Digitally Transforming and Integrating Applications: Cleo’s Best Integration Blogs of 2018, Part 2

To quote Bon Jovi – “Oh, we’re halfway there!” We’re wrapping up the countdown of Cleo’s top blogs of 2018, and we’ve got the top-five queued up and ready to go. If you’re a little late to the party, check out Nos. 10-6 in Part 1.

The top-five blog entries over the past year have something for everyone, no matter your technology needs: an interview with our CEO about the digital revolution that is happening today, everything you need to know about the differences between on-premise and cloud, and another Think Tank entry from our very own integration oracle Frank Kenney.

So, without further ado: Cleo’s top-five integration blogs of 2018:

 

MFT and File-Based Integration
5. Think Tank: What’s in a Name? MFT and File-based Integration

 This edition of Frank Kenney’s Think Tank takes a look at the differences between the terms managed file transfer (MFT) and file-based integration. What exactly is in a name? Years ago, Kenney came up with the MFT term while at Gartner, and he purposely left out one important word – integration. Now, file-based integration should be thought of as integration using files. That’s what is going on under the covers. But going forward, it is still important to recognize MFT as a name and technology because it is essential to enabling file-based integration processes between applications and in multi-enterprise B2B patterns.

 

Integrate Your Applications

4. Integrate Your Applications For Improved Agility, Visibility, Efficiency

Companies without a reliable application integration strategy are often unable to interact and manage business applications, such as CRM, ERP, and SCM solutions. And in today’s fast-moving enterprise, that is simply unacceptable. That’s why a comprehensive, ecosystem-driven platform can enable organizations to quickly connect and consolidate integration processes and data throughout their business networks. Once companies have a single platform in place, they gain agility, visibility, efficiency, time and cost savings, and accelerated growth to bring on and handle additional business opportunities. So, if you don’t have an integrated application strategy in place, what are you waiting for?

 

On-Premise vs. Cloud Solutions

3. On Premise vs. Cloud: Key Differences, Benefits, and Risks

It’s no surprise that cloud computing continues to be one of the most pervasive topics in technology. But as mainstream as the idea of the cloud has become, the truth is, there are many companies who remain hesitant to move their critical and legacy business processes into the cloud. Whether considering cloud and on-premise options, and which approach is right for you, your decision will depend on a ton of factors. These include the deployment model, cost, control, security, and ensuring you remain compliant. But the question shouldn’t be whether you should move your processes to the cloud or keep them strictly on-premise, but how you can leverage the benefits of both in a hybrid offering.

 

How B2BiaaS Makes Integration Less Intimidating

2. How a B2B Integration Platform Makes Integration Less Intimidating

You can have the best technology in the world, but if it doesn’t provide a quality user experience, then you’re limiting the amount of value you can deliver to your customers. Too many B2B integration solutions are focused on the nuts and bolts of EDI and other transactions, rather than putting them in a business context, and they’ll often fire-hose users with little actionable intelligence. A modern B2B-integration-as-a-service platform consolidates critical data movement, data transformation, and data integration functions and delivers them via a modern, intuitive experience. Such an approach combines the technical capabilities, the expertise, and the accessibility your business demands.

 

Industry 4.0

1. Digital Transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: An Interview with Cleo CEO Mahesh Rajasekharan

In this interview, Cleo CEO Mahesh Rajasekharan discusses the driving forces behind digital transformation that are currently happening within the enterprise. As he points out, for many organizations, this term captures the new age that we are entering, “the Fourth Industrial Age.” When digital technologies are effectively leveraged by a business, they have the potential to drive a significant amount of growth, which will then translate into increased revenues, cost reduction, and operational optimization. But there are challenges. “Applications delivered on multiple clouds and from multiple vendors are creating a new level of complexity when it comes to integration scenarios,” Mahesh said.

That’s one of the reasons why Cleo helps companies digitally remaster themselves by enabling the fluidity of multi-enterprise, multi-cloud, and multi-application information flows that constitute meaningful and impactful processes throughout your business. Mahesh goes on to explain that digitally connected ecosystems are going to allow companies to realize value in a digitally transformed world, all with the ability to seamlessly interact.

Top Integration Themes

So, there you have it, Cleo’s top integration blogs of 2018. Looking back at this list of stories, we see a couple of recurring themes:

  • Companies continue to look for ways to gain an edge over competitors by transforming their business digitally.
  • Businesses constantly weight the pros and cons of upgrading their legacy systems to make the leap into the cloud.
  • Organizations set to come out on top in 2019 and beyond are the ones who continue to view their businesses as connected ecosystems and support their important, revenue-generating relationships.

Thanks to everyone for reading, and we look forward to another exciting year in 2019!

Out with Legacy and In with Ecosystem: Cleo’s Best Integration Blogs of 2018, Part 1

Pardon the holiday pun, but as we get ready to put a bow on 2018, it’s a good time to reflect on the things we’ve accomplished over the past year and plan for the things we want to achieve in the new one. This year at Cleo, we put extra emphasis on delivering content to help businesses across industries make more informed buying decisions when it comes to cloud, application, and B2B integration technology.

This is the first of a two-part series counting down our 10 most popular blogs from 2018. From the shortcomings of traditional integration approaches to a “Full Metal Jacket” ecosystem, this list has something for everyone. So, read on, maybe catch up on a post you might have missed, or consume the content with plans for 2019 in mind. Either way, happy holidays!

 

Legacy Systems Modernization

10. Five Reasons Your Legacy Systems Need Upgrading

Although there are many new technologies that companies are utilizing to deliver true business value to customers, there are many others who rely on outdated and insufficient legacy systems. Those companies are experiencing pains across the board, as they are quickly learning that legacy IT systems simply cannot deliver the speed and agility that is required today.

