Effective B2B Integration

Challenges, practicalities and keys to success

First published: September 2012

By Dale Vile

Key Findings

Effective B2B integration goes hand in hand with good business performance
The highly interdependent nature of business in many industries means the way in which organisations communicate and transact across supply and demand chains has a big impact on business performance. It is therefore not surprising that a recent study involving 201 medium to large UK and Dutch organisations demonstrated a strong correlation between B2B integration effectiveness and both financial performance and business development activity.

But shortcomings are acknowledged by many, and driving improvement can be hard
Efficiency and responsiveness issues are not uncommon, with challenges frequently reported in areas such as partner on-boarding, routine transaction automation, exception handling, and simply keeping up with the pace of change in an ever evolving B2B environment. However, despite being aware of the cost, operational, and decision-making impact, business and IT managers in under-performing organisations are often faced with a range of barriers that can appear quite daunting.

Top performers illustrate how to break the problem down into more manageable pieces
When we look at what those with the best overall B2B capability have in common, i.e. what they are doing ‘right’ to drive results, we are able to distil out six factors that make a difference:

  • Clarity on business value, i.e. considering the full range of benefits that can be achieved, not just the ones that are obvious and easily measurable

  • An inclusive strategy and mind-set, with a view to enabling electronic trading with the long-tail of trading partners, as well as key customers and suppliers

  • Adequate systems foundations, doing the necessary groundwork to deal with core application limitations and disjoints between internal systems and information, but without boiling the ocean

  • A platform approach to integration, phasing out or avoiding custom integrations as much as possible to drive reuse, consistency, automation and visibility

  • The right B2B solution partner(s), conducting due diligence to ensure a good match with your requirements and culture, as well as the necessary skills, experience and commercial terms

  • Appropriate funding and commitment, paying attention to ownership and responsibility, and allocating the budget and resource needed to break the cycle of reactive investment

Proactivity is the key to ROI
With many organisations reporting pressure and incentives from key partners to trade electronically, you are likely to be spending money on B2B integration one way or another. With this in mind, the trick to achieving good ROI is to invest on your terms rather reacting to others’ agendas.


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