One year ago, at a key B2B conference, GroundZero No. 3, attendees were literally fighting for seats at the crowded Boston Park Plaza hotel to hear various vertical marketplace operators explain how they were going to take over the world or at least change it significantly. Six months later, in the midst of the dot-com slide, B2B was in its own shakeout, and GroundZero 4, in Los Angeles, featured speakers who offered advice about how to get out of a bad trading partner or marketplace relationship.
Following that trend, GZ5, back in Boston earlier this month, was not just poorly attended, but organizers took to rounding people up from the lobby and press room just to make the main keynote room seem fuller.
I dont mean to pick on GroundZero, but clearly it has been a keen barometer of B2B success or failure.
But beneath that apparent indifference about business-to-business is a ray of hope, one that indicates that after going through its period of retrenchment, B2B appears poised to once again lead the revolution against the tyranny of the paper purchase order.
Its just that those battles are going to be fought on the micro, rather than macro, level—on the fields of private, home-grown trading hubs and not the large, impersonal public marketplaces that were so popular a year ago.
This may not be good news for companies that want to get serious about supply chain management and procurement because they are now going to have to piece together such B2B platforms on their own. But it is great news for users who decided to wait before jumping into B2B for fear of the very problems now plaguing public exchanges: trust, integration, security and integrity of transactions.
These are all of the things that companies can control better if they build, or at least piece together, their own B2B trading hub. This is the way B2B should have evolved in the first place—inside out, where the marketplace is really an extension of your own internal processes—and not outside in.