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Following the Lead Climber

Climbing Lead

My daughter is into rock climbing. So I spend my Saturday mornings watching her scramble up terrifyingly acute slopes with the sound of carabiners snapping to attention as she ascends ever greater heights.

In climbing, there is the concept of the “lead” who determines the optimal route, tests the footholds, inserts the clippy-things (I’m no expert), takes most of the risk, and guides the team behind her. “Reach a little over to your left, there’s a good hold just above you.” They carry their own rope, and have much further to fall than everyone else.

Leading is hard, enervating, can be dangerous and only the most experienced can do it. It’s a similar role as that played by the Everest climbers Hillary and Tenzing, but played out every Saturday morning on English granite.

In any Network, going first is also hard and risky. The first sellers on eBay were not sure that there would ever be enough buyers to drive prices up in their auctions. The first purchases of expensive telex machines had to persuade their trading partners to buy one, and to some extent, train them on its use.

The good news is that in modern Business Networks the leaders have already ascended, leaving the well-marked routes for us all. They have all

  • Battled with technology
  • Experimented with different business models and found which ones work
  • Got legislation changed (for example EU legislation regarding electronic signatures)
  • Developed training, information packs and tools for their trading partners

The risks have largely been eliminated and the result is a clear, well-marked, safe route to the top.

The danger is you’ll be left on the ground staring upwards while everyone else is “following the leader” and are even now swarming up the rock face. The Leader on your route could be any of the following:

  • A key supplier who wants to send an updated catalogues of their latest products
  • A large customer who insists you must invoice them electronically
  • A logistics partner who wants you to include their tracking page with your shipment information
  • One of your sales channels that wants to set up a web storefront for your products

Time to Clip-in

As they say in the climbing world, it’s time to “Clip-in” and take the first step up the slope. The view from the summit is incredible.

About the author
James Marland
Vice President of Network Strategy - Ariba (Twitter: @JamesMarland)

James is responsible for defining and rolling out strategies for the Network with particular focus on Europe. He joined Ariba at the launch of the Ariba Network in 1998 after previously being a Solution Consultant at SAP America. In addition he ha... Read More >>>

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