How Simplifying Trading Partner Onboarding Generates Many Surprising Competitive Advantages
The average enterprise’s B2B trading community includes hundreds of trading partners and requires IT support for managing a wide variety of connections, protocols, and formats. Unfortunately, when it comes to setting up and managing trading partners, many companies are still hobbling along with cumbersome, error-prone manual processes.
Not surprisingly, research firm Ovum found that approximately 40 percent of enterprises take over 30 days to onboard a new trading partner. With hundreds—even thousands—of trading partners, larger enterprises are feeling the pain. On the flip side, Ovum also reports that with a centralized approach to trading partner onboarding and management, companies can reduce complexity, onboard partners much faster, and reap significantly better business outcomes. Let’s explore this a bit.
The Old Way Is Too Complex
As their trading partner ecosystems grow, companies typically add customizations and manual processes on top of their legacy B2B/EDI connections—creating an unnecessarily complex environment. This approach requires IT intervention to add and manage certificate data and other line of business requirements. The IT department is needed to connect each partner manually to multiple applications, resulting in inefficient, redundant processes.
Also, when changes are needed—such as changes to partner agreements, contact information, privileges, roles, or connectivity requirements—the process can be slow and labor-intensive. As a result, companies suffer from onboarding backlogs and time-consuming errors. LOB staff calls and emails IT, wondering why it is taking so long—slowing the process even further.
On top of these challenges, over half of companies surveyed by Ovum lack visibility into trading partner relationships, activities, and progress. In a way, they are flying blind when it comes to managing and monitoring some of their most valuable and strategic partnerships.
There is a Better Way
Rapid, reliable B2B integration is critical for better outcomes, but enterprises historically have been hesitant to invest in a partner onboarding and management solution for it—if they are aware of one at all. According to research from Ovum, 53 percent of enterprises cited the lack of support for rapid trading partner onboarding as a major problem with their existing B2B integration solutions.
However, this isn’t the only reason for using a partner engagement management solution—and solutions like IBM Partner Engagement Manager (PEM) have put rapid trading partner onboarding at the forefront to generate these business outcomes.
- Empowered Line of Business Users. Instead of placing the burden on IT to handle all of the partner onboarding and maintenance activities, LOB users and partners can create forms for partners to complete for onboarding and updating information and certificates. They can define the approval points, workflow steps, and partner target groups for updates en masse. With a few clicks, the appropriate trading partners can then quickly provide the information and be approved for trading.
- Reduced Costs. This self-service model frees up IT and reduces the costs related to onboarding and maintaining partner relationships and connections. Connections and forms can be reused, eliminating redundancy. According to IBM estimates, enterprises can reduce the resources needed to onboard new trading partners by up to 85 percent when they use the IBM Partner Engagement Manager solution.
- Simplified Integration. With a partner engagement management platform, IT can integrate different partner systems into the organization using APIs. There’s no need to establish manual connections for every partner, which leads directly into the next benefit—faster time to revenue.
- Faster Time to Revenue. According to Ovum, partner engagement management solutions reduce onboarding time by 75 percent. This drives one very important benefit: the organization can begin trading with its new partners faster, improving cash flow and generating more working capital faster.
- Satisfied Customers and Partners. Trading partners expect to move quickly in the digital age. They want faster time to revenue as well, and a partner engagement management solution lets them connect in hours or days, rather than weeks. A solution like this can go a long way in increasing partner and customer satisfaction.
- Better View of Partner Relationships. One of the problems cited by the same Ovum study is that many enterprises don’t have visibility into their trading partner relationships. In addition to providing insight into the progress of activities and partners by executives and LOB managers, a partner engagement management solution provides deep insight into operational performance and potential risks. For example, a dashboard can alert users to a potential SLA issue. This helps to minimize business disruption and allows enterprises to manage partner agreements proactively.
- Stronger Security and Compliance Controls. A partner engagement management solution standardizes the B2B trading ecosystem and creates a central repository for data and documents. The data is encrypted both in transit and at rest—unlike the insecure, haphazard process of exchanging important partner data via email and spreadsheets. Additionally, the solution provides better control by handling partner integration values and implementing repeatable and documented processes, which can be used for audit purposes to prove compliance.
Giving the Gift of Time
Trading partner onboarding and management shouldn’t be a headache for IT, partners, or LOB staff. With the right trading partner management solution, most functions can be managed via self-service, reducing costs and speeding time to revenue. They simplify B2B integration processes and provide stronger security and compliance controls. Organizations can manage partner agreements proactively, further ensuring partner satisfaction.
Connect faster. Simplify your job. Use the time to focus on improving relationships with your partners and customers instead. Perhaps regain a little bit of sanity. Or simply get your time back for something more enjoyable in your life. We could all use it!
To learn more about the benefits of the IBM Partner Engagement Manager solution via an independent third-party analyst report, check out the report below.
About the Author
Lori Angalich is the VP of Marketing at Lightwell. She loves exploring new technologies and business models, learning how things work, solving problems, and developing new ideas with others. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an MBA in Marketing, and she enjoys applying her knowledge from both each and every day. Lori has a passion for travel, art, wine, music, wildlife (including her two dogs, who are a bit on the "wild side"), and most of all, creating great memories with her family.