Accounting for $8.8 trillion in annual U.S. commerce, networks that transfer purchase orders, invoices and other documents are expanding their reach across industries and services, Forrester Research reports.

Commerce transacted through business-to-business e-commerce sites is projected to reach close to $900 billion this year in the United States, but total commerce transacted electronically in the U.S. is about 10 times that, Forrester Research Inc. estimates.

Online business networks are expanding the services they offer and attracting new types of clients.

That results in close to $9 trillion transacted through online business networks that include EDI networks, internet procurement networks and industry-specific exchanges, Forrester says in a report released last week, “Vendor Landscape: B2B Business Networks, 2017 To 2018,” and authored by Forrester analyst Andrew Bartels.

And networks in each of these groups are expanding the services they offer and attracting new types of clients, the report says.

EDI-based networks, including Comarch, IBM, Liaison and OpenText, for example, are pivoting to offer more managed services related to technology integration and data analytics.

IBM, for instance, has rebranded its Sterling B2B Collaboration EDI Network under the Watson Supply Chain label to emphasize its use of artificial intelligence tools available via IBM’s Watson super computer. The Watson connection will enable IBM’s EDI network to provide insights into its clients’ supply chain transactions, including data from IBM’s Weather Channel. Among other things, that will enable IBM to show which suppliers in a client’s supply chain have the best delivery records, and to predict how likely suppliers are to deliver orders on time, factoring in data on weather patterns as well as each supplier’s delivery performance history. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a term used to describe software that learns from the data it compiles to improve on its own such functions as recommending products or sources of products.


Supplier networks that focus on transferring purchase orders and invoices between buyers and suppliers, such as SAP Ariba and Tradeshift, are expanding beyond their historic role of handling procurement of indirect materials, such as maintenance supplies, that companies purchase to operate their facilities. Their expanded procurement services are now processing more direct goods, or the products and materials that make up what companies sell to their customers.

The third group of business networks—industry-focused networks like Exostar, Elemica, SupplyOn, E2open, GHX and SPS Commerce—are focusing more on supply chain collaboration technology and services, in addition to the electronic exchange of documents. Those new services are designed to help buyers and suppliers share production and demand information to better plan inventory levels.

Some of these networks have also broadened beyond their initial industries. Elemica, for example, has expanded beyond serving process manufacturers in chemicals to include tire manufacturers; Exostar has added pharmaceuticals to its base in aerospace; SupplyOn has branched out from the automotive industry to include aerospace.

Other networks have remained focused on their initial industries, including Cortex and Oildex in oil and gas, GHX in hospitals and medical equipment suppliers, and SPS Commerce for retailers and consumer goods suppliers.

The report also figures another $900 billion transacted through online procurement software used outside of online business networks, for a combined total of about $10.6 trillion in B2B e-commerce sites, procurement software and online business networks.


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