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How to Enable Trade During a Pandemic

Published May 2020

  1. Introduction

    This article explores the use of technology to provide a platform for Buyers and Sellers to interact during a major disruption resulting in the absence of face to face or event-based exploration of partnerships.

    Proposing that an automated solution, orientated towards the engagement of potential partners in the buying and supplying ecosystem, is essential if we are to ensure our businesses are resilient to global events, such as a pandemic.

  2. Trading During a Pandemic

    Business ecosystems rely on engagement between all parties. Buyers able to buy and sellers able to sell. During this Pandemic the dynamics have changed significantly.

    This recent lock-down has meant that attending expos and trade shows is now impossible, and many or all events for most of this year are now being attended in the virtual world.

    Also, most businesses either have all or some of their Procurement and Sales professionals working remotely, or working with smaller teams as a result of furloughing some resources. Raising many additional business challenges around collaboration with colleagues, suppliers and management.

    So, this made me think that Claritum already has the concept of buying and selling within our platform and surely this would be relevant for an article on this subject.

    What is needed?

    Thinking this through, what is needed is to enable organisations to sell products & services to existing & future groups, as well as enabling the purchase of products & services from known and unknown suppliers. Providing an ecosystem for a buyer to buy and a seller to sell to groups and contacts they have, perhaps, never engaged with before.

    These “discovery” ecosystems often revolve around events, networking and face to face meetings. If these can no longer occur how do buyers discover sellers and sellers discover buyers?

    Once you have discovered a buyer or seller, the method of communication and exchange of information is now the challenge. With information typically having been stored at fixed locations in emails, excel sheets or other desktop application files. What happens if a key contact in this exchange of information is unwell. How does someone else pick up the pieces?

    This all assumes of course that all people involved have good and reliable connectivity from home. This is often not the case and it could be that key information held by one individual should be available at a team level.

    How do you engage suppliers?

    How do you know if a particular supplier is trustworthy if you cannot even visit their premises? What technology can be used and how can this be stored for potential partners to view. Perhaps, references are needed from other parties or an ability to share information.

    Essentially, what is needed is a business-to-business ecosystem that enables discovery and interaction between buyers and sellers. Key information stored and available to trusted or invited parties.

    By enabling such an ecosystem, you can take control of your spend, and deliver the benefits of buyers, suppliers & experts collaborating intelligently.

  3. A Buyer/Seller Ecosystem

    A buyer/seller ecosystem would solve a range of business problems for professional and non-professional buyers and sellers:

    1. It helps buyers find suppliers of products and services quicker and more accurately than an online search and manual processes.
    2. Suppliers of products and services can find new buyers quicker and more accurately than an online search and manual processes.
    3. For businesses that have little or no budget, or appetite for a major internal business transformation project, it provides a low risk “toe in the water” alternative to engage in an ecosystem.
    4. Businesses can manage their supplier/buyer relationships in one place. Recording all transactional activities and documents exchanged.
    5. Audit trails, compliance and governance aspects would be supported.
    6. To ensure adherence to the acceleration of environmental policies, businesses would have a place to record trading decisions based on environmental aspects.

    Effectively a business-to-business on-line platform for buyers & suppliers which enables members to be able to trade in an ecosystem with pre-built and adaptable business workflows and automation.

    However, some aspects need to be addressed if this system is to be both accessible and secure. Protecting information of both the supplier and the buyer, as well as ensuring transactions between parties are secure to those parties.

  4. The Ecosystem Capabilities

    1. Access from any device, so that users can use the technology that is available to them in any given circumstance.
    2. Control of access and security of access to the ecosystem, so that Buyers, Sellers and Experts can subscribe directly or be introduced by a ‘partner’.
    3. Buyers, sellers and experts need to be able to build, publish and edit their profile and any details of products and services they wish to buy or sell.
    4. The ability for Buyers, Sellers and Experts to request a connection with each other and invite new users to subscribe. Hierarchical groups managed by administrators can allow the inclusion of members of an organisation.
    5. Any connections you make would need to be controlled in terms of private or public connections.
    6. Process flow needs to be flexible so that this can be configured appropriately to specific organisational requirements.
    7. Buyers, sellers and experts would need to be able to communicate together in many ways. Including for example:
      • Forums/discussions (public or private groups)
      • Message/chat (public or private groups or directly to another user)
      • RFI - buyers, sellers and experts requesting information from other users.
      • RFP – buyers, sellers and experts requesting proposals from other users.
      • RFQ – buyers, sellers and experts can requesting quotations from other users.
      • Communications would need to be routable to users by email, text, voice, video etc dependent on the recipient’s preferences.
    8. Finally, and critically, the inclusion of BI & Reporting, including Dashboards highlighting key activities and information.
  5. Do I have the tools I need?

    Some organisations have procurement automation tools. However, these are designed to buy, not to trade. Others have no tooling at all and remain dependent upon spreadsheets and emails alone.

    What is needed is an ability for vendors to be enabled to sell to you and your buyers to be able to buy appropriately, within a controlled and automated environment.

    Your current systems would not provide market information that you can review and decide which suppliers to invite to a procurement event. Nor could new suppliers highlight their capability to provide goods and services.

    RFx

    You need to be able to send out standard RFx questions automatically and review responses quickly to assess potential suppliers, with all supplier interactions recorded. This to a wider supply base than you are ever likely to hold on your current systems.

    Plus, there needs to be the ability to buy and sell within categories, projects and for bespoke items within the ecosystem. Often systems are restricted to one or two of these or you are forced to shoehorned activities into inappropriate processes.

  6. Summary

    This article explored some of the characteristics that are essential for an automated trading ecosystem – the buyer and seller ecosystem.

    Exploring the use of an automated solution, orientated towards the engagement of potential partners in the buying and supplying ecosystem.

    It has, with this pandemic, become clear that there is a need for an automated ecosystem for future trading that can be organised to specific groups of companies or current industry ecosystems. Ensuring that trade can continue when personal contact is challenging to achieve.

    If this topic is of interest to you, and you see the application in the context of your own business environment, then please reach out to Claritum.

    About Claritum

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