Since there are so many variables that factor into the adoption and performance of a B2B integration plan, it's easy to overlook some of the more complicated ones. It's understandable, for the most part, as the speed of business and the rapid progress of customer-facing strategies means that factors that a company didn't need to consider at the outset of a total cost of ownership evaluation will have a significant impact on the eventual bottom line. However difficult, it's imperative that organizations anticipate the expense lines that can complicate an otherwise well-thought-out B2B integration project.
A B2B managed services provider can help alleviate the effects of unavoidable costs, diminishing their impact and avoiding direct hits to the bottom line. It can also ensure that there are plans in place to deal effectively with contributing costs, using proactive methods, collaboration and outsourcing to help defray expenses and eliminate surprises. Let’s explore this a bit.
Hardware costs: While many companies could get by on a server or two in a closet, the explosive growth of big data and high-performance software has made a fully fledged data center a reality for organizations in varied sectors. In a recent survey conducted by InformationWeek, 73 percent of respondents said that they expect demand for data center resources to rise over the next year, with increasing storage concerns and the need to ramp up next-generation virtualization and cloud efforts contributing to escalating expenses. Each new asset drives up procurement, installation and maintenance costs, especially in the effort to remain compatible with business partnerships, which all contribute to an expanding bottom line. By investing with a managed services provider, a company can take advantage of an outsourced data center model, allaying prohibitively expensive hardware demands.
IT training: With so many new hardware and software components potentially arriving in the organization, it puts pressure on IT professionals and non-IT personnel alike to become more familiar with complex new systems and programs. The costs of migrating employees away from tried-and-true spreadsheet to innovative analytics software, for example, can be surprisingly high, as productivity slows while personnel get acclimated and can even potentially grind to a halt. For IT personnel, who are tasked with installing new systems, perfecting their knowledge and onboarding users, adding so many tasks to their already full plate can be a burden. By outsourcing software installation, updates and maintenance to a managed services provider, an organization can leverage a customized support system for reduced training time and effort, without losing the benefits the software can provide.
Sustainability: Sustainable business practices have experienced a huge rise in visibility over the past few years, and although most are not requirements, companies can enjoy good press - and even eventual cost savings - by exploring eco-friendly initiatives and more accountable sourcing practices. However, implementing such practices within the context of B2B integration and business relationships can be difficult if there are major differences between disparate stakeholders' approaches. As PurchasingB2B pointed out, sustainability is not purely an economic decision, but incorporates a variety of other facets - people, methods and sourcing locations - that are direct contributors to supply chains and business partnerships. If an organization wants to become more sustainable, it can work with a managed services provider to identify opportunities within its supply chain and internal processes, incorporate new practices seamlessly and defray the potential costs that could come with a lackluster initiative.
Compliance and security: From file transfers to industry compliance, there are many opportunities for business practices to make an enterprise vulnerable to data leaks and financial losses. Large files and massive data reserves can be difficult to exchange between organizations, while companies in compliance-heavy industries can be hit with unexpected sanctions if a partner organization doesn't observe the same standards. While a company can't change the practices of a partner, it can work with a managed services provider to target areas of potential security- or compliance-related risk, and work to implement solutions that - more than just workarounds - provide lasting, scalable coverage.
Keeping the total cost of ownership down requires a total solution. A managed services provider can offer support for a comprehensive B2B integration system, using the organization's current system as a base for a customized, targeted deployment, ongoing management and maintenance, and proactive, cost-efficient strategies.
If you liked this article, check out others from Lightwell:
- Seamless B2B integration: A journey to the center of the cloud
- B2B integration and the changing role of the CIO
- Like a layer cake: A guide to the levels of B2B managed services
- Why the healthcare sector is in desperate need of B2B integration