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Does Your B2B Architecture Pass the Test?

by Rohit Khanna | insiderPROFILES

January 1, 2013

Many enterprises today have a tangle of EDI and business-to-business (B2B) point solutions that are expensive to maintain and lead to difficulties managing partner communications and supporting process improvement efforts, for example. Luckily, advanced B2B integration platforms can help companies overcome these problems, and can improve B2B efficiency and functionality in eight critical ways.
 

If the success of enterprise technology is measured by the ability to efficiently serve changing business needs, many organizations today flunk the test when it comes to their business-to-business (B2B) integration architecture. The typical scenario, a tangle of EDI and B2B point solutions acquired on a piecemeal basis, is expensive to manage and lacks modern services, including large file exchange and easy supply chain monitoring within ERP systems like SAP ERP.

These deficiencies hamper business operations. In addition to increasing administrative costs, such cobbled-together solutions limit supply chain visibility, complicate regulatory compliance and risk management efforts, and jeopardize trading partner relationships by causing delays in problem resolution. Not being able to quickly locate a purchase order (PO) that has been held because of missing data, for example, can put a disastrous kink in a customer’s supply chain.

Aging EDI/B2B environments also present substantial technical handicaps. For example, in a recent Forrester Research survey about legacy B2B landscapes,1 senior IT managers cited difficulties in:

  • Integrating EDI transactions with other enterprise applications (66%)
  • Adding new trading partners and transaction sets (63%)
  • Managing partner communities (59%)
  • Supporting non-EDI-capable partners (58%)
  • Supporting process improvement efforts (58%)

Modernize and Consolidate

Today’s most advanced B2B integration platforms strive to overcome these problems by consolidating heterogeneous adapters and  single-function components into a unified environment that makes it possible to address a range of B2B needs with a common toolset. Best-of-breed platforms also incorporate modern tools to address shortcomings of legacy systems, simplifying new partner onboarding and connecting smaller trading partners.

One example is the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), which merges EDI, B2B, file transfer, and enterprise application activities in a single solution set that uses a common integration engine to unify all transaction processing. All components are 100% engineered by SEEBURGER to ensure compatibility and easy management through the same interface. The suite is also fully integrated with SAP systems to automate and expedite B2B communication workflows.

Replacing your fractured legacy B2B landscape with this kind of one-stop technology can improve your B2B efficiency and functionality in eight critical ways. 

1. Eliminate “Integration Spaghetti”

Most companies have a hodgepodge of disparate B2B components deployed over time to accommodate new protocols, trading partners, and corporate entities. The mix might include XML adapters for non-EDI message formats; AS2, OFTP/OFTP2, HTTP/s, and SFTP plug-ins to meet varying encryption requirements; a series of FTP and SFTP servers for large file transfers; and multiple B2B gateways used by different departments or data centers. Consolidating these components into a single B2B integration platform reduces IT complexity while also eliminating the need for IT staff to learn multiple tools. 

2. Integrate File Transfer Functionality

Many businesses currently have two separate B2B infrastructures: a conventional B2B system that manages the exchange of EDI/B2B documents, such as POs and invoices, and a managed file transfer (MFT) system to handle related unstructured documents, such as PDF orders, CAD drawings, and spreadsheets. B2B integration platforms with built-in MFT services make that second infrastructure unnecessary. SEEBURGER BIS adds the industry-first ability to view both structured and unstructured documents in a single audit trail, simplifying both IT oversight and file traceability.

3. Conquer B2B-Related Big Data

According to a recent Aberdeen Group survey, companies rank EDI/B2B supplier community data among the top three big data types that are difficult to work with.2 Newer B2B integration platforms that handle large file transfers along with standard EDI/B2B structured messages help organizations cope with the deluge.

4. Strengthen Data Security

Older B2B systems lack critical security features, such as the ability to enforce corporate policies, guaranteed file delivery, and notification of transmission failures. Business users who turn to web services like Box.net, Dropbox, and YouSendIt for ad hoc file transfers exacerbate the security challenges by stripping IT teams of control over data exchange. Modern B2B platforms with integrated file transfer functionality plug these security holes, helping to prevent both deliberate and accidental data breaches.

5. Increase Supply Chain Visibility

Consolidating B2B point solutions into a single platform eliminates information silos that hinder visibility into key supply chain processes. SEEBURGER takes it one step further with an SAP add-on that enables business users to monitor and research the entire transaction processing chain from a central location in the standard SAP interface without complex searches and analysis. The add-on — the SEEBURGER Monitor for SAP — aggregates all transaction activities into one window so users can quickly locate information about customer orders or shipments. Users can instantly identify the people involved and drill down to any document, SAP master data, or process transaction with a click. 

6. Facilitate Regulatory Compliance

The added visibility into supply chain processes provided by modern B2B platforms also increases the transparency needed to comply with regulations ranging from HIPAA in the healthcare sector to Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel II in the financial reporting arena. According to Forrester Research, the need to more easily meet regulatory requirements is a primary driver behind planned B2B system upgrades.3

7. Reduce Administrative Costs

Another key catalyst driving IT managers to undertake B2B modernization and consolidation initiatives is the need to curtail rising costs. Merging heterogeneous EDI, B2B, and MFT components into a single platform can help reduce operations and maintenance staff, minimize the expense of creating new B2B/EDI and file interfaces, cut software maintenance fees, and virtually eliminate time spent on document tracking and related message searches. In addition, integration of file transfer functionality eliminates the administrative expense of managing multiple FTP servers. In fact, SEEBURGER customers report a savings of up to 80% when migrating to the newer technology.4

8. Optional Cloud Deployment

Modern B2B platforms also typically provide options for cloud deployment, including a virtual private cloud scenario so that data never leaves the enterprise. This gives organizations access to all of the benefits of cloud scenarios, including easy connectivity between disparate IT infrastructures that can simplify collaboration with external trading partners.

Learn More

To read more about the benefits of B2B modernization and consolidation, download “How to Get Ahead of the Competition: Consolidate and Modernize Your B2B and File Transfer Environments”: www.seeburger.com/con-mod-white-paper.html.

   

Rohit Khanna
Executive Vice President of Global Strategy and Corporate Development
SEEBURGER AG

1 Forrester Research, “The Future of EDI” (February 2011). [back]

2 Aberdeen Group, “B2B Collaboration: The Impact and Advantages of Managed File Transfer” (June 2012). [back]

3 Forrester Research, “Increased Demand for MFT Is Being Driven by Enterprise Compliance Requirements” (November 2011; http://blogs.forrester.com/ken_vollmer/11-11-08-increased_demand_for_mft_is_being_driven_by_enterprise_compliance_requirements). [back]

4 SEEBURGER, “How to Get Ahead of the Competition: Consolidate and Modernize Your B2B and File Transfer Environments” (2012). [back]

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