Businesses are being reshaped by an exponential growth in connected activity and information flow. There are few stand-alone entities these days. Instead, companies are often an inter-connected web of companies, contractors, suppliers, partners and employees. And the challenge for IT is only going to increase as companies begin to take advantage of new economic models such as the Collaborative Economy.
The Collaborative or Sharing Economy involves using technology to connect people to make better use of products, services and resources – reinventing the way we consume and disrupting all aspects of the value chain. According to Jeremiah Owyang, for every car that is rented through a car-sharing service such as Zipcar, the manufacturer loses on average $270,000 as this reduces car ownership by 9-13 vehicles. This then has a knock-on effect on the rest of the value chain (insurance, fuel, parts etc).
Some companies have already recognized these shifts and are exploring how their business models could change forever.
GE has partnered with product crowdsourcing service Quirky investing over $30m to create Wink, a ‘microfactory’ for connected home products which is currently generating over 4,000 new ideas per week. Wink selects a small number of these to take to production and are then sold by retailers such as The Home Depot.
Barclaycard Ring, from Barclays PLC is a credit card service designed and run by its community members. Members propose and vote on new ideas to make the service better. Barclays shares the financial impact that these ideas might have and the Giveback program gives members a share in the profits.
US Government agency NASA launched a contest asking data scientists on crowdsourcing site Kaggle to create new uses for the agency’s wealth of earth sciences informational material and data. The competition uses the NASA Open Earth Exchange platform. NASA has some of the smartest people on the planet, but competitions on Kaggle are often won by people with little subject-matter expertise but who are great at building predictive data models.
Managing the digital content and workflow associated with such a dramatically different extended enterprise requires some careful thought.
Firstly, you will need to design business processes that can extend beyond your organization and that can be adapted on the fly. Secondly, it is vital to use collaboration tools that work as well with your partners as they do inside your organization. Finally, content needs to flow easily between the different parties involved in the process. But in some cases, there could be significant security concerns so think about how to safeguard your critical content, whilst still delivering the content that partners need in the cloud.
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How Alfresco is solving these types of business process and content challenges.