3 Reasons to Visit Cleo at Gartner’s Application Summit in Las Vegas

Cleo is sponsoring and exhibiting at this week’s Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Applications are an increasingly critical component of enterprise evolution in the era of the cloud and digital transformation, and the event, which runs Nov. 27-29, provides a valuable networking forum for businesses looking to elevate their application strategies, embrace and master emerging technologies, and enable effective business outcomes.

Cleo delivers trusted application integration technology and strategies at a critical time for businesses. That’s because the costs related to poor integration are felt in a variety of ways across the enterprise. Cleo recently conducted a market survey on the state of business integration and IT modernization to better assess the impact of such integration challenges. Here are a few key findings:

  • 44% of companies say their biggest integration challenge is modernizing existing IT systems and applications
  • 61% estimate at least $250,000 in lost revenue every year due to poor integrations
  • 47% say slow partner onboarding or difficulty integrating new applications actively prevents them from securing new revenue opportunities

There’s clearly a growing need for advanced integration technology to drive enterprises’ important digital transformation initiatives, and addressing integration challenges sooner than later enables businesses to improve, streamline, and automate their end-to-end data flows driving business revenue.

So, here are three reasons why, even if you don’t have a current modernization project, you should spend some time with Cleo this week at the Gartner application summit:

  1. Because 60% of Organizations Are Unable to Meet Customers’ Digital Demands

As companies work to modernize their IT systems, they are faced with the reality that modern applications are wholly or partially delivered and consumed using the public cloud and related cloud technologies. Traditional approaches to IT modernization to meet those challenges, however, too often favor pure-play application integration and application development capabilities, deprioritizing B2B demands and putting your critical trading partner relationships at risk.

  1. Because You Can Learn from Those Who’ve Taken the Modernization Plunge

Three Cleo customers will tell their applicational and digital transformation stories during “Best Practices for IT Systems Modernization for the Era of the Cloud,” which is at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, in The Emperors Ballroom. It’s a great chance to discover how leading companies are better able to adapt when they have the modern ecosystem-driven cloud integration functionality to plan for change, accommodate digital disruption, and “see around corners.”

  1. Because You Can Demo the World’s Leading Cloud Integration Platform

The world’s most successful organizations get to where they are today by building trusted relationships across their partner ecosystem, and thousands do that using Cleo Integration Cloud. It’s built as one complete solution with the automated tools and intuitive controls your teams require to easily connect, integrate, and analyze every end-to-end data flow between your ecosystem of customers, partners, suppliers, or external applications and your internal business systems and processes. And you get to see all the great things Cleo Integration Cloud has to offer in live action at Cleo Booth 317.

So, stop by Booth 317 this week to get some great swag (there are lots of great stocking stuffers!), but also to learn more about Cleo Integration Cloud and its out-of-the-box integration connectors for your critical business applications.

See you soon!

Data Transformation Drives Billion-Dollar Food Logistics Business

Business Benefits Gained

Armed with a modern data transformation and integration solution from Cleo Integration Cloud, Dot Foods is able to:

  • Rapidly respond to the requirements of thousands of trading partners
  • Heavily reduce custom code and manual order processing
  • Integrate internal systems and applications

Dot Foods solves a distribution puzzle that’s plagued traditional food supply chain models. The Midwest-based organization buys full truckloads (FTLs) from nearly 1,000 manufacturers and consolidates their products in about a dozen distribution centers across the country. Dot then resells those products as more manageable LTL quantities to distributors, who often cannot accommodate FTL-type quantities.

It’s a valuable service that helps manufacturers and distributors access new markets and increase efficiency, and it’s a foundational offering that’s enabled Dot to grow into the $7 billion-dollar food logistics organization it is today. But one thing that enables Dot to provide 127,000 products and deliver them to distributors in all 50 states and more than 25 countries is its ability to handle all types of electronic data communications from its trading partners.

