Most people, deep down, have a solid streak of optimism that drives them to feel hopeful about the future. It’s what gets us up in the morning, even when life turns uncertain or scary or grim. It paints our reality in colors and shapes more pleasing than what’s actually before us. If you don’t believe me, go house-hunting with a friend and listen to her describe not the dark cabinets in the ill-lit kitchen of today but the bright, airy family center of her dreams.
That optimism fosters imagination, a uniquely human trait. Imagination drives our creativity, our ambition and our urge to build things, whether houses, companies or information systems.
What’s usually missing from the exciting images we construct in our heads are all the details of what we’ll need to do in order to execute our dream. Sure, we know we’ll have to work hard, and it will take time and money, but we simply can’t entertain all the minute details and daily tasks we must tackle before we realize our goal. Even if our mind could conceive and contain it, our optimism would smooth the edges and veil the realities in mist?or we’d never begin.
That, I imagine, is how many of today’s B2B efforts began. Manufacturers and retailers had a vision of the way things could be if goods and payments and the associated information could move effortlessly between them and their trading partners?and it was good. When the technology to make that happen came along, people started building with a vengeance.
Two things happened along the way. B2B champions realized that many of their partners didn’t exactly share their enthusiasm for the new way of doing things. And of those who did, few understood their role in creating and maintaining a secure setting for that activity.
So while a lot of the infrastructure for low-cost, seamless online trading exists today, much of the hard work remains to be done. It’s not technical work. It’s not even contract work. It’s exerting your influence and powers of persuasion over the people and companies you do business with. It’s change management and relationship building. It’s about setting expectations and monitoring compliance. It’s getting on the phone and meeting face-to-face.
And it’s the focus of our special report on making B2B relationships work, beginning on Page 52. Because optimism and imagination will only take you so far.