This week's issue focuses on two key imperatives in business today: collaboration and trust. We've been devoting a lot of coverage to these topics over the past few months, and we'll continue to look into them. On the topic of collaborative business, I think we can all agree by now that it's a good thing to do. But even those sold on the benefits of collaboration acknowledge it's a difficult strategy to figure out. Part of the difficulty has to do with the underlying infrastructure and technologies used, and part has to do with cultural factors such as trust and ethics.
In this week's lead news, senior writer Steve Konicki takes a look at the growing reliance on private exchanges--collaborative networks that let companies and suppliers manage procurement, inventory, demand planning, and more. These exchanges can help cut weeks or months out of the process of developing new products, reduce administrative costs, and get a better grip on spending. Siemens AG expects to save $900 million annually within two years by using a private exchange to handle procurement of parts and materials. That's significant for any company, but especially one whose financial picture isn't very rosy right now. The increasing emphasis on private exchanges is occurring at a time when many public exchanges, such as MetalSite and Chemdex, have collapsed. For some, the ability to limit the collaborative network to a smaller set of trusted suppliers is too important to pass up in favor of broader, public exchanges.
While its advantages are driving companies to share internal data, collaboration also calls for a new set of ethical guidelines and an unprecedented level of trust. In "The Trust Imperative," senior executive editor John Soat and editor-at-large Clinton Wilder investigate the challenges. They find that certain industries, such as retail, have conventional business practices that must be reassessed so as not to defeat the benefits of collaboration or intentionally deceive a business partner.
While we're on the subject, let me remind you that the editors at InformationWeek love to collaborate with customers: our readers. We recently spent a day in New York with our reader advisory board and members from the academic and venture-capital communities; we'll be acting on many of their ideas in the coming weeks. We're also eager to hear your feedback on stories in this magazine, things you've read in our E-mail newsletters, tools you've used on our Web site, and people you've heard speak at our events. Let us know how we can continue to make the InformationWeek brand valuable to you.