That’s why it’s so important to modernize your IT technologies in order to sufficiently onboard new trading partners and customers, quickly integrate cloud services and other SaaS applications, and support current and future protocol, data format, and API requirements.

 

SaaS Integration

9. Why Traditional SaaS Integration Software is Failing

The promises of integration technology are often too good to pass up. However, things also get quite complex in a hurry on the road to modern integration patterns. Many businesses lack the skilled staff necessary to connect these expensive and time-consuming SaaS technologies one at a time.

Some of the most common problems that a company faces when trying to execute SaaS integration include transforming data from one platform to the other (such as cloud to on-premise applications), not having the right amount of control, supporting incomplete solutions, and cumbersome and unreliable connections. All these potential roadblocks just go to show how valuable a single, easy-to-use, integrated platform can be for an enterprise.

 

Ecosystem Integration

8. Think Tank: Full Metal Jacket, Ecosystems, and Buzzwords

Some of our most positive feedback thus far has revolved around the Think Tank series, Frank Kenney’s biweekly column that is an in-depth look at various technology topics from one of the industry’s most insightful thinkers. In this edition, Kenney discusses the differences between a marketing buzzword that doesn’t have any traction and terms like “ecosystem integration” and “ecosystem enablement.” The latter two terms, Frank suggests, have much more underneath them than hype alone, as they aren’t simply a new form of B2B integration.

The idea of ecosystem integration from buzzword to a legit concept necessitates integration extension to trading partners and any other peripheral ecosystem. As Frank writes: “Ecosystem integration and ecosystem enablement do more than imply, they intrinsically entail the building and maintenance of continually growing and expanding communities.”

 

Snowballing Integration Requirements

7. The Snowballing Integration Requirements That Challenge Cloud-Services Organizations

Companies want to use the cloud applications to do two things – improve a business process and make more money. For SaaS organizations to do that, however, it is imperative that they successfully integrate their customers. The challenges lie in what essentially creates a snowball effect that can quickly get out of control. As SaaS adoption grows, companies quickly realize that managing their integration services can become quite a burden. The more momentum a SaaS organization gets, the more integration requirements they must manage.

One-off solutions are no longer feasible, as it’s too expensive and difficult to maintain adding a new solution as each need comes along. A single integration platform can navigate a complex supply chain, elevate your e-commerce experience, and deliver reliable payment services. Modern integration technology supports heavy data volumes and ensures that SaaS organizations will be able to manage their snowballing integration needs.

 

Integrate to Innovate

6. Top Five Takeaways from Cleo Connect

To all our customers and partners who attended this year’s annual Cleo Connect conference in Nashville, thank you! To everyone that didn’t join us, we certainly hope you will attend next year in Orlando. This event featured Oakland A’s exec Billy Beane delivering the keynote address on the importance of looking for new opportunities to beat your competition.

Perhaps the most recurring theme at Cleo Connect this year was around the importance of a digital transformation. No matter the industry you’re in, you must adapt, evolve, and transform your approach, processes, and technologies in order to truly optimize your business. Other interesting takeaways include the need for EDI and APIs to work together in businesses and how companies must look at their entire ecosystem to enable future success, not just B2B integration.

Check back later this week as we continue the list and announce the top five blog posts of 2018!

How to Protect Your Business from Chargebacks

What is a Chargeback?

A chargeback is a transaction reversal meant to serve as a form of consumer or business protection from fraudulent activity committed by both merchants and individuals.

With the biggest few weeks of shopping upon us, suppliers, retailers, shippers, and logistics and transportation organizations must ensure the processes connecting them run smoothly and enable a happy holiday season. Fulfilling that mission, however, depends on fast and reliable communication to move goods, provide services, and fill orders.

Unfortunately, even in the digital age, companies still have trouble connecting and integrating their ecosystems to automate the business transactions that make commerce happen, and if these process failures mean they miss service-level agreements (SLAs) with their trading partners, they are assessed fines known as chargebacks.

Chargebacks are ultimately a compliance failure for not meeting SLAs, and they can be levied for various reasons. Common causes of missed SLAs could be due to infrastructure challenges, including hardware failure, connectivity issues, and manual processes. On the business process side, SLA violations happen when packages are labeled incorrectly, deliveries are late (or early), order fills are wrong, and EDI-related miscues occur, including missing purchase order (PO) data, an incorrect bill of laden (BOL), and late or inaccurate advance shipping notices (ASNs).

The answer to reducing chargebacks and the toll on your bottom line is incredibly clear: Hit the agreed-upon SLAs between you and your trading partners. But that’s easier said than done in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

A toy manufacturer, for instance, might sell into Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Macy’s, and it might also use various intermodal services to deliver those goods from factories, fulfillment centers, and distributors to stores and customers all over the world. If there are numerous formats required and communications protocols needed to communicate with all of them (and different systems and people charged with managing each), EDI and other data can get easily lost, misplaced, or contaminated, especially if there are manual processes involved.

The best way to avoid chargebacks in your supply chain and keep everything running smoothly at any time of year is to ensure you have the right EDI and integration technology in place to support your business demands and nurture your important ecosystem relationships.

Reduce Chargebacks with Integration

When your EDI technology isn’t reliable or runs on a delicate combination of custom code and manual intervention, it can lead to costly chargebacks to the business and a loss of credibility with your customers and ecosystem partners.

Incorrect ASNs, for example, can be a major headache. Retailers require those ASNs on-time and for them to be correct because they help automate and expedite the receiving of goods, which puts them in the warehouse faster and down the supply chain, get goods on stores shelves when they’re expected to be there.

Additionally, if retailers don’t receive the ASN on-time, then employees must manually check in the shipment, which can hold them up from other important tasks and increases opportunity costs associated with that employees’ time.