How Dot Foods Handles EDI, Non-EDI Communications

Dot Foods uses leading any-to-any data transformation technology to accommodate its customers’ growing data requests and accept non-EDI formats. The technology, part of the Cleo Integration Cloud platform, converts a document into a format (usually EDI) that can be accepted by its internal system, which means its partners and customers don’t have to use EDI to do business with Dot. And with the platform’s auto-mapping tools, the food redistribution giant can easily integrate that converted data into its existing applications and processes for a fully automated business workflow.

“The main scenario that Cleo has improved,” said Sean Ketcham, Dot Foods’ senior e-commerce analyst for customer integration, “is the phasing out of much of our manual order entry. … We realize the benefits of not wasting time doing busywork or keying (in data) when it doesn’t need to be done.”

Here are two examples of how Dot can take any document type and convert it to EDI for easy ingestion into Dot’s systems and workflows:

Spreadsheet to EDI

A Dot sale rep receives from a customer a purchase order as a spreadsheet. Dot sets up a hot folder for each customer map that’s built into the Cleo Integration Cloud’s data transformation engine, and the sales rep drops the spreadsheet into the respective customer’s hot folder. File monitors running continuously grab anything that is moved into one of these folders. The Cleo solution then takes the spreadsheet, processes it through to Dot’s database, and pushes it into the sales rep’s EDI screen, where the sales rep can simply accept the file and process the order.

Fax to EDI

Dot paired Cleo’s data transformation solution, Cleo Clarify, with optical character recognition (OCR) software to automate orders via fax. Dot uses the OCR software to scan faxed orders, export them into a fixed-length flat file that has a map built for it in Cleo Clarify. Dot then uses tables in Cleo Clarify to process more than 700 customers using just one map. Now, instead of orders for these 700 customers having to be manually keyed in, they automatically show up for the sales department to process, just like an EDI file.

Ecosystem Integration for the Modern Business

It’s critical for high-volume organizations like Dot Foods to support an expanding number of systems, applications, and trading partners in its business ecosystem, and the ability to accept a variety of data formats opens new revenue streams and enables business growth.

With Cleo Integration Cloud, Dot gained not only robust data transformation capabilities and simplified integration of EDI and non-EDI formats but also a powerful platform that provides:

  • Application-to-application integration
  • Web-to-application interfaces
  • Business process automation
  • Data mirroring
  • Web communication portals

“The most amazing part of it all,” Ketcham adds, “is that we’ve taken the need for custom programming out of the process.”

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Read the full case study on how Dot Foods meets its customers’ increasing data demands and automates 80 percent of its order processing.

Why Integration Platforms Must Deliver Tailored Views of B2B Content

Persona-Based Content

Too many integration tools fail to provide visibility for personnel outside the IT department. Modern integration technology should:

  • Surface a range of content for various IT and business roles
  • Deliver big-picture views and surface smaller, more targeted data sets
  • Allow people to select and customize the views they want

The challenge with most integration technologies is that they’ve traditionally been designed to address the technical processes deep within the organization’s underbelly without considering the user experience, for those at the surface. Today’s enterprises have an increased appetite for how their important B2B data flows fit into the broader context of the business, and as such, require different capabilities than traditional technologies have previously delivered, including a more intuitive UX that provides tailored content.

It’s time to start asking more of your EDI and B2B integration technology. Today, it should certainly manage the heavy lifting of integration, including data movement, data transformation, the onboarding of new trading partners, to enable all manner of application, cloud, and big data integration. But it also should:

  • Elegantly deliver visibility into the data flows powering your business, and for a variety of users
  • Remove key person dependencies when it comes to reporting and collaborating on business-critical trading partner interactions

If your integration platform cannot serve the entire enterprise, it might be time to rethink your approach. Modern B2B integration involves more than just the IT department; it’s a strategically aligned, enterprise-wide effort that spans business units. And too many integration solutions today lack the content personalization and rich interaction capabilities that enable various personas to view and act on B2B data.

