We used to be content just searching online for information on products, scanning the latest news or finding out what our friends and family were up to.

But today we expect consumer e-commerce and payment sites to be intelligent and deliver experiences that are personal and relevant, and to know things about us and anticipate our needs within the context of our actions and to execute them in line with our personal preferences and company policies.  To help us not only do things faster, but better. After lagging consumer payments, business to business payments is finally catching up to that level of function.

Technology has unleashed a host of new data. And by mining this data for insights and delivering them to the right people at the right times, technology can make us more intelligent and ultimately drive advantage.

Business networks are turning these scenarios into realties for the procurement industry.  By leveraging the hundreds of billions of dollars of financial transactions and transactional data along with relationship history that resides in business networks, for instance, buyers and sellers can make more informed decisions by detecting changes in buying patterns or pricing trends. This provides organizations with more confidence and qualifying information on a potential, yet unfamiliar, trading partner.

And, when combined with community-generated ratings and content, they can glean not only real-time insights, but also recommended strategies for moving their businesses forward.  So, things like performance ratings where buyers rate suppliers and suppliers rate buyers. Others in the community can use this information to help detect risk in their supply chain or determine who to do business with – much like a consumer might read a product review before purchasing something online.

By accessing the real-time insights into invoice approval status, married with historical data on payment patterns of given buyers that business networks provide, banks and other service providers can remove the risks from receivables financing, allowing them to offer more competitive rates and new services to network members that increase revenue, such as dynamic discounting and real-time insights into invoice approval status.

Many payment and business services companies are using networks to push the limits of what’s possible and do business the way it should be done.

The days of having to seek out information when you need it are numbered. The most productive business leaders are using cloud-based technologies to their advantage, enabling processes that proactively push information to the right people, at the right time for increased efficiency and business value. And it is to these victors that the spoils will go.

Marcell Vollmer is COO of Ariba.