But there are a host of EDI problems that can lead to excessive fines and chargebacks from distributors. Several Cleo customers shared their experiences:

When Data Transformation Goes Terribly Wrong

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Octapharma was getting pummeled with excessive chargebacks by distributors, who would sell to group purchasing organizations (GPOs) at a different rate than the GPO contract stated and pass the chargeback on to Octapharma. So, Octapharma’s data had to help validate those distributor chargebacks, which are regulated by the FDA and must be clearly and accurately documented to maintain federal compliance.

But Octapharma struggled with unreliable data transformation that resulted in a 40 percent exception rate on its EDI workflows. To avoid millions in chargebacks every month, Octapharma’s IT teams had to spend hours manually fixing the repeated errors and incomplete data transformations.

Octapharma decided to upgrade its integration technology to support more reliable data transformations and increase visibility into its supply chain. Octapharma gained a 360-degree view of the entire operation, which helped with improved customer responsiveness, better SLA management, and drastically reduced chargebacks.

Too Much Manual Processing, Too Little Visibility

O’Rourke Sales Company is the largest fulfillment house for Dell.com, which had a stringent one-hour window for O’Rourke to update its online price list. But a manual X12 document conversion process put O’Rourke at risk of missing that upload window, Dell product prices being off the next day, and thus, costly chargebacks. Additionally, O’Rourke didn’t have visibility into why other file transfers failed and only heard about their absence when trading partners came calling.

These errors added up quickly, to the tune of $100 per error, per file. That’s when O’Rourke decided to upgrade its integration technology to automate data transformation, better integrate its FTP, SFTP, and AS2 transactions, and improve its agility in serving its customers. In total, Cleo Integration Cloud saved O’Rourke up to $100,000 a year in chargeback fees.

Staying Compliant to Avoid Chargebacks

When your EDI and integration technology is not set up to automate your critical ecosystem interactions and integrate into your IT stack, your revenue-generating workflows are driven by manual processes, which are more likely to lead to data errors, processing delays, and business chargebacks.

Your incumbent legacy systems might be able to mostly execute the data exchanges, but are they providing the data transformation, data movement, and data visibility that will help your business stay compliant on its SLAs? Reduce the risk of costly chargebacks, SLA fines, and government mandate penalties with the processing, control, and governance capabilities that modern business demands.

Cleo Integration Cloud delivers the tools to secure, control, and manage data flows and handle complex requirements, streamline your EDI workflows, and ensure you meet your important ecosystem SLAs. Anything less and you risk heavy fines, customer churn, and a tarnished brand reputation.

Embedded Integration Accelerates SaaS Operations, Improves Customer Experience

For SaaS companies, maintaining an efficient operational flow isn’t something that happens overnight. Those companies with legacy and disparate communication tools are often unable to efficiently take on new customers and even struggle to keep those they already have.

Being able to integrate with customers quickly and efficiently is something that companies cannot afford to put aside; it is simply mandatory for success. Transferring data to and from customers is crucial for SaaS companies, and that means the ability to support the multiple protocols and connectors that a trading partner or customer has also is crucial.

SaaS companies require a platform that is elastic and scalable to enable the secure exchange of data with trading partners and customers, no matter the data size or what protocol is required. Unfortunately, for those SaaS companies without a single, modernized integration platform in place, there are many challenges to overcome.

Here’s how embedded integration technology helps SaaS organizations accelerate their operations and improve the experiences of their customers.

SaaS Company Challenges

There is an impactful cause and effect when SaaS companies don’t have a sustainable operational flow in place to efficiently get critical data into and out of their ecosystems. But the very nature of a SaaS company means integrating its cloud-based service with other customers’ cloud and on-premise systems is critical.

The SaaS integration challenges include:

Complex Customer Integrations

When SaaS companies use a variety of siloed one-off tools to integrate their customers and partners as well as their disparate on-premise and cloud data sources, systems, and applications, they spend too much time managing data integration processes rather than delivering value and results to customers. Such an integration approach limits a cloud company’s ability to scale and handle peak demands.

Inefficient Onboarding

Customers want to connect to SaaS vendors quickly to start doing business immediately, and vendors who make them suffer through a slow, complex onboarding process are starting the relationships off on the wrong foot. Customers expect a certain time to value (and thus, revenue), and SaaS companies who are unable to deliver their solutions quickly and reliably will lose potential customers and, in due time, their current customers.

Unmanageable Costs

Many SaaS vendors rely on their own internal developers to build out custom integrations, which requires developers and very specific (and very expensive) skillsets, and that approach inevitably grows into an unending cycle of costly and arduous headaches.

Moving Security Targets

Security standards are constantly evolving, and those standards vary depending on the industry. But as a SaaS company, you may have customers across industries who must adhere to a slew of security mandates, which often include supporting SHA-2, TLS 2.0, and other advanced encryption methods.

Embedded Integration Improves Business Operations

Embedded integration technology helps meet these challenges head-on and enable a more agile and capable SaaS operation, one that can sufficiently support its customers.

An embedded integration platform allows SaaS companies to deliver better value to their customers by automating complicated integrations. When SaaS companies must integrate a wide portfolio of trading partners and customers, an embedded integration solution connects those systems together, whether on-premise or in the cloud.

From onboarding your trading partners and customers to improving the way you communicate, embedded integration helps streamline your integration workflows across the board, so your IT department can spend time focusing on core business initiatives that create value.

With the right kind of embedded solution in place, SaaS companies gain a single platform that promotes the kind of automation, visibility, and end-to-end data processing enables them to extend integration to their customers, which improves their experiences with you and helps them gain a leg up on the competition.

