When it comes to electronic data interchange (EDI) operations, more data can be both a blessing and a curse. Few would argue that building larger B2B networks and exchanging more information with trading partners is a bad thing. However, savvy business professionals also know that managing all of that data - keeping networks moving, satisfying all requests, maintaining security and about half a million other critical tasks - represents a massive challenge.
It's also an opportunity - a chance for a company to get smarter about the applications and information that it creates, uses and shares with its partners. B2B managed services can target common EDI issues and neutralize them. A managed services provider can vastly improve an organization's B2B integration initiatives. Armed with the many dynamic solutions like IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, the provider can leverage EDI for better operations and B2B relationship management.
Here are four recurring EDI-related problems, along with the ways that a B2B managed services provider can help alleviate them:
- Expanding trading partner relationships may slow productivity: Onboarding new business partners can be a difficult process, rife with things that don’t quite align or are difficult to configure properly. This is especially true where EDI is concerned. Everything from formatting issues to a business' approach to receiving and processing data can prolong exchanges and make it tough for stakeholder organizations to build their partnership. These operational, compliance and IT issues (or some combination thereof) can disrupt physical and financial flows, throwing off B2B integration efforts, wrote Spend Matters contributor David Gustin. By working with a managed services provider to deploy the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator solution, however, companies can target incompatibility through leading system integration, architecture restructuring and technical support. This vastly improves onboarding and enables organizations to significantly improve EDI between partners.
- Application updates spur data disruption: A wide variety of enterprise software solutions can disrupt EDI connections, even those that have functioned effectively in the past. Accounting tools, enterprise resource planning programs, customer relationship management software and a variety of other high-level systems may receive upgrades, enhancements or alterations in one company that makes them incompatible with the software used by another member in the supply chain. This has the dual problem of forcing stakeholders to upgrade if they're not ready, or on the flip side, effectively encouraging companies to refrain from innovating in order to maintain the status quo. A managed services provider can help mitigate these problems, based on experience and deep knowledge of the solution.
- Aging networks cause latency, confusion: In-house networks may not have the infrastructure or capacity to handle larger applications with more complex processes, while the sheer volume of data can cause problems for network management, EDI coordination and incident resolution. Nashville Business Journal contributor Melinda Curran wrote that application malfunctions can have serious repercussions, including lost data, packet dropping and even irreversible damage to the applications themselves. In one organization, these disruptions could be time-consuming and resource-intensive, but these costs are multiplied exponentially when mapped out to the level of a B2B supply chain or multi-vendor partnership. A managed services provider's EDI support can include complete control over application portfolios and the infrastructure that support them, enabling it to monitor all activity and swiftly resolve any issues. Outsourcing network and infrastructure oversight can also help companies focus on their B2B partnerships, confident that they have the application environments to support growth opportunities.
- Lack of administration sows conflict, questions: Who's in charge here? Siloed departments and a lack of centralized EDI management and processes can create discord between B2B partners when something goes awry. Disputes over integration requirements, technical support and onboarding responsibilities not only damage fledgling relationships, but can curtail productivity and profitability for both partners in the long term. By investing in the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator and a B2B managed services provider, a company has an excellent solution for B2B integration at its disposal, backed by a team of experts adroitly skilled in preemptively eliminating conflicts and answering nebulous issues. It also can supply a framework with pre-built tools that clear up any problems before, during and after implementation.
EDI doesn’t need to be a source of complexity and problems for B2B integration. With the right tools and the help of a managed services provider, companies can gain a level of visibility over their data-based operations they've never experienced before.
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