Various B2B Cooks Outside the Kitchen

For too long, there’s been a widespread inability for key stakeholders in a digital business – the business owners, procurement folks, the supply chain and operations owner – to participate in important B2B processes. But these roles need to know how these processes are affecting the enterprise, and they have an important stake in knowing things like:

  • How many new partners the company has brought on this month
  • How fast the onboarding process is
  • Whether a new partner’s orders are trending up or down
  • The status of a large order for a high-value customer

These users are unable to choose what information they want to see and how they want to see it, simply because the technology prohibits non-technical users from interacting with B2B processes and systems directly. Most integration solutions come with one view – a technical view – that’s expected to satisfy what everyone in the business wants to see.

The reality is, more people than just IT personnel need to quickly access the data. A supply chain executive, for example, will require a different reporting view than say, an EDI manager, who mostly needs to understand why data is or isn’t moving and not the more summarized, high-level business impact reports.

As it stands today, your IT manager might be fielding informational requests from the business, from the customer, and from a trading partner. This person might then go into system, collect all the data he or she thinks these people are asking for, and then report back the findings.

This is a time-consuming, inefficient process that will cause delays and waste precious IT resources on tedious administrative tasks. Additionally, what IT reports back may not be exactly what was requested or be a comprehensive report.

It makes more sense that the users who need to get at the data have a choice of what they want to see and how they see it and have a dashboard tailored for their specific needs.

A Superior Integration Approach

What if all parts of your business – your EDI and supply chain personnel, operations owners, customer service teams, and business unit leaders – could use a single platform to effectively collaborate and execute on your digital B2B strategies?

You can, with an ecosystem-driven cloud integration platform featuring flexible connectivity and data movement capabilities, end-to-end data visibility, and dynamic control for IT and business users alike. Forward-looking organizations leverage this type of integration technology to create a fluid, always-on experience that can be accessed anywhere with the right levels of security and access controls, all with an easy-to-use interface.

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A cutting-edge, ecosystem-driven cloud integration platform focused on creating value at the edges of business networks, Cleo Integration Cloud delivers modern multi-enterprise and application integration and enables real-time visibility, transparency, and governance across important partner and customer relationships for a variety of IT and non-IT personas. See a demo today.

This is the final installment in our seven-part blog series on the shortfalls of typical B2B integration technology. To learn more on how to solve these challenges in your business, contact Cleo today.

How a $7B Food Redistributor Meets Customers’ Evolving Data Demands

Benefits of Dot Foods Redistribution

  • Provide the broadest product offering
  • Sell more products with fewer assets
  • Reduce inventory and increase turns
  • No individual lines minimums
  • Reduce costs
  • Improve service to operators
  • Consistent pricing

 

As food and beverage brands offer more niche products and expand their catalogs to meet evolving consumer tastes, the demand for efficient logistics and distribution to serve global customers in new ways has soared. Illinois-based Dot Foods plays a significant role in the process, developing innovative solutions for its food industry partners – manufacturers, distributors, operators – to increase sales opportunities and better serve the end customer.

In fact, the food industry redistributor plays such a role that it was recognized by Forbes as one of America’s largest private companies in 2017 (No. 63). But how did the family-owned and -operated Dot Foods, headquartered in a town with the population around 2,000 people and tucked into rural western Illinois – just a few stones’ throws away from the Mississippi River – grow into a $7 billion food redistribution business, the largest in the country?

Dot’s success might be traced to a couple of key factors:

  • Identifying and effectively filling a gap in traditional food distribution models
  • Providing a better service experience for its customers and trading partners

A critical component of that success stems from the fact that Dot can say yes to all the ways its customers want to electronically interact and communicate, making the company supremely easy to do business with.

What is Food Redistribution?

Food manufacturers are experts in product development, production, and marketing, but their transportation systems are not always set up to be the most efficient. In fact, most transport networks are only configured to efficiently sell full truckloads (FTLs) of product, which isn’t always ideal for smaller distribution organizations.

In the United States, there are more than 15,000 distributors, but many of them are not large enough to regularly order from manufacturers in full truckload quantities or cannot warehouse such large quantities for long periods. The solution to that problem is redistribution. Enter Dot Foods and its innovative business model, including its LTL (less-than-truckload) services.

