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Collaboration can build better business

By Mandy de Waal

Know what collaborative business is? Heard about collaborative commerce? It’s a much-bandied around buzzword, but has very real business applications.

If you’re a part of industry, you’ll have been doing collaborative commerce already. At it’s heart collaborative eBusiness is all about using technology to integrate environments for maximum business efficiency. You are probably already using integrated environments to schedule meetings, keep track of email or to work with teams on projects.

Take it up a notch and add some sophistication and collaborative commerce becomes all about using the Internet to build more efficient and profitable business processes through automated supply chain management, dynamic replenishment systems and transactive marketplaces.

The bottom line benefit is not only about reduced cost, but also about gaining a competitive edge and ensuring customer fulfilment in highly competitive economies.

Ever-increasing pressure on manufacturers to bring fresh products to market is forcing companies to find new ways of gaining an edge on their competitors. In the past, companies have turned to enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management as a means of staying ahead. Collaborative commerce takes manufacturing to the next logical step of building on demand and streamlining supply processes so that manufacturing become faster and more response driven.

“Investments in collaborative commerce have been mad over the past two to three years,” says Michael Bosman, CEO of Commerce One South Africa. “All the leaders of the industrial sectors in South Africa are involved in collaborative commerce,” he says.

Commerce One is a leading provider of procurement and e-marketplace applications and services that connect buyers and sellers global and local marketplaces. Local customer who use Commerce One technology include Naspers, Bidvest, Sasol, FirstRand and Telkom, as well as Quadrem, the metals and mining e-marketplace used by Anglo American and De Beers.

“Bottom line benefits include detailed supply chain integration, increased efficiencies and costs. Research from the retail sector pointed to savings of up to R60bn that can be accrued through supply chain efficiencies,” says Bosman who adds that if you employ a multi-pronged strategy you can save costs through exchanges and machines, efficiencies through document management and can open up the prospect of the creative restructuring of companies.

“Of course collaborative commerce opens up the possibility of innovative service providers getting bigger markets without building up massive infrastructure. This is the exciting part which presents a huge number of new and novel business opportunities,” he says.

Not to mention that, from a local perspective, collaborative commerce has the potential to accelerate South Africa’s integration into the global economy, especially given the price advantage offered by local products and Forex flow into the country.

Mandy de Waal is one of the founders of Idea Engineers, a strategic marketing company that develops brands and businesses. She can be contacted on. +27 11 803-8111 or

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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