The Collaborative Economy is for Business to Business

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The Collaborative Economy, which includes the sharing economy, maker movement, crowd funding, and crowd lending, is perceived mainly as a peer-to-peer movement. Yet, it’s not limited to individuals helping each other alone. Companies, both large and small are replicating the same strategies and tactics to improve their own business. Companies themselves are becoming like peers collectively tapping into this collaborative space.

Ten years ago, with the rise of social networks like Myspace, Friendster and Facebook, we saw companies becoming frustrated because they were not able to participate in these peer-to-peer social networks. As a response, we saw the rise of branded, online communities emerge, such as Lithium, Jive, Telligent, Chatter, and Mzinga.  Today, a majority of corporations have their own branded, online forum or community for employees, partners, or customers. This same progression is now happening with the Collaborative Economy

Regardless of peer-to-peer or business-to-business, tenets of the movement include: 1) Activating idle resources for usage, therefore reducing waste. 2) A paradigm of access versus ownership, therefore reducing ownership as people get what they need on-demand. 3) Using technology to find these idle resources, then accessing the internet of things, mobile devices, social networks, online marketplaces, digital reputations, and online payment systems.

The Collaborative Economy is for Business-to-Business 

Here are a few examples. (Feel free to add more to the comments section.) For those new to the space, associations are provided, so it’s easy to understand how the company is replicating a B2C solution for B2B. Example: “the Airbnb for supply chain.”

  1. Localmotion replicates Zipcar features, so any company can enable car and vehicle sharing. Their software reduces the need for keys so that employees can access shared resources by using digital badges to access fleet vehicles.
  2. TwoGo, SAP’s ridesharing software, enables workers to rideshare, reducing global waste, cars on the road, and parking snafus at the corporate office while encouraging productivity within the workforce as they communicate in real time.
  3. Flow2 enables companies to share their goods, resources, and staff with other companies in an online marketplace. Akin to eBay, Yerdle, and craigslist, this B2B service offers companies the ability to be more efficient with their own resources while obtaining additional resources quickly, on demand.
  4. oDesk and Elance (which have merged) enable corporations to access online workers on demand. This business employment solutions provider offers business services from project management, software development, office work, copy editing, and more to companies, on-demand, around the globe.
  5. Cargomatic, the Uber for shipping, enables companies to more efficiently manage their supply chain. This enables businesses to find out which trucks with in a local route have available capacity, managing on-demand planning and reducing waste.
  6. NearMe, a white label Airbnb, enables any company to build a marketplace. If your company is being disrupted by rapidly growing marketplaces like Airbnb, Lyft, Lending Club, or TaskRabbit, you can build your own marketplace and tap the crowd with NearMe.
  7. Storefront, the Airbnb for retail, enables retailers who have excess and idle space, to rent it out to other businesses for an on-demand form of “popup retail.” This fosters more product offerings on shelves, and reduces the profit-eating expense of wasted space.
  8. WARPit, an eBay for business, enables employees to distribute idle resources on demand. Does your business have chairs, desks, or printers lying around unused? Share them with employees, or other organizations, maximizing efficiency of use.
  9. myTurn offers tool sharing, like a library, for your workforce. Rather than buy everyone a scanner, buy one that everyone can use, by using inventory tracking software.
  10. Co-working startups LiquidSpaceShareDeskPivotDesk and others, enable desk-sharing for workers seeking places to work, and for business with excess space. As work shifts to shared locations, businesses can be more flexible, offering desks on-demand.
  11. CrowdFlower offers human computing on demand.  Rather than hire thousands of employees to process simple tasks, you can tap an organized workforce of workers to conduct micro-tasks online, keeping your workforce focused.
  12. Selfstarter, is an open source starting point that allows your business to build its own ad-hoc crowd funding website. Building your own crowd funding platform for your business that’s branded, data accessible, and less costly, you can use open source software to launch your own crowd funding site.
  13. Any Perk enables employers to offer benefits and perks to employees.
  14. Please add other examples in the comments.

Expect Large Enterprise Software Companies to Usher in Suites
Companies are replicating the same features as the P2P commerce solutions like Airbnb, Uber, Sidecar, TaskRabbit, and Kickstarter to take advantage of this growing trend powered by new technologies. We’re at the very front end of this movement. Expect an explosion of Collaborative Economy apps and startups to emerge to serve companies as players like Uber and Airbnb and offer APIs enabling new forms of connectivity. Looking out ten years, expect software giants like SAP, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce and others to offer their own versions for corporations through replication or acquisition.

Want to learn more? Access my body of work for research, reports, presentations, frameworks, and more posts on the Collaborative Economy.

Image used under creative commons licensing by Panama.

25 Replies to “The Collaborative Economy is for Business to Business”

  1. Excellent article. The impact of the collaborative economy on established businesses is one of the most interesting aspects of the movement.

    Do you truly believe it will take established enterprise software companies nearly a decade to develop and provide platforms enabling peer services in a business setting? Instinctively, it seems several of the big software companies could have a offering in this area in the next 3-5 years, no? Especially if you consider acquisition as an option, which is how many dealt with the explosion of enterprise social tools. I’d love to know what informs your time estimate on the arrival of these software tools in the B2B world. Great work!

  2. Amy it’s always a pleasure to hear from you, as you’re one of the key voices in the business space on this topic. For some clarity, I think in ten years, we’ll see fully formed suites. I do believe that large enterprise software companies already have pieces/features now, but will package, acquire, and combine them.

    SAP has a lot of these pieces, which ties to Ariba, their business to business ‘marketplace’ type of software, and we also see how IBMs push on the Smarter Cities program ties to this, and Oracle has recently hosted MakerCon as their Java software enables makers…just to mention a few.

    In the social business software space, it took nearly 5-7 years for the suites to happen, and they’re still forming now, even at the 10 year mark (Facebook emerged in 2004, Dell Hell was in 2005).

  3. Another business related services is a marketplace of Community Managers on-demand.

    Also, AirPR offers on demand PR professionals in marketplaces.

    There’s also many other variations in CrowdSpring, 99Designs, for crowd based designs.

    I’ve a list of over 10 companies in co-innovation, through crowd-sourcing, too many to list here, perhaps a post for a future time.

  4. Jeremiah, thanks for taking time to respond. I see what you mean now!

    Ten years is definitely the more likely estimate for fully formed collaborative software suites. Also, I was reminded just how early on the social business software space started growing, long before the enterprise social tools I think of today even came to be. You’ll have to forgive my age on that one. 🙂

  5. Jeremiah- have you examined energy sources and needs as part of the collaborative economy? Seems like that would be such a powerful way to share and save energy.

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