B2B integration can be a game-changing force for many companies, but that doesn't mean implementation will be painless. There are a variety of problems that can complicate the efficiency and effectiveness of a B2B integration initiative. If they are not adequately addressed in deployment plans, minor issues can morph into major roadblocks to a high ROI. They can complicate B2B efforts to the degree that an enterprise can be worse off than before it tried to implement B2B integration at all.
There are many moving parts in a B2B integration project. It requires extensive and detailed planning that must account for many contingency factors. A company trying to navigate these variables on its own is likely susceptible to oversights that may fly under the radar for a time, eventually cropping up and scuttling any hope of efficient development. Working with a B2B managed services provider can help businesses address potential pitfalls before they become real ones. B2B managed services providers bring to the table experience and expertise that a business with a budding B2B integration project needs in order to ensure it rolls out smoothly
Here are four common pitfalls - and how a B2B managed services provider like Lightwell can help companies avoid them.
- Shifting, not solving the problem: B2B integration, at its core, is a solution to an overarching pain point for companies struggling with organization and management in extensive supply chains. Deployed poorly, however, it can end up replicating the problems it's designed to solve. B2B integration is supposed to break down silos and automate key processes in order to make the various B2B networks accurate, reliable and easier to manage.
A company that elects to deploy its B2B integration tools itself, however, can end up pushing certain stakeholders to adopt new technologies or techniques without meaningfully directing these efforts toward consolidation. Despite the availability of new tools, silos will persist.
B2B managed services can help companies avoid this issue by helping to design a custom implementation plan that takes into account the particular needs and challenges of each stakeholder. This way, the integration process addresses these issues head on, with a firm direction toward unification.
- Leaving the door open for incompatibility: Deploying B2B integration solutions piecemeal or without a plan for centralization can cause software and data issues as well as the management ones highlighted above. Maybe software installed on one company's computers can't readily function on those of another. Data quality could be compromised in transit between different analytical applications or even affected in server storage. Even word processors that default to different document styles can create the need to convert them in order to view them correctly. Over time, these little tasks can create a significant amount of lost productivity.
Over time, software upgrades and the adoption of new applications can create more compatibility issues. Unless organizations stay on top of them and have some way of centrally managing new program deployments, they risk losing time and money to resolving interoperability issues.
B2B managed services offer different levels of support, depending on the needs of the company. If it so chooses, an organization can invest in IT and infrastructure support that not only installs updates and makes other necessary system upgrades, but is available to answer any technical support questions. Having this level of oversight at an enterprise's disposal can help it avoid unhappy complications with inter-organization compatibility.
- Lack of a long-term plan: Not having a plan for the long-term use of the B2B integration initiative is a common misstep. It can be enough trouble getting the program off the ground, so it makes sense that organizations focus more on the here and now than on the conditional future. However, the absence of defined objectives and a trajectory for accomplishing them can end up resulting in a B2B integration effort that runs out of gas, even after a successful deployment.
One of the most important assets a B2B integration provider offers is the level of forward-thinking, proactive planning necessary to turning a smooth roll out into a solution that functions optimally in the months and years to come. Working with a provider enables companies to outsource some of this long-term planning and focus on more immediate objectives. This positions it better for the long run.
- Ignoring security and continuity concerns: B2B integration can give rise to a slew of cybersecurity and business continuity issues that cannot be left unaddressed. Any large scale technological and process change brings a corresponding need to reevaluate network protection, system safeguards and employee protocols. This is especially true as compliance and cybersecurity issues loom large over enterprise protection.
A B2B managed services provider offers customer-specific security solutions that offer proactive insulation from advanced and emerging threats. Network monitoring and server protection keep information safe whether it's being stored or transferred. Companies can also elect to store their data in an off-premises facility controlled by the provider, backing it up so it's protected in case of disaster and easily recovered for optimal continuity.
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