Data Sharing Can Be A Catalyst For B2B Innovation – Forbes

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Data sharing adds more value

Disruptive technologies and innovative ideas tend to flourish in a startup environment, but as companies become more established, it can become more difficult to determine what problems need to be solved next, and how to develop those solutions.

According to Harvard Business Review, the answer might lie outside the walls of your organization. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that innovation is something they must do alone, but often the ideas generated internally are too narrow in focus to be truly innovative. Innovation isn’t just problem solving or building a better mousetrap; it requires a broader perspective. Sharing data is about finding the challenges partners can tackle together—a key step to unlocking innovation.

Shared Data Enables Collaboration. Problem solving requires access to reliable information as a basis for generating ideas and making decisions. But it can be difficult to get partners on the same page as far as where that data should come from, how much to share, and how to manage it. 47% of B2B company leaders in a recent Forrester survey indicated that the biggest thing preventing them from creating actionable insights from their data was data quality; managing data from multiple sources was a challenge for 43% of those surveyed.

As a business case example of data sharing, Chicago-based Arrowstream developed a platform that is addressing this problem in the foodservice industry. According to Bill Michalski, Chief Solutions Officer of ArrowStream, “Our platform creates business efficiencies by getting people to work together. We help customers look upstream at data that partners can share to create a better flow of products and information from suppliers, through distribution and logistics, to restaurant chains with multiple franchisees and locations. It’s about creating that single integrated supply chain where every party contributes to a common process to serve the customer.”

Sharing data allows partners to see how the problems they are each experiencing in their business are actually industry problems that require a collaborative approach to solve. Wilted lettuce, for instance, isn’t just a problem for a restaurant; it’s a quality problem that impacts the entire supply chain, all the way upstream to the grower. By exposing problems like these that impact the end customer, partners can work together to deliver innovative solutions.

Shared Data Uncovers What the Customer Values. Unlike consumer oriented businesses where there’s one customer at a time to satisfy, the B2B world involves complex decision making processes. There are multiple decision makers, and often, intricate value chains that are involved in bringing products to an end customer.

Multiple layers and players between customer-facing partners and suppliers further upstream means trends or problems that affect customers aren’t always communicated effectively to the partners that can best address them. Growers and distributors in the above example may not hear if there’s a problem with produce reaching the restaurant bruised or wilted. Restaurant chains running a promotion might run out of inventory in one location and have excess in another. These problems can be solved upstream but only if the information is communicated back to distributors or management groups.

Sharing data between upstream and downstream partners improves communication and can solve these kinds of problems. According to Michalski, “You can create business efficiencies by getting people to work together. Our founder’s innovative idea was to look upstream at data that partners in a food logistics network could share to create a better flow of products from suppliers, through distribution and logistics, to restaurant chains with multiple franchisees and locations.”

In B2B, it takes the efforts of multiple partners to deliver value to the end customer. Sharing data helps businesses go beyond looking at their supply chains as simply a way to move products from one place to another, to looking at how those supply chains can deliver what the customer really values. By sharing data, partners learn more about the end customer’s unmet needs, and can determine how to meet them. This kind of discovery drives innovation.

Shared Data Creates Shared Understanding. Great ideas come when partners share a problem and work together to solve it. But B2B value chains are often disconnected, with distributors, channel partners, value added partners and others that stand between a product’s source and the end customer that will eventually consume it.

These partners often have unique business processes. They might be dealing with the same products, but they’re handling those products in very different ways. They may also be using different technology platforms to run their business. This makes communication difficult since each platform measures performance differently.

These communication challenges mean that when the end customer is dissatisfied, getting information back upstream in an actionable way is difficult without a way to share that data in a format that upstream partners can use so that all partners are speaking the same language.

To innovate, it’s key that business partners in B2B value chains understand problems in the same way so that they can focus on developing solutions together. Working from a shared technology platform provides optimal transparency between all parties. Sharing the same set of data between all the B2B partners that need it, means every customer and partner in the value chain has the same understanding of the business challenges they face.

