How to approach a B2B integration readiness assessment


iStock_000020924120_XXXLarge-1B2B integration: Is your company ready? While an array of tightly connected business partnerships are a must for success in today's diverse omni-channel commerce environments, an ill-conceived B2B integration project can end up doing more harm than good. These projects form the foundation of an enterprise's long-term strategy, with far-reaching effects in terms of the way supply chains are managed and customer fulfillment approaches are executed. Because so much is riding on the ramp up, it's imperative that a company is ready for the influx of new information, system components and business objectives.

It all starts with a readiness assessment. As pointed out, many companies have recognized that they need assistance in the development and maintenance of key business relationships with an omni-channel or online-driven focus. Whether companies are trying to capitalize on emerging online markets, diversify their product holdings or expedite their supply chains in line with available technology, it's important to stick the landing. Digital and omni-channel commerce hold great promise for those organizations that can carve out a market share, and smart businesses are aware that building sterling relationships puts them on the fast track to realizing these potential profits. But first, they have to be ready.

Conducting a readiness assessment
B2B integration isn't something that any company should jump into, or even something that every enterprise is prepared for. For all of their insistence on visibility and transparency, many organizations can have blinders on when they assess their own feasibility in areas like technological development, transaction volume growth, emerging big data initiatives and the physical infrastructure required to support new applications and information. But omni-channel, in short, wrote CMSWire contributor Svetla Yankova, means all-seeing. Organizations need to have total comprehension before they can dive into a readiness assessment. 

"Omnichannel forces you to consolidate all data, platforms and process and remove any redundancies, but this is only the first step through a true, real-time experience," Yankova wrote. "Tailoring real-time relevancy across channels is impossible without a 360 degree view."

Working with a managed services provider, especially at the outset, can help a company efficiently and cost-effectively determine what an organization still needs to do to become B2B integration ready, and then devise a plan of action to become fully prepared. This process includes:

  • Looking at supply chain infrastructure performance: How efficiently can supply chains function? What if they're subjected to variables? Are there certain elements holding the supply chain back? How does it compare to a potential partner's? Companies can pinpoint spots of inflexibility or legacy processes and work with the managed services provider to amend them.
  • Evaluating transactional costs: What are some cost centers that an integration would directly impact, either lowering or raising expenses? How can the company reduce spending over time without risking costs ballooning again down the line? How could transportation, warehousing and inventory decisions be improved?
  • Examining the manner in which the organization communicates: B2B integration projects thrive on collaborative networks. Whether business partners are corresponding using data, documents or even automated feeds, all parties should have a firm understanding of the ways in which stakeholders can collaborate for increased visibility, continuity and accountability.

B2B integration: Tools to use
Besides working with a managed services provider, like Lightwell, to increase the cost-effectiveness of a B2B integration project, organizations can invest in software and other services that further optimize the process. IBM Sterling offers a variety of B2B integration services, which focus specifically on different aspects of B2B integration projects, including managed file transfer, information compilation and cloud-based SaaS. Learn more about the IBM Sterling B2B integration solutions on the Lightwell website.

Learn more about Lightwell B2B managed services: