Cue the slow-building drumbeat from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and zoom in on a groundbreaking moment circa 1967: A business, for the very first time, is sending a file to another company over leased line via bisynchronous modem. This is ancient history, yet its significance parallels for the business world the invention of the wheel.
B2B file transfer technology is something I’m well-acquainted with. Before joining Adeptia, I worked as both an engineering and marketing manager for a Managed File Transfer (MFT) company, and during that time I witnessed the evolution of B2B MFT technology. What I find most astounding, though, is all that hasn’t changed.
In the mid-1980's, ISDN lines replaced leased lines and asynchronous modems took over where bisynchronous left off. Then, during the nineties, the Internet changed the game for transferring files between businesses via HTTP (1996), FTP (1971) and SMTP (1982) using a persistent connection. In 2001, AS2 and ebXML were both born, and the subsequent years saw a surge of B2B managed-file-transfer solutions which automated secure file movements using a variety of transfer protocols and security options.
Still, it wasn’t until the mid 2000’s that integration vendors were able to achieve significant B2B MFT capability, and even then it was only through MFT vendor partnerships. By 2010, every major integration vendor had either acquired B2B MFT companies or had partnered specifically with the company that I worked for.
Despite all of these changes, business-to-business file transfer is still basically the same as it was in the 1970's. The channels for transport and the mix of protocols have changed, but the process and methodology is still basically the same. In 2015, B2B data exchange still belongs entirely to technical users performing file-based batches, and the pricing of MFT solutions reflects this.
For example, when two companies want to automate the exchange of data, the IT departments from both companies are required to discuss data formats, transfer protocols, encryption, transmission acknowledgments, and error/exception handling. Considering that automated file transfer capability isn’t the highest priority for most corporate IT departments, this can be a long and frustrating process for the business users who are delaying or losing revenue waiting for IT. The process can take weeks just to automate data exchange with one company, and it must be repeated again and again for hundreds or even thousands of customers/vendors. Given this, the B2B file transfer and integration market is very ripe for disruption.
Cloud iPaaS, API Management and self-service offerings have the potential for the first time in the history of digital business to completely change the way that companies exchange files with each other. In fact, the newest technology uses an IT-guided social approach which allows non-technical business users to configure and operate B2B data exchange with external partners. This paradigm-shifting approach empowers business users to perform what was previously a developer-only process and frees up IT to work on more strategic initiatives. There hasn’t been a MFT development this significant since that first file was sent between businesses back in the late 60’s.
So, if you are still googling “secure file transfer servers” for your company, you need to get out of your cave more. While your competitors are stuck in ancient history, you can be a part of the future of integrated business-to-business data exchange.
For further reading on the future of B2B Data Exchange, check out:
Adeptia Connect 2.0 Shortens Customer Onboarding From Months To Minutes
You Want A Real Mission Impossible? Try B2B Application Integration
The Fantastic 5 of B2B Integration