Today’s business networks and trading processes are more complex than ever and require a smarter multichannel business network integration approach. Organizations with conventional & in-house integration approaches find themselves constrained by technological challenges when managing their trading partners’ life cycle and rapidly adjusting to customer demands. On the contrary, organizations with smarter B2B integration solutions are successfully improving their business agility and extending processes to businesses across the globe. Despite compelling benefits, companies are hesitant to deploy B2B integration solutions for their business.
In many cases, organizations remain confused in choosing between an automated solution and a manual solution for B2B integration. Here is a guide that will help you decide between these two approaches.
1. Resource Intensive Manual B2B Integration Methods: If hand coded methods to integrate B2B processes have become extremely time and labor intensive then it is the right time to select a B2B integration solution. Some of the indicating factors are:
For simplifying this part, enterprises must prepare a list of processes and applications which are heavily dependent on integration support. If core processes are heavily dependent on B2B integration and disparate systems are failing to sustain the workload then it is a strategically wise decision to automate connections with a B2B integration tool. Automated connections reorganize processes, remove partner facing issues and further strengthen the business networks.
2. Self Service by Partners: Manual integration shows up its biggest drawbacks when partner networks need to be expanded and hence more IT infrastructure is required to create integrations. Complex scripts fail to support complex transformations and make it harder for organizations to react to changes. An enterprise class B2B integration solution offers simplified solutions to solve such problems without the need of hiring specialized resources and infrastructure. It offers customer friendly services, templates, transformations and orchestrations to configure partner connections and expand networks.
3. B2B Integration Cost - Manual Vs. Automated: Automated B2B integration might have more upfront cost but it is a ‘one time investment’ where templates can be reused to create further partner networks. On the other hand, manual B2B integration cost might be lower initially but it will rise eventually when more partner networks and connections need to be created. A simple exercise can help business leaders in verifying which approach will be more cost effective for their business case.
First, determine the sum total of connections which need to be established with the trading partners, i.e., customers and trading partner networks. The average cost of creating connections and translation maps between these partners would vary between $800 to $1200. Multiply this average cost with the total number of partners, customers, and stakeholders. Find out whether the total manual integration cost is greater than the automated B2B integration solution or not. If the manual integration cost is comparatively higher then an organization should consider minimizing the operational cost with an automated B2B integration solution.
4. Data Volume & Data Variety: Analyze that whether your current integration standards are providing sufficient control to the organization while sharing data formats. Evaluate the efforts and time being undertaken to convert data into different formats for information exchange. If different partners need different data formats for information exchange i.e., ASC X12, XML, ISO 8583, RosettaNet, PDF, etc. and data mapping errors are frequently stalling the processes then information exchange needs to be streamlined with an automated B2B integration approach.
5. Automated vs Manual B2B Integration: Setup two situations for data interchange with partners: automated and manual. In automated situation, business teams shall have total control to create and manage data flows. In manual setup, the teams shall have zero control over the process. Increase the volume of information exchange in both the situations to understand which scenario performs better and delivers better results. Compare both the scenarios to find out which one is enabling timely and cost effective sourcing, efficient procurement, real time communication, visibility, and faster settlement of orders.
6. Future Integration Needs: It is quintessential for enterprises to evaluate that whether the current integration approach can deliver similar performance in the future or not. Business leaders should keep a close track on technologies which are transforming the IT landscape. Manual integration approach needs to be reengineered every time a partner deploys new technologies at his place. Therefore, companies loose thrust when existing technologies and technical staff fail to deliver cadence every time there is a minute change in partner network.
To support business expansion plans, an ideal integration framework must allow business users to collaborate electronically with sales and service channels, get real time access to data and ensure visibility across supply chain network.
In an era of expansive business operations, organizations need to embrace a collaborative and visible B2B integration approach. A smarter commerce approach enables users in virtually connecting with the entire trading community, improve business performance, and execute effectively on customers insights. The existing integration approach should be changed if it is failing to deal with demands of large volume of customers and succumbing to competitive pressure.