“Smart City” Initiatives Bring B2B Innovation to Government and Industry

With the advent of the Internet of Things and analytics, new opportunities for innovation, supply chain efficiency and improved services are emerging in the concept of the “smart city.”

Leveraging the connectivity of commonplace objects and possibilities for applying the resulting analytics to logistics, the “smart city” is an opportunity to create new technological ecosystems that can bring increased efficiency, financial savings and enhanced services to communities.

The benefits to the relationships between cities and the vendors that supply them are obvious. Analytics generated by such integration can increase the efficiency of the city’s supply chain, eliminating waste and enhancing the quality of services. Outcomes can be more effectively monitored and evaluated, opening up opportunity for additional improvement.

“Smart Chicago” is such an organization dedicated to creating such an ecosystem, and “devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. We work on increasing access to the Internet, improving skills for using the Internet, and developing meaningful products from data that measurably contribute to the quality of life of residents in our region and beyond,” according to its website.

A partnership between the city, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust, it will “help bring together municipal, philanthropic, and corporate investments in civic innovation.”

An unusual example of such innovation can be found in nearby Louisville, where city government has initiated a pilot program to equip municipal trash recepticals with wi-fi and internal sensors, so that they can report their status to city monitors via the Internet.

Similar opportunities in Louisville and many other cities exist in traffic management, where traffic signals, parking meters and municipal parking facilities are already now largely Internet-capable, making possible enhanced traffic management and enabling predictive analytics for use in maintenance, street-sweeping, and safety improvements.

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Best-in-Class Businesses Lead in B2B Process Innovation

As the new year gets underway, many businesses will be taking the step of increasing their capacity for effective B2B data exchange with other companies, boosting online visibility and implementing new and better processes for enhancing their business and customer relationships, in-house efficiency and analytics.

What process enhancements are most effective? In a pair of studies, the Aberdeen Group compared the state of B2B uptake in global industry across a period of almost three years. In the first, 191 supply chain executives surveyed revealed that only 14% of their businesses have achieved online trading collaboration with their partners, and only 12% had achieved online visibility into supply chain issues and disruption. In the second survey, the Aberdeen Group found that these numbers had more than doubled in just a few years.

This rapid increase in B2B process and technology proliferation has seen the emergence of clear excellence in implementation and partnership development. Aberdeen’s analysis of the best performers included a summary of innovations and practices common to the most successful B2B companies.

1. Sharing collaborative networks with customers. Building trading community networks with key customers results in more successful order management, inventory management and forecasting.

2. Sharing collaborative networks with suppliers. Networking directly with suppliers results in more effective procurement and in-bound logistics.

3. Breaking down trading partner base according to electronic ordering. A major drain on efficiency is offline processing of orders and invoices. Parsing trading partners by their ability to swap orders and invoices electronically enables focusing on those partnerships, and provides a platform for getting stragglers on board.

4. Improving supplier accountability. Two-thirds of Best-in-Class B2B companies have the ability to measure the performance of suppliers over time, resulting in higher visibility with respect to production capacity and delivery, as well as increased control over lead times, fill rates and reduced inventory.

5. Including non-critical participants in trading networks. Proactive on-boarding of less sophisticated customers and suppliers pays off in the end, resulting in less time spent on offline processing.

6. Outsourcing B2B trading management. For many companies, a smart strategy has been to hand off the management of B2B trading community networking to a third-party provider, freeing up in-house resources to focus on innovation.



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ENTSOG B2B Messaging Sets an Industry Standard in 2015

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), the continent’s cooperative for unifying its energy market’s transmission system, advanced its B2B messaging protocol beyond the proof-of-concept stage in 2015. An agreement is now in place between ENTSOG and the European Association for the Streamlining of Energy Exchange (EASEE) to cooperate in the development of data exchange messaging as ENTSOG’s initiatives make their way into the energy marketplace.

Three years in the making, the agreement specifies protocols for both document exchange and integrated data exchange, implementing communications standards that will be adopted by hundreds of partners in Europe. Partners in the energy delivery chain include traders, gas shippers, distribution system operators and transmission system operators.

Several protocols and standards will guide the evolution of ENTSOG messaging, moving forward. One protocol, AS4, has been tested and is in the early stages of universal implementation. AS4 provides B2B partners with simplified mapping while enhancing message security.

EASEE has contributed its EDIG@S messaging standard, an industry exchange format that has been in common use for several decades.

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Consumer Trends That Will Drive B2B in 2016

While the world of B2B has its own unique imperatives, it’s the nature of B2B to respond to consumer concerns. Some consumer trends are likely to have an impact on B2B in the coming year. RainCastle’s Paul Regensburg recently listed several.

“Buyer Persona.” Target consumer audiences tend to be amorphous from a B2B perspective, yet groups within those audiences tend to have distinct motivations and priorities. From a B2B perspective, each group ‘persona’ can be defined, clarifying differences in the needs between groups. This perspective is useful in refining B2B customer relations, and will soon become standard.

“Explainer Case Studies.” Social psychologists have long emphasized the importance of narrative in any collaboration between large groups. The case study is an example of narrative that can be used to clarify relationships, but case studies tend to be written and often dry. Video presentation of case studies, with animated graphics, make it easier to convey narratives that enhance intergroup communication, which is a win for all players in a B2B chain. Now that the technology is ubiquitous, look for this to become a trend.

Improvements in web presence. Regensburg cites several trends in web presence that will spread in B2B Internet communication. A strong emphasis on interactivity will emerge, focusing on content and messaging. More personal imagery, featuring real photography rather than stock images, will likewise become a standard, and unwanted pop-up notices will become less common on B2B-oriented websites.

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