The key enabler of Love and all its subordinate concepts (affection, loyalty, trust, etc.) is Transparency. When an organization is confident to be transparent and communicative with its employees, partners and customers, it enhances those relationships and derives all the exponential benefits from them — and ultimately a competitive advantage. Dr. Ruth once said about transparency: “For a relationship to work, it must have shared communication that includes a regular exchange of information and ideas.” (She also said the most important six inches in a relationship was between the ears, but I couldn’t figure out how to work it into this article.)
For solid relationships, organizations and professionals must ramp up communication and transparency. So much of how we operate, however, is within the confines of systems and protocols developed years ago and are now status quo. Evaluating every system and method through the prism of today’s need to be transparent is a good way to look for that differentiator and competitive advantage.
Take one of the most basic ways organizations communicate today: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI has been in use since the late 1960s, but many organizations still use their existing legacy systems for processing traditional B2B transactions like Purchase Order, Invoice, Advance Ship Notice, etc. Often this still involves a great deal of human intervention, multiple steps and many paper documents. The benefits of EDI over legacy systems is well-documented:
- Faster: EDI can accelerate business cycles by 61% through process automation vs. manual processing that requires people to enter, file, and compare data. Inventory and order processing data is streamlined and more efficient with real-time data updates.
- Cheaper: EDI typically lowers operating costs by at least 35% by eliminating paper, printing, reproduction, storage/retrieval, postage, etc., and drastically reduces administrative, costs.
- More Accurate: Manual processes invite error so EDI improves data quality and eliminates up to 40% of re-work on orders.
Yet even the use of EDI where paper documents are reduced and human error minimized, the world is much different than the late 1960s and other technologies are now available. Business leaders would be wise — like Pope Gelasius or Chaucer — to realize that a shift in the culture is required and at hand.
EDI still requires substantial investment and requires time to deploy and integrate 1-1 connections into existing applications. It needs constant monitoring against viruses, hacking and constant maintenance often from in house resources. Despite even a recent move to the cloud, EDI is an “old” technology which hasn’t changed much yet remains the dominant protocol in B2B.
As my colleague Deepak Das accurately puts it, there are ways now to “Optimize EDI” to “integrate with your ERP system, connect with e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, B2B portals, social channels, and shipping solutions. We can now enable businesses to effortlessly scale the data exchange workloads and quickly onboard new trading partners using a variety of EDI and API-based formats, handle exceptions to avoid expensive chargebacks and provide built-in BI Dashboards for productive insights.”
Sounds like Deepak is evangelizing a transparency play and the best relationships with customers and suppliers are those where the transparency and trust anchor both parties in rough seas. The ability to transition away from just traditional EDI is one example an available way to enhance transparency between partners. Just as practicing transparency helps couples sustain intimacy in a romantic relationship, it is essential for business partners to operate and head-off unforeseen conflict.
From that first minute of your next interaction with an EDI partner, set the tone that transparency on both sides will enhance your already-successful working relationship. Start evaluating better ways than your traditional EDI to enhance transparency because it is a foundational pillar of your B2B and B2C strategy,
Transparency enhances love and, like love, transparency is happening all around us. Our businesses are now hyperconnected, yet the speed of information exposure still continuously shocks old-school managers. It’s time to honor our patron Saint of relationships, Saint Valentine and realize that managers who don’t embrace transparency might eventually lose their heads.
Werner Graf is senior VP and Chief Customer Officer of Visionet. He’s also a member of the CGT/RIS Executive Council.