B2B Integration: challenges and opportunities for digital leadership


lightwellb2bintegrationgears-2There's no doubt that the rapid rise and far-reaching influence of digital business processes are compelling leaders to revise their methods. The challenge of adjusting to and capitalizing on any emerging phenomenon or approach is to effectively integrate it on the fly - retrace some of the company's current and future steps without having to go all the way back to the drawing board.

The challenges that established enterprises face are fairly sizeable, with big data, cloud-based communication, application-heavy business operations and an increasingly IT-centric customer base all contributing to many organizations' realignments. The larger the enterprise and the more entrenched legacy approach, of course, the harder it is to make a cost-efficient and future-proof move.

This is especially true in B2B partner relationships, which not only have to contend with potentially rapid changes in their own organizations, but must effectively synthesize and work around projects in development to maintain the strength and integrity of their connections.

As the tissue linking companies becomes increasingly dependent on digital tools and data-based processes, it's more important than ever that B2B integration efforts reflect both the challenges of digitization and the opportunities that such game-changers entail. It's an effort that needs to be taken up at all levels of an organization, because the most successful digitizations go from end to end. 

Changing times for CIOs

A recent report by Gartner took a look at the large-scale changes in store for chief information officers, the leaders tasked with shepherding in the wave of digital technologies and processes. A survey found that there is an increasing need for CIOs to jump-start a far-reaching "flip" of their approach in order to take advantage of digital opportunities now facing them.

The survey, which gathered responses from more than 2,800 CIOs across 84 countries, stated that the "incremental" changes many CIOs have effected likely don't represent enough of a drastic measure to ensure that their companies can be at the forefront of emerging digital opportunities. 

The survey found that 89 percent of CIO respondents stated that digitization comes with higher levels of risk as well as rising opportunities, necessitating the formulation and implementation of high-level risk assessment and operational management strategies. In order to fully embrace digitization and pass the new philosophy meaningfully around the organization, CIOs may need to recalibrate their approach.

"Digital leadership means flipping the approach from legacy first to digital first, assuming all solutions will be cloud based, designed for mobile and highly contextualized, and looking to exploit unstructured data, and run data-led experiments," the reported stated. "Secondly, most enterprises and their CIOs disproportionately focus on what is easily measurable (e.g., IT cost), rather than what is most valuable or requiring the most attention (e.g., the value of building a digital capability) — another situation that has to flip."

Implementing a new paradigm

Of course, the kind of cut-and-dry costs like IT expenses mentioned above are often what comes into play during B2B integration readiness assessments and onboarding. It's much simpler to look at statistics for already entrenched operations than it is to assess values that may be mostly predictive and context-based. This is often the case with B2B integration. The challenge, for CIOs on down, is to flip to a more technologically advanced platform, both for their own use and for their B2B integration efforts. It is, as CIO.com contributor Lauren Brousell recently noted, the effort to become a digital enterprise - to have all-digital processes, information and interactions with customers.

B2B integration, in this case, is part of the effort to take this a step further and build a digital supply chain. Omni-channel commerce demands it, and the capabilities to make it happen exist. It's all a matter of organizations reorienting themselves to effectively leverage new tools.

A B2B managed services provider can help facilitate new applications and approaches that position a company for meaningful digitization efforts. This can include the implementation and maintenance of a solution such as IBM Sterling B2B Integrator, a comprehensive EDI and B2B gateway solution that improves the effectiveness of communication with business partners. It can be part of an architecture custom-built with a company's current digital capabilities and future requirements in mind. 

The advantage of working with an outside provider and a proven solution for better utilization is that an organization isn't trying to make the flip by itself. A managed services provider can help challenge the status quo, identify areas of improvement and work with an organization to use information more effectively in their business relationships. By outsourcing management for many key administrative and onboarding processes, enterprises save money and resources that can then be used on evolutionary processes that more directly impact the bottom line.

Digitization is a multi-step process. By working with a managed services provider, companies can make sure they're using data more effectively, an opportunity that can help further digital efforts blossom.

If you liked this article, check out more B2B integration and managed services resources from Lightwell:

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