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B2B Partner Onboarding: A Technical or Process Problem?

By John Hawkins | Wed, Sep 26, 2018

When I first joined Lightwell, I was struck by how everyone discusses "onboarding." What was this magical and mystical thing? Why was it discussed in such reverential tones? Having analyzed this further, I'm still a little mystified as to why the hush tones but I'll put a few words down here about what I consider onboarding to consist of and why it's as much a human process as a technical challenge.

It's clear that onboarding of partners is where much time is spent in a B2B system. That's why business people consider it a large factor in their projects. Not only that, but I've found that the more technical people discuss onboarding related to the technical aspect only. Whereas, in my opinion, a lot of the onboarding process is actually about human interaction.

In this post, I'll discuss what B2B trading partner onboarding is and then why I consider it to be as much a human process as a technical one.

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APIs vs EDI: Internal vs External Communications

By John Hawkins | Thu, Jun 07, 2018

In a previous post, APIs vs EDI: Complementary, Not Competitive, I shared my perspectives on the evolution of APIs along with EDI.  I'm going to expand on this topic with the idea that agile methodologies may have more to do with the current proliferation of API Management than the usurping of EDI. 

Let's be clear…EDI is most certainly here to stay for a long time to come. I've read many articles and debates on this subject but, for me, what it comes down to are those well-known business interchanges. 

We can't just ignore the fact that EDI has evolved to where it is today because business needs well-known formats so that they can communicate with each other in a standardized manner. APIs, at the moment, simply don't have those standardized formats. When a company creates an externally-facing API they are, today, writing their own business interchange format (i.e. trying to reproduce an EDI interchange).

Now, that's fine, however, if each company is going to create its own format then communication between companies is going to revert back to being a spaghetti mess of protocols. This is exactly what EDI was meant to overcome, and why EDI has been so successful for so many years.

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7 Great Outcomes of Optimizing Partner Onboarding and Management

By Lori Angalich | Tue, Jun 05, 2018

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.

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5 Ways Cognitive Technologies can Optimize Your B2B Network

By Lori Angalich | Thu, May 31, 2018

If you aren’t already leveraging cognitive technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) in your business network, you may be missing out on critical supply chain improvements.

Cognitive and AI systems use natural language processing and machine learning to understand, reason, learn about and analyze all types of data. Also, they can interact with users in a more natural, conversational manner.

For B2B networks and supply chains, these capabilities can be leveraged for a wide variety of improvements including:

  • Providing greater visibility and insight—from high level to granular detail
  • Enabling split-second decision making based on the best data available
  • Increasing awareness of critical issues
  • Suggesting the best courses of action 
  • Fostering collaboration among departments and partners

With these capabilities like these, you can plan for (or avoid) disruptions, proactively handle potential issues with suppliers, and ensure you can meet or exceed customer expectations (among many other benefits). Let’s take a closer look at some of the AI and cognitive capabilities available for B2B operations and supply chains today.

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Unleashing 3 Key Benefits of Greater Supply Chain Visibility

By Lori Angalich | Tue, Feb 27, 2018

 It’s 11:00 p.m. Do you know where that critical shipment is?

When an important shipment containing parts essential to your flagship product is delayed in transit, the delay can resonate throughout your manufacturing process and impact orders. If you don’t know the problem exists in your supply chain, you’re left scrambling to fulfill orders and maintain production levels. Lack of supply chain visibility puts your business at risk, affecting not only your bottom line but also your company’s reputation.

According to research firm Gartner, supply chain visibility is a top priority among supply chain leaders and Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) across a wide range of industries and geographies. And for good reasons: visibility into your supply chain not only lets you mitigate late shipment scenarios but also helps you proactively mitigate these problems. Supply chain visibility can also help you identify risks and potential savings.

When visibility is combined with business intelligence, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI)—organizations can gain unprecedented supply chain insights that can transform their operations.

While there are too many benefits to cover in a single blog post, let’s explore three benefits of supply chain visibility that are top-of-mind. 

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8 Great Reasons to Attend IBM Think 2018

By Lori Angalich | Thu, Feb 15, 2018

Did you know that IBM merged a number of their top conferences—Interconnect, Amplify, World of Watson, Edge, and Connect—into one in 2018?  If you haven’t already heard about it, IBM Think is IBM’s new flagship business and technology conference, taking place March 19–22, 2018 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

It’s a global event where over 40,000 business and technology innovators, leaders, and thinkers will gather in one place to share ideas, discuss topics like Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Supply Chain, Blockchain, Omnichannel Commerce, Data Analytics, Integration, Security, IoT, and more—and enjoy some exceptional networking, entertainment, and fun along the way.  

