A 2020 survey found that enterprises faced over $1 million in losses due to integration-related issues in 2019. One year later, the annual survey found that 74% of companies claimed to have lost more revenue due to integration issues in 2020 than in 2019. That’s somewhat expected after the events of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and economic downturns that continue to plague supply chain-oriented companies.
Since the onset of the pandemic, most companies would have invested in technology solutions to avoid similar issues in the future and to maintain business continuity. However, most companies still haven’t modernized their B2B integration approach or technology, leaving it broken and disjointed. Below are five common integration challenges and their respective solutions. If you’ve encountered any of these challenges, there’s a high likelihood that your B2B integration strategy is broken.
1. Unable to support end-to-end EDI integration
Supply chain B2B ecosystems are complex and often involve multiple different partners, suppliers, carriers and customers. In addition, the digital economy of today presents supply chain organizations with multiple mediums of commerce, including online and traditional marketplaces. You’re unable to support end-to-end EDI integration if EDI documents are not automatically integrating into your back-office applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), or if manual intervention is needed for actual EDI transaction integration.
To enable end-to-end EDI integration, establish EDI and API processes on one integration platform that supports both batch and real-time processes. A cloud-based integration platform that offers application connectors for direct integration and automated integration process orchestration will automatically integrate EDI documents into back-office applications and prevent the need for manual intervention.
2. The enterprise is managing multiple solutions
Many supply chain organizations’ IT strategy for B2B integration is outdated. These strategies have often been built and expanded over the years, evolving in fits and starts as technology progressed to enable new integration capabilities. Because of this slow expansion of integration solutions, many supply chain-oriented companies manage multiple integration processes with different, siloed solutions.
Managing multiple integration solutions is usually a sign that an organization needs external B2B integration expertise and managed services to augment its teams – even if it’s only on a limited hybrid scale. Outsourcing some or all B2B integration expertise will help organizations avoid wasting time with swivel-chair integrations, where workers must constantly operate different platforms to manage integrations. In addition, a modern cloud-based user interface that supports EDI, API, managed file transfer (MFT) and e-commerce integration capabilities on the same platform will prevent inefficient workflows and operations and curb time-consuming changes to existing integrations.
3. Onboarding partners and customers is painful
When supply chain organizations leverage siloed solutions for integration, it can be difficult to automate integration processes. This leaves it up to workers to perform tedious manual integration operations. When staff work against the timeline of SLA requirements to avoid chargebacks and fines, they often rush and can introduce opportunities for human error into the integration process.
The symptoms of a painful onboarding process include delays from third-party providers, an inability to support different integration formats and protocols, as well as a lack of communication between partners and suppliers. Perhaps most important, businesses are often forced to say “no” to new business opportunities when onboarding is too strenuous because they think they simply cannot handle the increased business.
These onboarding symptoms can be remedied by deploying an any-to-any integration engine that can manage any file or integration format. Further, supply chain organizations should seek solutions that enable flexible protocol connectivity, self-service integration and increased agility to provide more control over integration processes.
4. There is limited transaction visibility
The lack of automation in B2B integration can also limit transaction visibility if updates are not automatically documented as products and cash move back and forth between supply chain partners and customers. This can result in high incident rates, high chargebacks and SLA fines that negatively impact B2B supplier relationships and lost orders. Ultimately, these setbacks result in more employees spending more time trying to pinpoint the source of transaction errors, which not only introduces more risk for human error but also detracts from time these workers could spend doing more productive revenue-driving activities.
To enable real-time enterprise-wide transaction visibility, organizations must leverage configurable, role-based dashboards and insights that provide context and updates surrounding business processes including ticketing, notifications and alerts. Role-based dashboards provide employees with the updates pertinent to their roles and duties within their organization and prevent unwanted confusion and unnecessary noise from blocking transaction visibility.
5. Stakeholders are left in the dark
If organizations cannot support end-to-end EDI integration or if they manage integrations through multiple solutions cannot rapidly and efficiently onboard new partners and customers or lack transaction visibility, they are inevitably leaving stakeholders in the dark. Without single-platform end-to-end integration and transaction visibility, it takes far too long to gather insights on supply chain operations to proactively share B2B transaction statuses with partners and suppliers. Additionally, legacy siloed systems prevent businesses from accurately forecasting revenue and business plans because they have no idea what is actually happening within their supply chain.
To fix stakeholder transparency issues, supply chain-oriented company leaders must redefine their expectations for integration visibility and transform their role to be more business-focused. Configurable, role-based dashboards enable this by giving trading partners hands-on, user-interface-level access to pertinent transaction reports, which also enables organizations to analyze accurate transaction data in real-time for future forecasting.
If not addressed, a “broken” B2B integration strategy can lead to high chargebacks, lost orders and operational inefficiencies from clunky integrations. Leveraging a single integration platform that supports both API and EDI and can provide real-time updates and insights into supply chain processes will automatically improve your company’s integration process. In the end, you’ll recognize the positive results that not only benefit your company, but your entire ecosystem – driving more revenue in your direction thanks to great supplier relationships and reputation.