What to Look For

Once you’ve made the decision to upgrade your legacy and disparate environment to turn to a single, embedded integrated solution, what should you be looking for? There are three primary things to recognize:

  1. Choose a true cloud integration platform, to ensure that it integrates seamlessly into your SaaS solution.
  2. Choose a complete, out-of-the-box solution, so you don’t have to write a ton of code to support and integrate end-to-end business processes.
  3. Choose to say “yes” to customers, which means you have the robust B2B and application integration flexibility to meet any customer requirement.

Once you’ve established your embedded integration solution, you will find how much easier it is to integrate new trading partners and customers and handle the ever-changing demands of business today.

Not convinced? Read a white paper on “What Every SaaS Company Should Know About Integrating with Its Customers” and learn more about how cloud services companies are using modern integration technology to improve their SaaS offerings.

Say ‘Yes’ to New Business with an Enterprise Integration Platform

Let’s face it, in the enterprise, saying “yes” feels a lot better than saying “no,” doesn’t it? You don’t want to be the company that has to tell its customers that your enterprise integration platform cannot support a specific communication protocol or handle its data format requirements.

What exactly does saying “yes” mean, to today’s enterprises? It means your business has the technology and processes in place for when a customer or another business wants to buy from you or work with you. Such flexibility means your company:

  • Can make more money: Enabling your customers and trading partners will only lead to expanded opportunities to do business and more business revenue.
  • Is easier to do business with: Onboarding customers and trading partners has never been easier when you have a single, centralized platform to take care of the heavy lifting for you.
  • Will improve its reputation and grow: Instead of having to manually onboard customers and trading partners, you can enable more business opportunities, establishing and growing your brand as a leader in your industry.

So, what does it take for a business to be in the enviable position to say yes to changing customer mandates or potential customers’ requirements? The answer is enterprise integration technology that supports three main concepts: data transformation, multiple communications protocols, and pre-built application connectors.

Better Partner Onboarding

One of the biggest obstacles companies face when they sign on new business is onboarding, or the configure processes required to exchange data, facilitate payment, and support the relationship.

Onboarding a customer or a trading partner entails the ability to accept and handle any type of data format. Companies usually achieve this with manual scripting, or they turn to data transformation tools to reduce the cost, complexity, and time it takes to automate partner onboarding processes and execute routine data exchanges. Any-to-any data transformation tools use a single data map template, which is sourced from existing integrations, so large volumes of B2B data are quickly converted to meet target source format and data integration requirements.

O’Rourke Sales Company, a Midwest-based fulfillment outlet founded in 1965, had a document problem that required data transformation. O’Rourke’s IT team were manually converting 500 documents daily, with a limited amount of visibility into nearly 1,000 daily file transfers, a time-consuming and inefficient process. By deploying an integration platform equipped with advanced data transformation capabilities, O’Rourke was able to automate the transformation process and better integrate data flows, streamline its B2B processes, and improve customer service.

Multi-Protocol Support

Often, companies are unable to adequately support new trading partners with multiple protocols without investing in a costly piece of software for each new communication channel. Spending additional money and resources simply to bring on and support one trading partner isn’t sustainable over the long haul. A single integration platform allows you to accept any trading partner’s data request because it comes loaded with a library of pre-built connectors to all major trading hubs, and preloaded and configured to support all the advanced protocols you might need to support.

Take Distributel, a telecommunications company that used a vendor’s AS2 protocol, but unfortunately, that vendor did not support updated Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission standards, which mandated SHA-2 encryption. Enter Cleo, which is certified in every Drummond Group SHA-2 test since it was optioned in 2012. Cleo was able to not only support advanced AS2, but enabled Distributel to consolidate multiple data movement systems and integrate back-end technology.

Pre-Built Application Connectors

The third way to take advantage of solutions in order to truly say “yes” to trading partners and customers, or in this case, applications, is by leveraging pre-built application connectors. Cloud and other business applications, such as the ERPs and CRMs that run your customer relationships, generally have their own proprietary data format built in, but a prebuilt connector takes the configuration legwork out of the application setup.

A pre-built application connector delivers integration agility, ability, and adaptability that you simply cannot get from a build-your-own or API-based integration method. Additionally, instead of saddling your business with the integration maintenance and upkeep, a provider like Cleo, will take care of it. So, the speed to value is quick, its cost is minimal, and you no longer need a dedicated, on-site skill requirement.

Instead of taking two or even three weeks to configure an application, using one of these connectors takes as little as two hours upfront and just 16 hours to orchestrate even the most complex business process on the backside. Using this approach, companies can get the application running in less than a day, and it’s one of the quickest, most cost-friendly ways you can onboard a new application and further position your business to support new integration requirements.

Here’s How to Accept All the New Business

No matter the industry or the digital data needs, Cleo delivers the best integration platform for organizations that are losing customers – and money – because you have to say no so much more often than you want to.

Lipari Foods uses Cleo to create a central hub for electronic data processing, no matter what protocol its trading partners or suppliers use.

“The ability to say ‘yes’ to my business partners for virtually any connection is the most powerful thing Cleo gives me,” said Michael Hegarty, the director of ERP and CRM corporate strategy at Lipari Foods during Cleo Connect in October.

Saddle Creek Logistics Services, an asset-based third-party logistics provider, needed to support many customer protocols, such as AS2, FTP, SFTP, and HTTP, to name a few. But since its previous integration at the time was unable to integrate newer versions of Saddle Creek’s management system, it needed another solution.

“We can connect with customers and partners how they want to,” said Tom Loftus, director of data integration systems at Saddle Creek.

A modern enterprise integration platform enables you to say “yes” to your trading partners and customers because it comes stocked with pre-built application connectors, supports multiple protocols, and handles any type of data format. Cleo Integration Cloud does all these things and much more, accelerating ground-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud processes that easily integrate cloud applications and connect to cloud-based storage and platforms.

