Updated: Nov 1
What is a Business Network? Simply stated, it is your business Intranet/extranet platform. We see these networks today in larger companies that create commerce (sales) with their websites portals, process forms, provide information, extend ERP functionality, and more. The Business Network is fast becoming the most important technology platform in many companies, alongside their ERP solutions. The reason: Simple, the business network can broaden the reach of your business processes both within your company and to your external partners and customers. And to increase the speed and lover the cost of processing business information.
Up to this point, most business networks have been single dimension by design. That means the business network platform was designed for single solutions or single discipline functionality. Moreover, products like, ProCore and SalesForce platforms were designed for specific disciplines within a company. Procore, project management and SalesForce, CRM. Each has evolved outside their disciplines to offer more business network functionality, but most of the features are limited and have to be customized to address a company's specific requirements. Products like Concur or Expensify only address specific processes within a company and generally do not extend the business network beyond those applications.
Also, portal technology up to now has been available but has required extensive customization to make it ready for internal and external use. Products offered by Microsoft and Google that are cloud based are very attractive for business portal use, but are not suited for the smaller companies that do not have IT staff. Implementation cost on these solutions from outside resources become very expensive and offset the profitability opportunities that business network portals present.
Why do you need a business network? Probably the most important reason is profitability! A well thought out business network will provide the efficiencies in process that will decrease the cost and increase the profitability of your business. I have seen business net profit improvement in almost every business network platform I have implemented over the years and with today's no/low code platforms it can now be part of any business technology strategy no matter the size of the company. I leverage my business network and I only have one employee, me!
Second to profitability, is functionality and collaboration. Functionality, is the ability to start a business engagement by anyone, anywhere, on any device, and at any time. Collaboration is the communication required to usher the engagement through to its completion. Every business process starts at point A and concludes at point Z and through its journey must be tracked, discussed, answered, and updated in order to complete its task. A business network will provide audited automated, paperless functionality in order to achieve "Social Media Style" collaboration through the process in order to achieve maximum efficiency and fulfilment of a MBSM strategy (Management by Strategic Metrics: Daily dashboard reporting). Automating business process with a business network platform can prove to reduce cost and increase profitability exponentially.
Finally, a good business portal can provide a "Single User Interface (SUI)" for processes within your company. What is that you say! Today, with the onslaught of APPS and Portals created for just about every process within a company, it is not unusual to see 5 or 6 different applications being utilized in an organization. While some efficiency is achieved, generally there is a burden of cost and support that is underestimated to maintain and manage all these different applications. Today, there are several platforms available like Omnidek that can consolidate ALL these processes into one application, with full integration to your ERP system, and achieve a SUI within the company. Not only for internal, but external users too! Imagine credit card, time collection, project management, work order, purchase order, account payable invoice, and human resource processing all done by one platform, using one interface, and one entry of data within your business network. Sound too good to be true? Let me give you an example!
Story Construction uses Sage Intacct as their business ERP solution. They wanted to create a business network that would integrate their business partners, employees, recruits, and prospects and provide a single point of entry for all the processes that involve those parties. They had an investment in SharePoint that was topping $150K since its creation and was not very user functionable to the network, so it only had about a 40 percent process adoption by the community. They supplemented the network with 5 additional applications to support invoice approval, credit card processing, project management collaboration, safety and time collection. Their monthly SaaS investment was well over $3000 when you factored in all the applications, over and above their ERP investment.
Their selection and investment into a no/low code platform, Omidek, allowed them to achieve the SUI they desired, increase their portal participation by 70%, and reduce their SaaS cost by over 50%. Their business network provided:
Web based collaboration and integrated, single entry, paperless processing of all project management and operational tasks within the business network through the portal without writing a single line of code. This provided a lower cost solution and more robust design functionality than their current web based project management solution and consolidated this process into their business network.
Proactive credit card processing within the network for the employee who used a company credit card. Transaction forms are automatically sent to the employee for coding and receipt capturing when they used their company credit cards. This allowed them to eliminate their credit card application and consolidate the process within the business network.
Vendors are able to submit and monitor their invoices through the portal and get provided immediate notification and collaboration of approval or rejection status. With full integration to the ERP solution, the invoice never made paper and the process was seamlessly integrated. They were able to achieve an additional cost saving from their current accounts payable invoice solution and eliminate that application from their monthly commitment.
Employees can enter time into the network and on various types of entry forms were developed to accommodate the different needs of the company. Single employee, crew based timesheets, or clock in/out timesheets, whatever was needed could be created, integrated, and deployed to employees within the SUI of the business network. This too eliminated the need for a special application for time collection
Community Collaboration and "Channel" ECM built into the business network allowed all parties to utilize a "Social Network" style chat system on all operational forms and reports of the company. Every process was engineered in the business network and provided all those who participate in the process to have full transparency and collaboration on the process. The SUI (Single User Interface) of the portal provided an easy adoption by both internal and external network members. And, with "Channel" functionality all content is automatically stored and indexed to the proper electronic file cabinets.
With the addition of some strategic services added to the network, work order processing, billing, PTO, and other more strategic processes were added to the network in order to achieve maximum utilization of the features and functionality of the Omnidek Business Network.
Omnidek is not the only solution that provides this functionality--It just happens to be the one I recommend in my consulting. The point of this blog is to give insight to my readers concerning the future of process functionality and the business network. Also, to point out the cost advantages of moving towards a SUI (Single User Interface) design.
If you would like to discuss this or have a need for a company evaluation, let me know.