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Rawpixel

Data sharing adds more value

Disruptive technologies and innovative ideas tend to flourish in a startup environment, but as companies become more established, it can become more difficult to determine what problems need to be solved next, and how to develop those solutions.

According to Harvard Business Review, the answer might lie outside the walls of your organization. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that innovation is something they must do alone, but often the ideas generated internally are too narrow in focus to be truly innovative. Innovation isn’t just problem solving or building a better mousetrap; it requires a broader perspective. Sharing data is about finding the challenges partners can tackle together—a key step to unlocking innovation.

Shared Data Enables Collaboration. Problem solving requires access to reliable information as a basis for generating ideas and making decisions. But it can be difficult to get partners on the same page as far as where that data should come from, how much to share, and how to manage it. 47% of B2B company leaders in a recent Forrester survey indicated that the biggest thing preventing them from creating actionable insights from their data was data quality; managing data from multiple sources was a challenge for 43% of those surveyed.

As a business case example of data sharing, Chicago-based Arrowstream developed a platform that is addressing this problem in the foodservice industry. According to Bill Michalski, Chief Solutions Officer of ArrowStream, “Our platform creates business efficiencies by getting people to work together. We help customers look upstream at data that partners can share to create a better flow of products and information from suppliers, through distribution and logistics, to restaurant chains with multiple franchisees and locations. It’s about creating that single integrated supply chain where every party contributes to a common process to serve the customer.”

Sharing data allows partners to see how the problems they are each experiencing in their business are actually industry problems that require a collaborative approach to solve. Wilted lettuce, for instance, isn’t just a problem for a restaurant; it’s a quality problem that impacts the entire supply chain, all the way upstream to the grower. By exposing problems like these that impact the end customer, partners can work together to deliver innovative solutions.

Shared Data Uncovers What the Customer Values. Unlike consumer oriented businesses where there’s one customer at a time to satisfy, the B2B world involves complex decision making processes. There are multiple decision makers, and often, intricate value chains that are involved in bringing products to an end customer.

Multiple layers and players between customer-facing partners and suppliers further upstream means trends or problems that affect customers aren’t always communicated effectively to the partners that can best address them. Growers and distributors in the above example may not hear if there’s a problem with produce reaching the restaurant bruised or wilted. Restaurant chains running a promotion might run out of inventory in one location and have excess in another. These problems can be solved upstream but only if the information is communicated back to distributors or management groups.

Sharing data between upstream and downstream partners improves communication and can solve these kinds of problems. According to Michalski, “You can create business efficiencies by getting people to work together. Our founder’s innovative idea was to look upstream at data that partners in a food logistics network could share to create a better flow of products from suppliers, through distribution and logistics, to restaurant chains with multiple franchisees and locations.”

In B2B, it takes the efforts of multiple partners to deliver value to the end customer. Sharing data helps businesses go beyond looking at their supply chains as simply a way to move products from one place to another, to looking at how those supply chains can deliver what the customer really values. By sharing data, partners learn more about the end customer’s unmet needs, and can determine how to meet them. This kind of discovery drives innovation.

Shared Data Creates Shared Understanding. Great ideas come when partners share a problem and work together to solve it. But B2B value chains are often disconnected, with distributors, channel partners, value added partners and others that stand between a product’s source and the end customer that will eventually consume it.

These partners often have unique business processes. They might be dealing with the same products, but they’re handling those products in very different ways. They may also be using different technology platforms to run their business. This makes communication difficult since each platform measures performance differently.

These communication challenges mean that when the end customer is dissatisfied, getting information back upstream in an actionable way is difficult without a way to share that data in a format that upstream partners can use so that all partners are speaking the same language.

To innovate, it’s key that business partners in B2B value chains understand problems in the same way so that they can focus on developing solutions together. Working from a shared technology platform provides optimal transparency between all parties. Sharing the same set of data between all the B2B partners that need it, means every customer and partner in the value chain has the same understanding of the business challenges they face.

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