If your business is tired of saying “no,” request a demo from Cleo and start saying “yes.”

3 Ways Integration Can Help Your Partner Onboarding Processes

It’s no secret that as we approach 2019, companies must be easy to do business with. Your customers and trading partners are just as busy as you are, and they don’t have the time, money, or patience to wait on connecting and transacting.

One of the first things a company can do to ensure a smooth working relationship with its customers and partners is to have an easy and efficient onboarding process. Companies without a successful and efficient onboarding plan will find that potential customers are leaving for their competition without any hesitation. Additionally, the sooner you get your customers and trading partners onboarded, the quicker you are able to turn a profit and make money.

If any customers or trading partners describe your partner onboarding processes as slow, complicated, or challenging, odds are you have an onboarding problem. So, how can you remedy that, improve your onboarding, and become easier to do business with?

What is Partner Onboarding?

For the purposes of this post, we are going to focus squarely on the process of onboarding your trading partners. The ultimate goal of partner onboarding is for a business to get an external trading partner connected quickly and accurately. Onboarding refers to things like the configuration of a partner’s EDI profile and building out the necessary maps to send and receive data.

Besides jeopardizing sales opportunities and costing your company business revenue, inefficient trading partner onboarding can put your existing relationships at risk if data exchanges and standards are not implemented correctly. Companies that have a partner onboarding process that doesn’t run seamlessly might learn that the problem is often rooted in their reliance on manual workflows.

A business that lacks dynamic B2B integration tools will also the capabilities needed to easily onboard a trading partner. And as a business ecosystem grows, that business will rely more on custom code to integrate those new connections, which leads to difficult and diverse integrations that prove challenging to manage. The resulting lack of standardization and templatized onboarding leads to a hodgepodge of cumbersome workflows for every new trading partner.

When your business upgrades its integration capabilities, it simplifies its onboarding processes and becomes that much easier to do business with. So, what integration capabilities do you need to gain credibility and achieve “preferred vendor” status?

Become Easier to Work With

Every one of your trading partners is going to have different needs that you must deliver, and it’s important that modern enterprises leverage multi-protocol support, pre-built project templates, and enhanced visibility to accommodate those partners and optimize the relationships.

1. Supporting Multiple Protocols

As an example, let’s say you currently have an AS2 client, but you must onboard a new trading partner using SFTP or HTTPs. If your current platform is incapable of supporting SFTP or HTTPs, then you might need to invest in another piece of software or module simply to support that one trading partner. And this is only going to happen again and again, as you add more trading partners into your ecosystem.

The better approach is a single integration platform that comes preloaded and preconfigured to support all the advanced protocols you might need to support from a trading partner. The platform also should come with a library of pre-built connectors to all major trading hubs, so all the heavy lifting is already done for you. No longer will you have to continue to purchase expensive software order to support a different protocol; you’ll have each at your fingertips.

2. Using Pre-Built Templates

If you have limited data transformation capabilities, that leads to a  negative chain reaction. Without the proper data transformation tools in place, then odds are you are customizing integrations, which then means you are unable to easily re-use them. Unfortunately, this also takes quite a bit of manual mapping that is very time consuming and arduous. And that’s only when you have a couple of trading partners, let alone hundreds or even thousands.

The best way to avoid this scenario is to partner with a vendor that offers data transformation tools that swiftly enable the reuse of partner profiles and automate data migration from the partner to you. By taking advantage of a flexible data transformation solution that supports any manner of data format, you are able to automatically generate and customize any and all integration projects. This allows you to quickly build out even more complex transformation initiatives in a shorter amount of time.

3. Increasing Visibility

Transparency is key in the onboarding process because it forms the very basis of data insight that will drive your business efficiency for years to come. In order to maintain healthy and successful relationships with your trading partners, it is essential that you have a high level of visibility throughout the onboarding process.

Data visibility, for example, that is delivered via monitoring, reporting, and alert notifications is a good way to keep all major stakeholders apprised of critical transactions. Additionally, it provides faster issue resolution, since one-off, decentralized integrations simply do not offer comprehensive reporting tools.

If you are ready to take your visibility one step further to streamline your trading partner onboarding processes, a next-generational integration tool will reward you immensely. These tools provide real-time visibility through customized dashboards that deliver real-time monitoring and reporting so everyone who needs to know is aware of any challenges affecting your revenue-driving business relationships.

Building Relationships for the Future

Being able to bring on new trading partners quickly and efficiently is an invaluable asset that will position your business as one that’s easy to do business with, which will deliver exponential benefits far into the future. Sure, there will always be a certain level of configuration and integration you must adjust, but a single integration platform will have you interacting with your important B2B partners faster than your competition.

Learn more about how to reduce manual intervention in onboarding trading partners and the integration platform that will help your business reduce errors, expedite business gains, and improve ROI.

How SaaS Companies Address Compounding Integration Demands

While SaaS companies certainly strive to be innovative and modern, that is often easier said than done in the modern business landscape, especially when it comes to integration.

While these cloud-based organizations are often synonymous with technology and innovation, many of these companies weren’t actually born in the cloud and face the same hybrid integration challenges – connecting on-premise and cloud data sources – that other enterprises’ face. Managing integration services, whether they are custom-developed or pieced together via open-source components, can put a tremendous burden on SaaS organizations, but without successfully meeting integration requirements, SaaS companies cannot adequately serve customers.

These integration challenges create a rippling, snowball effect within an enterprise. Internally, such requirements compound and require large swaths of time and effort to make changes and updates, and they often require new talent to manage the integrations. Externally, it puts pressure on businesses to agilely meet partner and customer demands.

