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The Move to B2B Platforms: Q&A with Manuel Sevilla, Capgemini CDO

 

Platforms have been increasingly important in B2C digital transformation in recent years and have been used to disintermediate and create a whole raft of well-known consumer business opportunities. B2B platforms have been less evident during this period outside the obvious ecosystems built up in the IT arena by the major cloud and software companies. However, with blockchain now emerging to complement the increasing power of cognitive and automation technologies, the B2B platform is now once again on the agenda of major corporations.

One IT services vendor assisting corporations in establishing B2B platforms to reimagine certain of their business processes is Capgemini, where B2B platform development is a major initiative alongside smart automation. In this interview, NelsonHall CEO John Willmott talks with Manuel Sevilla, Capgemini’s Chief Digital Officer, about the company’s B2B platform initiatives.

 

JW: Manuel, welcome. As Chief Digital Officer of Capgemini, what do you regard as your main goals in 2019?

MS: I have two main goals:

  • First, automation. We’re looking to automate all our clients’ businesses in a smart way, transforming their services using combinations of RPA, AI, and use of APIs to move their processes to smart automation
  • Second, to build B2B platforms that enable customers to explore new business models. I see this as a key development in the industry over the next few years, fueled by the need for third-party involvement in establishing peer-to-peer blockchain-based B2B platforms.

JW: What do you see as the keys to success in building a B2B platform?

MS: The investment required to establish a B2B platform is significant by nature and has to be seen in the long-term. This significant and long-term investment is required across the following three areas:

  • Obviously, building the platform requires a significant investment since, in a B2B environment, the platform must have the ability to scale and have a sufficient number of functionalities to provide enough value to the customers
  • Governance is critical to provide mechanisms for establishing direction and priorities in both the short and long-term
  • Building the ecosystem is absolutely critical for widespread platform adoption and maintaining the platform’s longevity.

JW: How do the ecosystem requirements differ for a B2B platform as opposed to a B2C platform?

MS: B2B and B2C are very different. In B2C environments, a partial solution is often sufficient for consumers to start using it. In B2B, corporates will not use a partial platform. For example, for corporates to input their private data, the platform has to be fully secured. Also, it is important to bring a service that delivers enough value either by simplifying and reducing process costs or by providing access to new markets, or both. For example, a B2B supply chain platform with a single auto manufacturer will undoubtedly fail. The big components suppliers will only join a platform that provides access to a range of auto manufacturers, not a separate platform for each manufacturer.

Building the ecosystem is perhaps the most difficult task when creating a B2B platform. The value of Capgemini is that the company is neutral and can take the lead in driving the initiatives to make the platform happen. Capgemini recognizes humbly that for a platform to scale, it needs not only a diverse range of partners but also that Capgemini cannot be the only provider; it is critical to involve Capgemini’s partners and competitors.

JW: How does governance differ for a B2B platform?

MS: In a fast-moving B2B environment, defining the governance has to proceed alongside building the ecosystem, and it is essential to have processes in place for taking decisions regarding the platform roadmap in both the short and long-term.

B2B platform governance is not the usual two-way client/vendor governance; it is much more complex. For a B2B platform, you need to have a clear definition of who is a member and how members take decisions. It then needs enough large corporates as founder members to drive initial functionalities and to ensure that the platform will bring value and will be able to scale. Once the platform has critical mass, then the governance mechanism needs to adapt itself to support the future scaling of the platform, often with an accompanying dilution of the influence of the founder members.

The governance for a B2B platform often involves creating a separate legal entity, which can be a consortium, a foundation, or even multiple legal entities.

JW: Can you give me an example of where Capgemini is currently developing a B2B platform?

MS: Capgemini is currently developing four B2B platforms, including one with the R3 consortium to build a B2B platform called KYC Trust that aims to solve the corporate KYC problem between corporates and banks. Capgemini started work on KYC Trust in early 2016 and it is expected to go into scaled production in the next 12-24 months.

JW: What is the corporate KYC problem and how is Capgemini addressing this?

MS: Corporate KYC starts with the data collection process, with, at present, each bank typically asking the corporate several hundred questions. As each bank typically asks its own unique questions, this creates a substantial workload for the corporate across banks. Typically, it takes a month to collect the information for each bank. Then, once a bank has collected the information on the corporate, it needs to check it, which means paying third-parties to validate the data. The bank then typically uses an algorithm to score the acceptability of the corporate as a customer. This process needs to be repeated regularly. Also, the corporate typically has to wait, say, 30 days for its account to be opened.

To simplify and speed up this process, Capgemini is now building the KYC Trust B2B platform. This platform incorporates a standard KYC taxonomy to remove redundancy from, and standardize, data requests and submission, and each corporate will store the documents required for KYC in its own nodes on the platform. Based on the requests received from banks, a corporate can then decide which documents will be shown to whom and when. All these transactions will be traceable in blockchain so that the usage of each document can be tracked in terms of which bank accessed it and when.

The advantage for a bank in onboarding a new corporate using this platform is that a significant proportion of the information required from a corporate will already exist, having already been supplied to another bank. The benefits to corporates include reducing the effort in submitting information and in being able to identify which information has been used by which bank and when, where, and how.

This will speed up the KYC process and simplify data collection operations. It will also simplify how corporates manage their own data such as shareholder information and information on new beneficial owners.

JW: How does governance work in the case of KYC Trust?

MS: A foundation will be established in support of the governance of KYC Trust. The governance has two main elements:

  • Establishing the basic rules, in particular, defining how a node can be operated and specifying the applications that can be run on top of the platform to create questionnaires and how the platform will integrate with banks’ own KYC platforms
  • Providing the means for corporates to submit information, enabling the mixing of data from multiple countries while respecting local regulations. This includes splitting the information submission between the various legal entities of each corporation with data potentially only hosted locally for each legal entity.

Key principles of the foundation are respect for openness and interoperability, since there cannot be a single B2B platform that meets all the business needs. In order to build scale, it is important to encourage interoperability with other B2B platforms, such as (in this case) the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF), to maximize the usefulness and adoption of the platform.

JW: How generally applicable is the approach that Capgemini has taken to developing KYC Trust?

MS: There are a lot of commonalities. Sharing of documents in support of certification & commitments is the first step in many business processes. This lends itself to a common solution that can be applied across processes and industries. Capgemini is building a structure that would allow platforms to be built in support of a wide range of B2B processes. For example, the structure used within KYC Trust could be used to support various processes within supply chain management. Starting with sourcing, it could be used to ensure, for example, that no children are being employed in a factory by asking the factory to submit a document certified by an NGO to this effect every six months. Further along the supply chain, it could also be used, for example, to support the correct use of clinical products sold by pharmaceutical companies.

And across all four B2B platforms currently being developed by Capgemini, the company is incorporating interoperability, openness, and a taxonomy as standard features.

JW: Thank you Manuel, and good luck. The emergence of B2B platforms will be a key development over the next few years as organizations seek to reimagine and digitalize their supply chains, and I look forward to hearing more about these B2B platform initiatives as they mature.

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