As we discussed in our earlier article about the need for Digital Transformation, now let us talk about some of the tools that enable your digital strategy. First and foremost we need to come up with a comprehensive Business-to-Business (B2B) integration strategy that provides a holistic/unified approach in delivering your services to your customers. One of the key elements of this architecture is to have a cloud-based social marketplace for businesses with shared data connections that enable your clients to discover your company in the marketplace and provide an easy way for them to exchange information with your company through those secure connections.
This architecture should also incorporate your data integration and data transformation needs to process the information efficiently and map it to your internal applications. So, in other words, this B2B integration approach addresses two main digital transformation needs. One, how does your customers exchange meaningful information quickly with your company and second what does your company do with that data once it receives it from the clients, in terms of parsing and integrating this information with relevant business applications.
Think about a Payroll company that takes data from customers, such as new employee updates, and needs to provision the employee updates into the next payroll cycle. Some of the questions related to B2B data integration are:
How do customers send the new employee data? Where does one go and find out how to send this information? Who do they contact? What are the protocols and the data format needed to send the new employee information to the payroll service provider? How much time does it take to receive confirmation? And more importantly what if the information sent to the payroll provider is incomplete or incorrect, what are the ways of notifying the customer and what are the rules of resubmitting the information?
In this blog, we will discuss these two elements, the social marketplace for business connectivity and data integration, in detail.
Key to your digital strategy is providing a platform to your customers to reach out to you and consume the services your company is providing in a secure and meaningful manner. A social marketplace of businesses with shared connections is the most simple approach where your customer searches and explores your shared connections, sends out a request to access those connections and then, through a simple self-provisioning wizard, establish a data connection with your company.
For example, a Payroll provider may have created a BambooHR connection where it allows you to synchronize your HR system with the Payroll system and in order to use it you simply provide access credentials to your BambooHr account and if the trigger is set on “update employee” it will automatically send your updated employee record from your HR to the payroll service provider. So in this example, the customer is not emailing or sending a fax or calling your account rep, they simply connect through the shared connection and data synch-up is done in seconds. Customer sees a confirmation in their dashboard that the information is processed and once the connection is established they don’t need to do anything else, it will automatically run next time when there’s a change to an employee profile. This cloud "self-service" marketplace provides a front-end for your companies to find and establish data relationships with your company.
Another key element of the digital strategy is to have an enterprise service bus (ESB) that allows your internal or backend systems to talk to each other once your front-end cloud marketplace receives data from your customers. So if we take the example of the Payroll provider a bit further, once the employee data is received from a customer what happens to that data?
This is where having an ESB layer with a standard library of data services to integrate meaningful information with relevant back-end applications is so important. One of the service can be related to calling an API that loads the employee data to a database, another service can be related to providing General Ledger updates back to customer’s Quickbooks application in order to create Journal Entry records. Another service can be related to providing updates to 401(k) Plan Service providers.
If you look at the Data Integration requirements for your digital strategy, also think about having a standard data dictionary of formats or standards that allow your company to manage your business information efficiently. Having one format for your employee record is better than having multiple. Having one way of sending data to an application is better than having multiple. Managing one mapping for a specific data topic is better than managing multiple. The same rule applies to the data communication approach for your customers. Give your clients a platform that provides an easy way for them to exchange data and we think having a self-service marketplace of shared data connections is a key enabler for digital transformation.
The above two approaches provide a foundation for your digital transformation enablement. Key problems we are solving is related to "discovery” and “establishing data connection”. And this relates to our earlier assertion that digital transformation is changing the business landscape where customers are driven to those technologies that provide an easy way to complete traditionally complex tasks. The above two approaches also provide a dynamic and scalable architecture for your IT as it can leverage business users from within your company to automate customer onboarding without having to rely on its resources.