The more a SaaS organization grows, the more its integration and data movement requirements grow with it. Previously, SaaS companies commonly handled these emerging demands with one-off fixes as each communication need came along. But that approach does not scale well in the modern enterprise.

Embedded Integration

SaaS solutions are appealing to businesses due to all the cloud-based tools and services that they can provide, which means taking solution management and maintenance out of the equation for a regular business. But someone (the SaaS vendor) does have to maintain the solution and must have the ability to do so. To deliver the results and service that customers demand, these SaaS companies require strong integration and connectivity capabilities.

That’s because with each new customer, the need to support different file formats and protocols grows, and it’s imperative for SaaS companies to give customers a full range of protocols, connectors, approaches, and data formats to get data into and out of the solution. And that’s what makes integration so integral to cloud-services.

Those companies with disparate integration tools often get so overwhelmed by the amount of maintenance required that they cannot focus on improving core business services. Leveraging an embedded integration solution, however, allows business to drive better value and deliver SaaS tools.

A modern embedded integration platform enables SaaS companies to serve their new customers and integrations without the complicated and messy infrastructure that comes along with it. An embedded integration solution, built right into the SaaS platform, will streamline a cloud-based company’s business processes and improve productivity via faster onboarding, SLA management, governance, and tight compliance capabilities.

The Need for Reliability, Scalability

JDA Software is a SaaS-based supply chain management giant and it transmits more than 2 million files each day. JDA required more flexibility and agility, however, in order to onboard new customers quickly. JDA has a half-dozen data centers around the world, and its customer base was expanding rapidly, so it turned to a modern integration solution to consolidate all of its disparate technologies onto a centralized platform which automates customer data flows.

JDA deployed a reliable, scalable solution to support its aggressive growth, complete with easy load balancing implementation and multiple secure protocols inside and outside the enterprise to ensure customer connectivity. JDA can onboard new customers faster, exceed its customer SLAs, and meet the demanding scalability requirements that challenge cloud-based organizations.

Another company, nVision Global Technology Solutions, is a leading provider of SaaS-based freight, audit, payment, and logistics management solutions and processes 100,000,000 EDI documents annually. Disparate solutions nVision had in place were not conducive to the customer experience the company wanted to deliver. By using embedded integration solutions from Cleo, nVision gained a single platform that supports multiple protocols, transforms data seamlessly, and takes advantage of a comprehensive dashboard to provide true end-to-end visibility.

The ECi Software Solutions group of companies gives customers business and e-commerce solutions both on-premise and in the cloud. ECi exchanges purchase orders, purchase order acknowledgments, electronic invoices, and advanced shipping notices via XML, X12, and additional proprietary formats. ECi leverages a highly available data movement and B2B integration platform that can move 100,000 documents a month at full capacity, and grow 10 percent year-over-year.

For more on how cloud-services organizations can manage their growing integration requirements to improve their offerings, check out the white paper “What Every SaaS Company Should Know About Integrating with Its Customers.”

Driving E-Commerce Excellence Through Your Applications

With just a few days left until the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday –  the 2018 edition has come a long way from where it was years ago. Throughout the digital age, companies everywhere have sought to provide the most convenient ways for their customers to shop, and that strategy is more than ever reliant on a strategic combination of omnichannel online and in-person experiences.

Companies begin highlighting their Black Friday deals much earlier than they ever have before and in more ways. Such businesses send out mailers, mass-distribute emails showcasing their ads, and push notifications via mobile apps to alert potential customers of what deals they can find. Customers are then able to take these coupons and adverts to use in the store or purchase products online right from their phones.

So, what does it take for the retail industry, with deep roots in brick-and-mortar and evermore skin in the digital game, to make all this happen, and deliver an enhanced Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) experience? It takes a host of new and established technologies, integrated and working together.

How to Maximize Your E-Commerce Business

One way retailers maximize their sales potential is by improving the e-commerce experience through modern digital storefronts. Some organizations have the resources to custom-build these for their own specific needs, and others use prepackaged applications, such as Magneto, Shopify, or BigCommerce, or use APIs to connect with established retail marketplaces like Amazon.

But to truly offer a beneficial customer experience, they also must optimize these applications and coordinate these information flows into the rest of the business. And thus, retailers must integrate the e-commerce application itself into its back-end systems, which include EDI for shipping and logistics, TMS software for transportation brokerage, and payment and inventory applications.

Today’s modern enterprise must be able to provide better and faster customer service to keep up with demand, especially this time of year. Companies integrating these applications into the rest of their business infrastructure can automate end-to-end workflows and gain more comprehensive views into their customer interactions. Additionally, automated order processing helps deliver products faster and ultimately, better serve customers.

But the reliable integration of e-commerce applications doesn’t just happen, and there are some best practices that can help simplify the process and expedite the time to value for your organization.

Traditional Approaches to Application Integration

One approach to application integration – building the integration – gives companies a proprietary and custom application that they can control and integrate directly into their IT environment. This allows companies to completely own the solution and customize it to fit their needs. However, building the integration on your own is quite a tall task because it does require very specific development skills. Additionally, it does not even come with a guarantee that it will work the way that your business truly requires, nor that it will stand up to evolving needs and change.

Another method companies use to integrate applications is through an API, since most cloud applications publish public REST APIs to communicate and integrate. Developers can build API-based integrations, and initially, they are pretty cost-controlled. But building out these integrations takes a good deal of time, especially the more complex APIs like the Amazon Marketplace API, which has 100 different variables in one single integration in order to accurately depict a single product.

Additionally, API-centric applications are always being developed and changed, so any modifications that Amazon makes to the API on its end (to follow the above example) means your developers are on the hook to keep up those same maintenance cycles.

The Best Way to Integrate Applications

But there’s a better approach to application integration, and it’s one that can help you connect not only e-commerce applications, but your CRM, ERP, and other important applications as well.

