaboration. Partners across the network can coordinate instantly to make collective decisions. This symbiotic relationship means no entity is left struggling alone; resources and insights are shared, creating a buffer against market shocks.
- Support Dynamic Decision-Making: With AI and machine learning integrated into connected networks, companies can leverage predictive analytics for decision-making. The network swiftly analyzes outcomes when the market shifts, offering insights for immediate, informed decisions. This dynamism means organizations can pivot at a moment's notice—a critical capability in an uncertain environment.
- Drive Customer-Centric Adaptation: At the heart of resilience is the end consumer. Connected networks provide nuanced consumer insights, helping businesses adapt their strategies empathetically. Personalized experiences, products, and services curated through data analytics help maintain customer loyalty and trust, which is crucial for sustaining businesses through tough times.
Connected Networks in Action
Leading enterprises today are a testament to the strength of connected networks. Giants like Amazon have thrived by creating extensive, interconnected ecosystems with real-time feedback loops. They’re quick to respond to consumer needs, adjust their supply chains, and adapt their strategies, securing their market positions.
A great story of connected network-led transformation is Mars, a global manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and food products that reduced product traceability time by 48x. They found critical capability gaps in their existing market traceability solution, where 60% of units did not comply with food safety regulations. The existing solution covered only 40% of their operations due to system complexity, time, and cost to connect network partners, and integration issues.
As they pivoted to a connected network approach, they could harmonize data from multiple ERP and warehouse management systems, track where the finished goods were at any given moment, and hold or recall them if needed. A unified view of its supply chain and real-time data extraction and sharing tools made Mars’ network more efficient, dramatically cutting down the trace time of its inventory and lessening the impact of product recalls.
While these are not isolated success stories, they are regrettably few enterprises that have truly tapped into the power of connected networks. The reason? Enterprise siloes!
The Key to Creating Connected Networks
Modern businesses operate on a patchwork of technologies built over time cobbled together with point solutions implemented to solve immediate problems. Today, the results of this staggered transformation are evident. Enterprises depend on a lot of tools, programming languages, and systems. Legacy processes operate side by side with cutting-edge digital technologies. And cross-functional teams are hampered by an inability to share relevant data quickly and effectively across the value chain.
To truly embrace the power of connected networks, companies must transform from a traditional, isolated operating model to a horizontally integrated one. This would require:
- Connecting the various systems within the enterprise under a single platform to enable a free flow of data and information.
- Defining how various enterprise systems and partners can communicate with the external world.
- Fostering seamless, contextual interactions through text or voice across various channels, bridging departmental silos, and enhancing experiences for employees, customers, and partners.
- Creating and visualizing a peer-to-peer network and enabling collaboration via document exchange, workflow definitions, rules engine, and an alerts and notifications framework to drive interoperability.
The future already belongs to the connected. Businesses must learn to weave collaboration, agility, and shared intelligence into their operational fabric. That is the only way companies will be able to thrive, turning disruptions into opportunities.
Arvind Rao is CTO of Edge Platforms at EdgeVerve.