Since the dawn of time, we’ve been building bridges.  Their construction and geometry varies widely in terms of span, material, form and placement. But whether as rudimentary as a fallen log across a stream, or a complex feat of engineering like a suspension bridge, they all share a similar purpose: to carry something or someone across a space or obstacle.

Now, you won’t find me viaduct-spotting or waxing lyrical about trusses, but in Madrid recently I drove under a pair of bridges that got me thinking. So on my return I did a little research. Madrid experienced rapid urban growth in the 2000s, and with the expansion a series of new motorways appeared. The Madrileños were keen to buck the trend of typical motorway footbridges and asked architect Leonardo Fernández Troyano to construct this pair of elegant suspension bridges, which you can see over the Motorways R-3 and M-40.

Madrid Bridge2.jpgMadrid Bridge3.jpg

It made me wonder how suspensions bridges are actually built, and I tracked down this image which shows one of them under construction. Madrid Bridge1.jpgThe answer is obvious really:


A Bridge is always built from both sides


There are several ways to build a bridge, but for suspension bridges, the way this is done is to build it from both sides. Trying to do it from one direction only is inherently unstable.


This is what we will be talking about at our upcoming conference. How do you build a connection between your buyers and your suppliers. Answer: you need to build both sides at the same time.

For Buyers that means addressing: motivation, ease-of use, on boarding, training and making sure what they need to buy is actually there. It also means that the Business Unit owners (who direct the Buyers) need to understand the benefits of the system, and be able to track the adoption and payback. Only then can they encourage/mandate the end users.

For Sellers that means an efficient, localised on boarding which takes care of technical and business challenges

I see some striking similarities in the way that a commerce network is created. It’s effectively a bridge that spans the gap between trading partners, providing safe and compliant passage for transactions. But crucially, it needs to support a viable business model at both ends, providing value to vendors and buyers in order to maintain its structural integrity. Favouring sellers over buyers, or vice versa, would result in something wonky and unstable.  


Take the Ariba Network, for example.  As the world’s largest B2B marketplace which just recently passed the Trillion Dollar mark, it connects a global community of large and small businesses, which collectively have an enormous impact on ecommerce: 


  • The Ariba Network enables companies to tap into the biggest digital supplier base, streamline its procurement, collaborate with suppliers in multiple ways, and simplify interactions with other, complementary business functions.
  • Business collaboration means joining a global community of trading partners who share these best practices to accelerate, optimize, and simplify transactions – and enjoy tight yet flexible interactions
  • The network offers true flexibility without compromising transparency.
  • Leveraging the Ariba Network both simplifies and accelerates collaboration externally with suppliers and internally among key stakeholders. The gains are both quantitative and qualitative in nature, improving a wide range of interactions and touch points between trading partners.


So, to “mind the gap” a bridge or network needs to be built from both sides.


The best chance to see these bridges, and learn how eCommerce can span the gap between trading partners is to attend SAPAribaLive. You'll hear about the volumes and connections of the world's largest B2B network, and hear from dozens of companies on both sides on the bridge: Buyers and Sellers talking about how the network has improved their business.