3 trends shaking up the B2B integration process


iStock_000020924120_XXXLarge-2Success in the business world is highly dependent on adapting to the times, and in few areas of enterprise operation is this more true than in B2B integration. While B2B integration is not a fledgling concept, many of the trends affecting how businesses interact and optimize shared processes are in the midst of a drastic shift. Many companies are finding that they need an entirely new approach to B2B integration.

No new developments exist in a vacuum - an update in customer fulfillment strategies affects order management processes, while a reorientation of communication protocols will change how information must be maintained and supported. And of course, everything affects the bottom line. This is why it's more important than ever to find a comprehensive, end-to-end B2B integration solution that responds to emerging challenges, focusing and streamlining the system to alleviate pressures on resources, processes and personnel. Working with a B2B managed services provider can help a company make an immediate, positive impact on its B2B integration approach, especially in the consideration of these three rising trends that are currently disrupting the status quo:

1. Collaboration is no longer optional: In the past, many companies have kept to themselves, getting involved with a minimum amount of collaboration and communication with business partners. Well, it's time for the wallflowers to get their act together - heightened interactivity between business partners is a hallmark of today's B2B relationships, and B2B integration strategies need to reflect that. The rise of omni-channel commerce necessitates the need for more collaborative networks, which increase end-to-end efficiency. Establishing such a network can be difficult, as there are myriad data storage, security, file transfer protocols and reporting processes that must be taken into consideration. 

However, companies can invest in a B2B managed services solution that provides a high-value framework for smarter, clearer and faster B2B collaboration. The IBM Sterling B2B Collaboration Network, for example, gives businesses a variety of community services, which they can leverage for partner onboarding and relationship-building processes, as well as an information support system that increases the transparency and flexibility of file-sharing activities. Effective collaboration requires businesses to go all in, and a next-gen collaboration network solution can help them make the leap.

2. Data security concerns are at an all-time high: Protecting information is imperative, but is made more difficult as business networks grow. Collaboration and information integrity are connected - with more stakeholders, personnel and files involved, the risk of a data leak or information exploitation naturally rise. Businesses need solutions that can help them circumvent the variables that can lead to data security issues, such as human error, oversights and incompatible networks or file transfer protocols. 

Much of the value of an electronic data interchange stems from the automation of key information transfers, which drastically reduces the chances of information compromise. By investing in managed EDI services, organizations can cut down on infrastructure and application costs, set up smarter protocols for managed file transfer and work with business partners to establish data utilization practices that align with security concerns and objectives. Less manual management means fewer errors, as well as more employee man-hours and resources that can be redirected to other critical business concerns. As information protection concerns swell in the age of big data, companies can use managed services to keep them from putting any new or established business partnership at risk.

3. The customer is always there: The consumer is still always right - that part won't ever change - but the new reality is that the customer is always present. As Forbes contributor Micah Solomon wrote, customers increasingly expect everything to be integrated, simple and available. The proliferation of Internet storefronts means that organizations need to provide 24/7 service, or something pretty close to it. Any time a customer doesn't feel taken care of - at any hour of the day - is a time when he or she could leave for good. This puts pressure on every contributor to a B2B relationship.

B2B integration tools from a managed services provider can help a company establish automated, responsive and intelligent customer fulfillment practices, from back-end order management concerns to front-end customer interactions. By building these capacities into B2B integration processes, organizations can refine their approach and facilitate more rewarding, longer-lasting consumer relationships. These benefits, in turn, only strengthen the bond between B2B partners.

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