Strategic Guidelines for Modernizing Business-to-Business Data Exchange
It is no longer possible to get a competitive edge and address partner expectations with a simply good enough B2B integration approach. The digital world is always in a constant flux, enterprises need to modernize their B2B architecture for synchronizing perpetually fluid landscape of partners with evolving data sharing requirements. Organizations today require a unified B2B model that ensures greater agility, drives down cost of ownership, breaks down silos, improves scalability and drives profitability.
Then there are several key factors to consider while modernizing business-to-business data exchange. Enterprises should envisage a strategy beforehand to create a business benefits framework that helps them harness more value from their B2B model. So, here in this blog post, we will talk about the guidelines you should follow to achieve excellence with B2B modernization.
Factors Driving Business-to-Business Data Exchange
The IT landscape is evolving & getting modernized and simultaneously converging to take new forms. This echoes in Gartner’s recent report as well, which predicts that Enterprise Application spending will grow by 7.5 Percent to reach $201 billion in 2019 and a huge portion of the investment will go into modernization.
Simultaneously, organizations are realizing that archaic electronic data interchange (EDI) platforms are impossible to scale to address diverse B2B integration requirements. Simultaneously, cloud-based platforms have proliferated considerably in different sizes and versions. Enterprises need a strategic vision to overcome these obstacles that prevent them from accessing long range cloud benefits.
Digitization is also exposing several weaknesses of APIs that fail to deliver flexible interfaces for digital business and revenue models. In many cases, the value proposition of APIs is overrated and it is difficult to extend APIs to mobile channels and external applications for greater B2B collaboration. To an extent, APIs support EDI approach, but still not a silver bullet for pervasive integration needs.
There is a general consensus among organizations that only the paranoid will survive in the digital world. Many organizations are modernizing because they have seen their competitors in getting the edge and making huge profits with modernization. A sense of urgency and concern is gripping companies that their competitors equipped with smart technologies will steal their business from them. The fear of staying behind in dust is pressurizing organizations to modernize their B2B data exchange frameworks.
EDI-based B2B models are not only cumbersome, but they also hold a lot of cost overheads. This is a valid reason that organizations are offloading their dependency on them. Organizations are moving towards feature-rich and agile systems architected around XML, JSON, etc. A similar objective behind modernization to incorporate real-time functions like self-service integration, reusable connectivity, etc.
Best Practices for B2B Modernization
- Keep up with changing ecosystem: You should seriously consider adopting new standards and tools when your competitors are doing the same. Your organization may still have poorly structured flat files, ancient interfaces like electronic document interchange (EDI), batch processing and file transfer protocol (FTP). These are all useful, but not enough. You should step up during B2B modernization as new data formats like XML, JSON, etc. are becoming common, and companies are adapting HTTP based protocols like AS2, REST etc. for data exchange.
B2B exchanges are synchronous littered with lakhs of business processes for quotation, evaluating, document exchange, billing, payment, etc. To reach another level and succeed with B2B modernization, you will need the real-time ability that supports business operations in real time. The future of B2B resides in automation of collaborative business processes to reduce b2b exchange and streamline processes.
Your initiative will require prebuilt cloud application connectors to connect with popular applications like Salesforce, QuickBooks, NetSuite, MS Dynamics CRM, etc. Moreover, to improve data center efficiency you should have flexible scaling options to host business systems both on cloud & on-premise.
- Create a business case for B2B data exchange: Create a business case for B2B data exchange: To get support for modernization, identify a high-value use case (e.g., enterprise integration, real-time, pressure from partners and competition), and find a business sponsor who also sees the value.
Here it is important to understand that the ecosystem enabled by B2B DE is industry specific. The business case of a manufacturer may involve lots of suppliers and other manufacturers for complex products. A retailer may be having different needs for dealing with wholesalers and distributors. Simultaneously, there are financiers, insurers, healthcare service providers, etc.
- Support business case through POC: Realizing potential business value from the B2B modernization is not a cakewalk and there are several things to consider. Prepare a proof-of-concept (PoC) which demonstrates that the B2B modernization is feasible. The PoC should focus on factors to balance the requirements of organizations’ clients, partners, and competitors. Answer the following questions for creating an overarching business benefits framework:
- What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?
- What is the sumtotal of B2B integration priorities?
- What additional requirements apply to businesses that are large, fast-growing, or complex?
- What are the goals associated with?
- How to harness integration capabilities for increasing value?
- Potential blowbacks of the modernization?
- Understand that modernization is mission-critical for your business: B2B modernization doesn’t happen overnight and it requires ample of budget and resources, and dedicated team. For doing this, you should create awareness about the execution and positive outcomes of b2b modernization for your organization.
Convince top brass to pump ample business and technical resources to harness more value from the B2B framework. Quality of work will depend on close coordination between multiple teams, team morale, and methods for tracking progress. Look out for ways to bring every member of the organization on the same page through feedback sessions and stakeholder management.