As your ecosystem grows and includes more customers and partners, so does the number of applications that you need to support within your business network. Supporting all these applications demands a certain level of onboarding capabilities to get them up and running in a timely manner. But onboarding requires numerous development, configuration, and testing processes, and it’s difficult to execute these efficiently across your application stack when you have so many custom-built solutions and integrations.

Thus, the two approaches to integration outlined above (building integrations and developing APIs) are too cumbersome and difficult to manage for most organizations. They take time, resources, and unique skill sets.

So, what’s the best way to simplify the integration process and get the most value of your e-commerce application? Smart companies use a pre-built connector that seamlessly links the application with your IT infrastructure.

By using a pre-built connector from a modern integration platform, you can:

  • Connect to the app more quickly and get faster time to value
  • Reduce your maintenance workloads
  • Eliminate your dependence on developers
  • Automate integration and orchestration workflows
  • Expedite order-to-cash and other business processes
  • Worry less about integration and focus on core business operations

How to Achieve Better Application Integration

Companies that consolidate their legacy and SaaS systems, applications, and services stand to significantly improve their data flows and will better serve today’s digitally savvy customers.

The single-platform Cleo Integration Cloud provides pre-built connectors that can simplify the application integration processes that drive your business. It automates and consolidates the workflows that have previously hindered your ability to leverage new and existing applications, so you can connect new solutions in hours rather than days.

Download the “How to Rapidly Onboard Ecosystem Partners and Applications” white paper to discover how to expedite the time to value of your e-commerce applications and B2B trading partners.

Top Five Takeaways from Cleo Connect 2018

It’s been a few weeks since so many Cleo customers converged on Nashville for a week of connecting, networking, and all things integration. But as the calendar turns further into November and we approach the end of the year, we wanted to highlight some of the most important lessons learned from Cleo Connect 2018 and the potential business implications for the coming year.

Keynote speaker Billy Beane discussed the importance of looking for new opportunities to win against the competition. Cleo CEO Mahesh Rajasekharan spoke on the challenges that arise from IT modernization and what companies can do to avoid them. And Cleo customers from many leading companies shared their experiences during a panel on how they are leveraging new and emerging technologies for success.

Here are the biggest takeaways from this year’s Cleo Connect.

  1. The Importance of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a term that has been thrown around a lot lately, and it’s one that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different organizations. There is one common theme, however, regardless of the industry an enterprise is in. Every organization must seek to transform their approach, processes, and technologies in order to truly optimize their businesses.

There are a number of companies that have successfully managed to modernize their IT systems through major investments in digital transformation initiatives. Macy’s and Target have each restructured their businesses to focus on digital, with Target in particular leveraging its physical stores to take advantage of a weakness in Amazon’s business model: the lack of same-day delivery.

While those two companies are finding new ways to thrive in today’s landscape, there are others who failed to adapt. Sears and Toys R Us did not see the writing on the wall, instead continuing to focus on more traditional buying and selling cycles and outdated business models. They were left behind by companies who instead made a true commitment to establish a digital transformation plan and grow with their customers digitally.

  1. The Cloud Isn’t Just in the Sky

It seems that many people are still finding new ways to ask the question, “To cloud or not to cloud?” But that’s becoming less applicable as we approach 2019. It is no longer a matter of whether or not you are going to go all-in with cloud computing or remain fully on-premise. Instead, the question centers on which processes or applications are going to get migrated to the cloud within your organization.

You might not even realize it, but your company absolutely has something in the cloud right now. And going a step further, you also are interacting with your ecosystem through the cloud. “On-premise is not dead … it’s just a little bit more cloudy. Whether you know it or not, your ecosystem already views you as ‘the cloud,’ ” said Dave Brunswick, vice president of solutions at Cleo during a session at Cleo Connect.

For those companies that are comfortable with their on-premise solutions, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care about the cloud. Customer expectations are driven by cloud services and experiences in some capacity, so, your business partners and customers expect similar experiences and results from the systems that you deliver regardless of where they live. Thus, there is a continuum between on-premise and the cloud, and plenty of gray areas in-between.

  1. Look at the Entire Ecosystem, Not Just B2B Integration

B2B integration – interacting with other organizations outside yours – will always be critical to success for enterprises, but organizations need to think beyond B2B integration and focus on their entire ecosystem. The methodologies, technologies, and services that facilitate, enhance, and support the interactions between a dynamic network of entities, such as people, businesses, and applications, also interact to create and exchange sustainable value for all participants.

Today’s integration platforms consistently enable tomorrow’s business ecosystems, while simultaneously, today’s ecosystems are already impacting and disrupting supply chains in industries that include manufacturing, healthcare, and financial services, to name a few. Gaining insight into your ecosystem and having influence over that dynamic network is the key to transition successfully from short-term to long-term strategies.

Such ecosystem enablement is typically facilitated using middleware, such as an iPaaS solution or integration brokerage. These technologies arm enterprises with more than simply B2B management and integration tools, which tend to focus on partner and community management. They also provide the dashboards and insights into end-to-end business processes that create value for you and your ecosystem.

  1. The Future is EDI and APIs – Together

 There are proponents of EDI, and there are proponents of APIs. Conversely, there are also detractors of EDI, and detractors of APIs. But for organizations to succeed in this digital world, EDI and APIs will need to co-exist. This has never been truer for those enterprises looking to leverage things like automation, blockchain, and IoT to improve internal efficiency and stay competitive within their respective industries.

APIs are critical to extend the capabilities of platforms such as EDI, and to utilize communication between software programs. While APIs will play an increasing role in ecosystem enablement, they also aren’t enough by themselves. Technologies such as EDI that are delivered via an iPaaS will play an extremely important role in the heavy lifting of partner management and community enablement. But as APIs by itself aren’t enough, neither is EDI.

