This presents a dangerous disconnect: While corporations tend to under-allocate the resources needed for this burgeoning requirement to do trading partner connectivity, getting to a critical mass of trading partners deployed is quite difficult. The difficulty stems from any or all of the following: the technical sophistication of the trading community, the nuances of any particular supply chain or mandate compliance effort, difficulties with internal process modifications, or managing the multiple standards that may exist within the trading partner network.
Companies are tackling these challenges by outsourcing the B2B technical and trading community requirements with a leading-edge model called Business Process Networks that involve partnering with best-of-breed B2B service providers to execute their B2B programs.
Business Process Networks Enable B2B Connectivity
Business process network (BPN) companies, a relatively new category of service provider, can help companies build compliance to mandates and address the challenge of scale for value chain participants. Such companies employ dedicated infrastructure, software and community management services on behalf of their customers to serve as data and process intermediaries. Just as engaging in outsourcing strategies to more efficiently bring products to market, BPN companies are hired to provide companies with reliable, secure and flexible supply chain services for B2B projects.
Typically, the BPN service provider performs trading partner on-boarding services and operations (implementation, message testing/monitoring and operational services) for the customer to establish and maintain data and process communications. Translation of message and documents and integration of those messages into back-office systems turns data into valuable information for the customer company. Similarly, the BPN provider provides a variety of e-business transaction mechanisms, including Web forms, file upload and packaged application adapters, which provide trading partners enhanced capabilities, as well.
Suggestions for Project Management in Achieving Compliance to Government Mandates
While compliance to each individual mandate represents unique challenges, addressing mandate compliance across common business requirements can increase overall process efficiency, reduce time-to-compliance, and drive business results. Below are 10 common steps the supply chain manager or project leader must take to be successful.
1. Spend the time to examine all related business processes. Consider employing an internal tool to re-engineer and automate internal authorization and reporting processes for related business processes. Any tool should have the development flexibility to be enabled by the business team, not limited to scarce IT resources.
2. Determine the key process flows that may affect or be affected by the reporting requirement. These may be hidden in long-ago established processes. For example, your sales executive establishes the window of cancellation and return allowances of your customers, without synching with the manufacturing agreements related to supporting the customer.
3. Engage the authorization and project participation from all relevant internal company stakeholders. This could include (but certainly not limited to) finance, marketing, transportation, distribution, procurement, etc.
4. Determine the compliance areas that are out of your company's visibility and control, but can materially affect your financial performance. Some examples would be the reporting responsibilities around hazardous or eco-sensitive materials, which may be known only to your supply chain partners.
5. Determine the significant trading partners that could impact reporting performance. Next come to some evaluation process as part of the ongoing business relationship so that the trading partner (customer or supplier) can be acknowledged, rewarded and encouraged when the objectives of the enterprise are met as a result of activities by the trading partner.
6. Determine the trading partner connectivity strategy (how and when). Thoroughly analyze your trading community and establish a project plan for reaching a critical mass of trading partners. Exchange goals for on-boarding and achieve buy-in from the trading partner. Create incentives where necessary. Establish cross-enterprise goals.