While there are many reasons to attendincluding a few mentioned in the video belowyou may be most interested in reading the highlights so that you can make plans quickly (the event is just weeks away). So, as someone who has attended quite a few conferences over the years, I’ll share in this post what I believe are some of the best reasons to attend. These are in no particular order.

 

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Stop Driving Blind: Why Supply Chain Visibility is so Critical for Growth

By Mike Warvel | Fri, Oct 06, 2017

Have you ever driven your car with your eyes closed—for just a second?  Pretty scary, right? The same goes for driving your business.

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IBM Interconnect Spotlight: AmerisourceBergen's B2B Journey to Transform Enterprise EDI

By Lori Angalich | Thu, Mar 16, 2017

IBM Interconnect 2017 is just around the corner, and we're excited to reconnect with many of our friends, customers, and partners while attending the event in Las Vegas next week.

If you're going to be there, we hope you'll add this session to your agenda. During this session, three speakers from AmerisourceBergen, a leading global healthcare solutions company, will describe their journey to achieving their EDI vision. It's a great B2B Integration success story, and we're thrilled to be presenting alongside them.

Read on for details—we hope to see you there!

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Analyst Perspective: Strategies for Overcoming Common B2B Integration Hurdles

By Lori Angalich | Thu, Aug 18, 2016

Watching the amazing 1-2-3 sweep by the U.S. in the 100m women's hurdles—along with so many other tremendous athletic achievements during the 2016 Olympics—can inspire us to find ways to overcome challenges in our personal and professional lives.

Those responsible for the business to business processes and technologies that keep supply chain, manufacturing, healthcare, financial, logistics, and many other critical processes running smoothly face a growing number of challenges—along with a growing number of demands.  

Of course, you have plenty of your own challenges to worry about, so you may be wondering why you should care about theirs. It's because their success can have far-reaching impact on our companies and on us as individuals—including ensuring that the products we want are available when and where we need them, enabling deliveries to occur on time, and ensuring our healthcare claims are paid.

What it Takes to Win

The always-on, global nature of today's business, along with escalating customer expectations, requires business to business integration and collaboration to be as seamless and flawless as possible. This is far from easy. It requires tying diverse replenishment systems and fulfillment systems together, and developing the trust required to make those processes work across boundaries.

It also requires bringing together diverse companies with varying degrees of technical sophistication, and having all of the right technology pieces (and skills) in place to support it. Our team at Lightwell knows all too well that in B2B integration and collaboration initiatives, there can be so many unknowns, and when working outside of the four walls of an organization, there is a lack of control.

An IBM survey found that 85% of organizations said their external business communities are vital to their success—yet 86% reported barriers that prevent full electronic automation with B2B partners. A majority of these companies continue to rely on email attachments to exchange business documents with some of their partners. A majority of them are concerned about the security of this approach—and for good reason.

Why Companies are Falling Behind

I recently interviewed Bryan Ball, Aberdeen Group's VP and Principal Analyst, Supply Chain Management, to explore the top challenges companies are facing with respect to their B2B Integration initiatives and what approaches he recommends for overcoming them.

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Analyst Perspective: What’s Driving the Need for Improved B2B Integration and Collaboration Capabilities?

By Lori Angalich | Thu, Apr 07, 2016

The Need for Speed and Greater Responsiveness

There’s no question that the speed of business is increasing. Meeting customers’ escalating expectations places extreme pressure on companies to improve top line revenue, respond to customer and partner demands, and reduce costs. For many companies, the infrastructure just isn’t there to support this level of speed and responsiveness.

This underlying need for speed is one of the main reasons why companies are investing in their B2B integration initiatives.  In fact, according to Aberdeen Group research, the number of leaders engaging in a B2B integration initiative has more than doubled in percentage over the last few years.

These B2B integration initiatives are focused on removing barriers and improving communication and collaboration between suppliers and customers.  This is not only to meet customer expectations, but to improve processes, minimize delays, and ultimately improve visibility across supply chain. All of this drives strategic advantages.

We recently interviewed Bryan Ball, Aberdeen Group Vice President and Group Director, Supply Chain Management, on this topic to produce an eight-part video series entitled B2B Integration and Collaboration: The Leader's Advantage.  

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