As businesses increasingly collaborate with ecosystem partners to create compelling products, services and customer experiences, integration platforms that drive seamless B2B transactions are gaining traction. The reason: B2B is one of the most important building blocks in the larger business ecosystem integration and must therefore be prioritized during modernization.
A B2B integration platform is the glue that binds together the heterogenous and often legacy technology stacks of an enterprise with those of its supply chain partners, creating a homogeneous entity. However, given its high business criticality, the B2B modernization process demands rigor. An ecosystem-driven, cloud-based integration strategy is a superior alternative to the traditional siloed services offerings as it delivers the right B2B expertise, robust capabilities, and end-to-end visibility that modern enterprises demand.
Let’s deep dive into the current challenges in B2B integration and how enterprises can overcome those leveraging a five-point framework.
Roadblocks to B2B ecosystem integration
Traditionally the B2B integration space has been dominated by standards-based transactions (EDIFACT, ANSI X12, Rosettanet, HIPAA), value added networks (VANs) and managed file transfers (MFT). Most enterprises are hesitant to modernize B2B solutions given the inherent complexity of legacy solutions and the high volume of mission-critical business transactions with their supply chain partners. But the time is now ripe for a transformational change in B2B integration as legacy B2B solutions are unable to keep pace with rapid technological evolution. According to market research analysts, the global market for B2B/EDI integration is expected to grow at 8.5% CAGR to reach ~US$35-40 billion by 2025.
However, even as expectations for an interconnected ecosystem rise with the wave of digitization, enterprises are finding it difficult to articulate the value realized from B2B transformation.
Diverse partners with varying technology maturity demand different forms of solutions. Over the years, the B2B landscape has accumulated multiple tools and products that are currently challenged by the scarcity of skilled resources to manage them. Moreover, multiple touch points with external customers lead to inefficient tracking, and inadequate reporting and control. The complex nature of B2B solutions frequently adds to an enterprise’s struggle to establish unified business processes to support enterprise strategies.
B2B technology modernization shows the way
While enterprise IT deal with existing challenges to cope with legacy B2B solutions, digitally savvy supply chain partners have high expectations and seek enhanced and consistent digital experiences. Today’s trading partners prefer APIs over legacy methods such as electronic data interchange (EDI) and file transfers. APIs can successfully address visibility and automation aspects that have been long-standing challenges in the legacy B2B landscape.
According to Gartner, APIs complement, rather than replace, traditional B2B technologies. Application leaders should use API capabilities to add new channels, enable automation, and optimize their business ecosystem for digital transformation.
As a starting point, cloud modernization in the B2B solutions is paving the way for better integration. Enterprises are taking advantage of their cloud-first initiatives such as SaaS implementations to migrate their on-premise B2B/EDI applications to cloud/iPaaS platforms. Global organizations with distributed B2B setups across geographies, and multiple outsourced and local vendors, are considering consolidation and in-sourcing to boost supply chain agility.
Here’s a five-point framework that B2B enterprises can use to define and achieve their modernization goals:
- Gateway: Ensures connectivity to trading partners across the technology maturity spectrum, supporting a wide range of protocols and formats with robust security standards and data validation features.
- Translation: Ensures seamless transformation from any format with smart mapping features and large end system connectivity options.
- Unified Partner Interface: Enables smooth onboarding of partners through self-service with automated partner enrollment and strong partner management features.
- Visibility: Ensures end-to-end transaction visibility of partners, driving strategic and rapid decision-making capabilities with advanced dashboards, analytics, and customized reports.
- Intelligence: Drives event processing and data streaming solutions for automated decision making. Provides capabilities to leverage futuristic technologies to achieve the enterprise B2B vision.
While some of these features are available in leading off-the-shelf B2B products, many enterprises require customized solutions based on their specific needs.
Harnessing integrated ecosystems for incremental value delivery
As enterprises power ahead with their digitalization initiatives, they must engage in an ecosystem play with partners, vendors, customers, and employees to ideate, connect, and deliver value together. To do this effectively, they must first assess their technology maturity and define their B2B integration goals accordingly. A B2B integration platform assumes a critical role in enabling such an ecosystem play, differentiating enterprises and future-proofing their success.