Successful B2B integration initiatives cannot be measured merely by the technological tools that enable business partners to communicate. Effective collaboration and meaningful interactions also play critical roles. Communications systems and software do not have to be viewed solely through the lens of building a basic network, with management focused mostly on just "keeping the lights on." With innovative tools deployed in smart ways, companies can build better business relationships based on more effective collaboration.
In an age of social media and nuanced brand engagement, being perceived as a great communicator and strong collaborator can be a huge benefit for a business. One recent survey by branding firm Siegel+Gale found that B2B decision-makers are 10 percent more likely to make purchases from a company to which they feel a connection. Some of this perception stems from an organization's public profile, in the way that its social media presence or customer service functions in real-world settings. While B2B relationships can take months or years to build, it's clearly in a company's interest to put its best foot forward.
However, the degree to which companies can connect today means that its outer facade is not the only component of its B2B relationship-building strategy it needs to pay attention to. How it leverages network infrastructure, conducts file transfers and applies actionable metrics are all considerations a potential business partner can take into account. A seemingly decentralized, inadequate or poorly protected strategy can drive a business to conclude that its objectives would be in misalignment with a potential trading partner. Organizations cannot risk this potential complication to B2B integration and profitability. Building a strong collaboration network is key to facilitating B2B integration, as well as scalable relationships to provide lasting advantages.
How to leverage IBM Sterling Collaboration Network
On the surface, collaboration seems simple. Keeping partners in the loop, sharing data and scheduling regular updates might be enough, right? At IBM's recent SmarterCommerce conference, IBM vice president of commerce solutions John Mesberg outlined how the construction and maintenance of a collaboration network can be a steep uphill battle:
"These can be very complex, challenging implementations," Mesberg stated, according to IT World Canada. "When clients take on these implementations without considering what it takes to bring on 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 suppliers on board they can be in for a rude surprise, because it's not a technology problem - it's a program management problem. How do you get several thousand companies to bend to your will to accommodate your needs? They don't move at your pace."
The IBM Sterling B2B Collaboration Network is a comprehensive solution that can help, offering a slew of robust, cloud-based tools for enhanced B2B integration. It can make B2B relationships more efficient, effective and profitable for both parties.
By investing in the IBM Sterling Collaboration Network during its B2B integration process, especially with the help of a B2B managed services provider, organizations can take advantage of several communication-building tools and techniques, including:
- Robust transaction processing: IBM Sterling Collaboration Network simplifies file transfer processes by providing its "virtually any partner, virtually any format" capability. Businesses can spend time and resources converting data from different formats and ensuring interoperability with all standards, slowing productivity and creating complications in collaborative relationships. By eliminating these complications, B2B integration benefits from increased in-network translation, document tracking and the secure, reliable transfer of time-sensitive material.
- Automated process tools: Manual B2B processes inherently prolong the ability to get things done. They can create complications between supply chain stakeholders that do things differently, eat up IT resources and raise the likelihood of human error. By deploying the IBM Sterling B2B Collaboration Network Solution, business partners can automate invoice processing, exception handling, payments systems and other components. They then rely on proactive alert systems that can draw attention to any outliers or other potential issues, which can be rectified before they metastasize.
- Real-time, actionable reporting: More data on system functionality provides business partners with better tools to effect positive change on the way that certain transactions operate and processes are conducted. It also enables them to mobilize faster in response to changes in the marketplace, selling environment or available technology. Leveraging this shared data for better collaboration can help a business work with other stakeholders to understand and respond to each other's needs.
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