The Main Issue with Collaborative Commerce – How to Fix It


The benefits of synchronizing business processes among customers, suppliers and trade partners are substantial, so as the challenges in attaining high levels of collaborative commerce. As a result, many companies still use the traditional way to do business. There are others who do it online but have not gone beyond letting their suppliers, customers and partners view information. Most companies have not let their walls down. They have only created windows for the involved parties to peek through.

So, what exactly is the issue with collaborative commerce? Is the problem technical? Ironically, no! There may be a lot of technical difficulties, but technology is not the biggest barrier to collaborative commerce. Human barriers appear much larger. Overcoming distrust among parties, specifically the fear of leaking exclusive information, is the main issue. It is critical for companies to overcome this. Companies with high levels of collaborative commerce outperform those with low levels of collaboration.

Letting you customers only view product information in your website will make you sleep better at night and giving your customers access to sales forecasts and your suppliers to promotional sales will set off fears that your competitors will have access to exclusive data. Yes, that’s true. So, why do you need overcome distrust? This kind of online-sharing is essential for you and your trading partners in reducing costs, errors and cycle times from demand and supply chain.

So, how should you deal with the trust issues? Focus your collaborative commerce efforts progressively. For example, Owen & Minor is a health care product distributor that started with only 10 suppliers comprising the majority of its sales, but the company has gained significant benefits from its collaboration with them. Gaining the trust of one company is easier than with multiple organizations. Start with a few customers or suppliers. Once the initiative has proven its effectiveness, you will find that you have overcome your worst fears. In due course, the levels of distrust of other companies will also likely fall.

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Charlie Alsmiller

Throughout his career, Charlie Alsmiller has focused on customer problems in difficult industries such as Energy and Telecommunications. Prior to starting Appterra in 2005, Alsmiller was VP of Global Operations for Allegro Development, a leading provider of software for the energy sector. He has also served as president of OmniSpace Technologies, a leading SaaS provider that he founded in 1999. He spent over 10 years in the consulting world with Price Waterhouse and Deloitte Consulting, where he participated in a wide variety of projects for very high profile clients. Mr. Alsmiller holds a BBA from Baylor University in Management and Information Systems and a MBA from the University of Dallas in International Business. Specialties: Technology ventures, Enterprise Software, Contract Negotiation, International Operations, Private Equity, Product Management, Strategic Alliances, Software Implementation, Software Development

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