As a food redistributor, Dot buys full truckloads from more than 900 manufacturers and consolidates their products in 11 distribution centers across the U.S. The company then resells these products in more manageable LTL quantities to distributors. This model helps:

  • Manufacturers increase sales by giving them access to distributors they otherwise might not be able to serve
  • Distributors operate more efficiently by providing access to tens of thousands of products without the added cost of inventory and warehouse space

While manufacturers compensate Dot to handle distribution of their costly LTL orders, there is no extra cost to the distributor when buying from Dot. That means Dot offers its 127,000 products to distributors in all 50 states and more than 25 countries at no additional charge. And for you, the consumer, this means all your favorite products continuously stock the shelves inside your local retailer at the expected price.

The Data Demands of Logistics, Distribution

The process sounds simple: Dot Foods receives orders from thousands of distribution customers, requesting items from various manufacturers. Dot compiles the items, many of which are stocked in Dot’s own warehouses, and delivers them to the customer.

But Dot’s unique role in the food supply chain – where the company simultaneously acts as buyer, seller, warehouse manager, redistributor, and shipper – means Dot must support a variety of data and electronic communication methods from its partners, suppliers, and customers. In addition to all the different protocols, applications, and data formats the company must support for its external B2B partners, Dot also uses a variety of internal applications that don’t natively communicate with one another.

Getting all these systems to work together requires significant amounts of custom code and manual data entry to keep business moving. However, to continue its growth and maintain its reputation as the premier food redistributor in the world, Dot Foods sought a better way to support its customers’ EDI and non-EDI – flat file, spreadsheet, XML, fax – orders from a single integration platform.

Read the full case study and learn how Dot Foods uses any-to-any data transformation technology to meet its customers’ increasing data demands and automate 80 percent of its order processing.

The Pace of Change in Modern Business Ecosystems

4 Things this Blog Covers:

  1. The Pace of Change in Modern Business Ecosystems
  2. What Walmart Tells Us About the Velocity of Change
  3. The Advantages of Data Movement Platform for File-Based Integration
  4. Why You Need Secure Managed File Transfer

Back in the day, one of the biggest wrenches a business trading partner could throw in the gears of your B2B ecosystem was asking you to support a new communication protocol or data format. The whole thing ultimately changed the way you did business, and it felt like trying to abruptly turn a large ship with a steady head of steam.

You’d have set up various calls and form task forces to determine how to support AS2 for EDI, explore the cost of a VAN for OFTP2 to do business in Europe, or custom-configure an SFTP connection for secure banking. With all the configuring, testing, and migrating, it would take months – and countless internal resources – to get into compliance and get the business firing over that connection.

Today, the scene is a little different, as trading partners are handing down new requirements all the time. Companies are increasingly modernizing their IT systems, as well as adopting newer SaaS applications to effectively differentiate and compete in the marketplace, and any one of these changes –internal or external – could affect your business.

Meeting these evolving requirements, however, no longer has to be paradigm-shifting with the right solution. Organizations understanding the fickle nature of commerce deploy adaptive integration infrastructure solutions to efficiently support evolving B2B interactions.

What Walmart Taught Us about the Velocity of Change

Now for a history lesson: In 2002, Walmart adopted AS2 as the global standard for partner interactions, and the way businesses handle electronic data interchange (EDI) to execute business-to-business (B2B) connectivity was reshaped forever.

The inherent advantages of advanced protocols such as AS2 include:

  • Enhanced message integrity
  • Non-repudiation
  • Authentication
  • Ease of routing
  • Industry-specific compliance or standards, and
  • Interoperability

At the time, this then relatively new communications standard paved the way for companies to shed decades-old reliance on VAN providers and do business with each other directly, faster, and over the internet. It also significantly improved the reliability, accountability, and visibility of communications compared with other common B2B protocols, such as FTP.