APIs augment EDI to provide organizations a deeper and more critical look into B2B integration workflows. On one hand, APIs tell you where in the store you will find the products you want, while on the other, EDI allows you to then go ahead and buy those products. In order for companies to gain a better and more sustainable business experience, APIs and EDI must work together.

  1. The Integration World is in a New Paradigm

Enterprises are at the point where they must think beyond specific roles. By specific roles, that means to no longer think of your position as an EDI coordinator or an EDI specialist. Instead, start to think like a business analyst. Companies must evolve their ways of thinking and start to consider the business flows they actually are trying to execute, and thus, the business impact of their integration solutions supporting those flows. It’s no longer an EDI-focused skill set; it’s a skill set focused on enabling positive business outcomes.

It’s critical to develop an understanding of how you can better understand revenue-generating business processes, automate them to drive new value, or optimize them to cut costs and save money. Business integration is no longer about transactions; it’s about business impact. Ecosystem-driven cloud integration platforms enable enterprises to reliably enable the transaction but in the context of better business value and outcomes.

A Look Ahead

Considering the importance of digital transformation and ecosystem enablement in today’s business landscape, these topics might also be some of the main takeaways from the next Cleo Connect in Orlando. In the meantime, download this IT modernization white paper and learn why every successful digital transformation and modernization project starts with an ecosystem-driven integration platform.

Solving 6 Common Challenges of ERP and Application Integration

When an enterprise decides to embark on a modernization plan, one of the primary end goals is to increase their business agility. Greater agility allows enterprises to be more competitive, serve customers at a high level, and drive revenue in new ways.

Once an enterprise makes the commitment to modernize its IT systems to increase agility, what exactly does that entail? For starters, organizations must consider shifting their legacy applications and processes to the cloud but simultaneously maintain operational uptime between front-end and back-end systems.

It’s tricky because companies must add modern SaaS applications, such as an ERP, CRM, or HRM, into their ecosystems without any type of business disruption, but those disruptions become more likely without the proper integration tools. So, if your business is looking at an ERP upgrade, it is worth considering a simultaneous integration technology upgrade to ease the process and enable any other application integrations.

ERP and Application Integration Challenges

While the promises of ERP and application integration are vast, it isn’t as if an IT admin simply needs to push a button to make everything integrate smoothly. In fact, there are a number of potential hurdles that enterprises must clear in order to successfully onboard these new solutions and achieve their IT modernization goals.

Here are some of the common ERP and application integration challenges that businesses face today and details on how a modern integration platform will help enable a smoother ERP upgrade.

  1. Brittle integrations

An often-overlooked aspect of application integration concerns how tightly coupled an application can be. Applications that are tightly coupled with other systems (think operating systems) are not only linked but are highly dependent upon each other to support a specific process. These applications become especially difficult to migrate and do not react well to updates and changes, and they are brittle and costly to modify.

  1. Limited capabilities

Many ERP applications are not properly integrated within an enterprise’s IT environment, and it directly affects how fast and how well a company interacts with its customers. Customer response time lags when employees are trying to work across different applications or business processes that are not equipped to work together, and when an enterprise falls behind in response time, it’s at risk of SLA violations and subpar customer service scores.

  1. Lack of internal expertise

 Integration of ERP and other applications often requires specific skills, and on-staff personnel may not have those skills or always understand the entire integration process, which hinders the effectiveness of any business digital transformation initiative as well as slows time to value for the new application.

  1. Manual business processes

An unintegrated ERP application often means there are manual processes driving these related workflows. A lack of automation presents an increased risk of errors, processing delays, and a potential for costly chargebacks. Properly designed application integration eliminates the need for things like data re-entry and expedites end-to-end business workflows.

  1. Multiple integration solutions

Many enterprises have multiple integration solutions in place and may not be able to execute the integration of any new application. Having various integration solutions to manage requires numerous specialized skills and training, which only increases maintenance costs, reduces efficiency, and limits enterprise-wide integration capabilities.

  1. Multiple applications

It’s not uncommon for an enterprise to have dozens or even hundreds of different applications (including CRM, SCM, TMS, etc.) in use, and trying to integrate a new ERP with all these applications with custom-coded, one-off integrations becomes unwieldy and unmanageable. It’s unscalable, but a modern integration platform with pre-built connectors to the most popular solutions helps take the complexity out of application integration.

A Centralized Platform

Companies face an uphill battle when it comes to integrating ERP and other applications into their enterprise, but there is technology out there to help you win that battle. A single, centralized platform enables the out-of-the-box connectivity and scalability your business needs, reduces integration complexity, and simplifies your biggest integration challenges.

A single-platform integration solution will:

  • Connect the best-of-breed applications that enable your business
  • Grow with you and allow you to switch out applications and dynamically change data flows as quickly as you need
  • Reduce the need for individuals to become application integration experts
  • Enable your business to integrate confidently

An ecosystem-driven cloud integration platform provides a centralized console that enables you to manage, govern, and integrate cloud-based applications into existing IT infrastructure. Cleo Integration Cloud features tools to scale an enterprise’s performance needs, add product functionality, and secure data to meet all manner of industry and regulatory mandates.

Core to any ERP and other major application upgrades, Cleo Integration Cloud enables process automation and reduces the effort previously required to build and maintain the critical data mapping and file transfers that drive your business.

Download “The Common-Sense Guide to IT Modernization” to learn more about how to improve your application integration through IT modernization and how an ecosystem-driven integration platform enables that improvement through enterprise agility, insulates organizations from disruption, and support digital business transformation.

 

From the Blog

Measuring the Value of Your iPaaS in Ecosystems

Published December 13, 2018

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