An important consideration is that as a global commerce hub with thousands of trading partners, Walmart is typically the power broker in any technology decision relating to how its suppliers connect their business. But as with AS2, the message was loud and clear to organizations of all sizes: Adapt and modernize to the stated business standards or get left behind, possibly losing the ability to do business with what is likely your most important trading partner. Under these circumstances, the body of Walmart trading partners simply couldn’t afford non-compliance or failing to meet the new connection marching orders.

If anything, the Walmart story captures a categorical shift across one business-to-business trading network, one that illustrates the velocity at which digital business evolves and indicates a larger pattern of consistent change over time. In fact, the pace of change today, the speed of new requirements cropping up that affect how a business needs to connect, is almost incomprehensible.

Address Immediate and Future Needs

The need to adapt to ever-evolving demands presents a technology challenge for many businesses, specifically how to address the immediate requirements while strategically preparing for future challenges. Dealing with system failures that cause service disruptions and jeopardize the flow of business would represent an immediate threat to an organization’s ability to operate, whereas the ability to meet additional protocol requirements as the business grows is a realistic need down the road.

But modern organizations don’t have to weigh one (now) against the other (future). They can address the multifaceted requirements of B2B connectivity via a flexible integration solution that supports multi-enterprise networks and seamlessly connects the company with its suppliers, customers, financial institutions, and others to help drive business velocity.

It can’t just be any old solution, however. To connect with all these B2B trading partners in their preferred way (at any time) and to keep up with evolving internal business demands, organizations need an agile technology platform that can support not only the proliferation of advanced protocols and data formats, but also integrate cloud services and SaaS applications, and aggregate datasets for big data initiatives, with all the necessary control, governance, and security features. In short, they need an ecosystem-driven cloud integration solution.

The Advantages of a Cloud Integration Platform

Any integration requirement could change at any second, and rapid adaptation and agility are required to handle the pace of constant change, from evolving trading partner requirements, industry standards, and regulatory shifts to the adoption and deployment of cloud applications and cloud services.

So, how quickly could you adapt if:

  • Your big-box retailer decided it was moving to AS3 for EDI?
  • The CIO wanted to integrate a new SaaS CRM?
  • Your AS2 suddenly had to support SHA-2 encryption?
  • A new trading partner demanded ebXML over TLS 2.0?
  • Your department manager moved your ERP to the cloud?

If you’re not sure how to answer some of these questions, it might be time to assess your integration strategy. Ecosystem-driven integration requirements necessitate a cloud integration platform that can support all manner of integration use cases. A modern cloud integration solution ensures comprehensive connectivity and the secure movement of data among people, systems, and businesses internally and across a multi-enterprise trading network.

In short, an ecosystem integration solution provides organizations with a single-platform technology that supports:

  • Data connectivity and movement
  • Data transformation
  • Large file transfer
  • End-to-end process orchestration
  • Real-time visibility
  • Governance and security
  • Detailed reporting and auditing capabilities

Companies viewing integration as a core competency understand how low-friction and automated integration better positions them to deliver exceptional flexibility in the front end of their business process ecosystem, while adding agility on the back end to proactively respond to changing market needs.

Adapt or Die

The business world is a selfish one. It’s not Walmart’s concern whether its army of suppliers can do EDI over AS2. Its concern – the same as any company out there – is how it can best do business and better serve its end customers, and it’s up to its trading partners to adapt or die. Similarly, it’s up to you to arm your organization with adaptability or get left behind.

Well into the era of digital transformation, change is a fundamentally common denominator. Speed and agility power the modern digital business ecosystem, and companies are beginning to realize adaptability is a value-generating form of competitive differentiation. Adaptive integration infrastructure technology can help companies meet new trading partner requirements and successfully onboard a new customer almost immediately.

Keeping up with the pace of change today requires an agile platform that evolves with your business and trading partner relationships. The right solution will promote growth via a secure and scalable deployment and enables you to modernize any IT system, consolidate multiple legacy point solutions, and streamline ecosystem enablement.

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Cleo Integration Cloud is a powerful integration platform that allows your business to connect, move, transform, and orchestrate ecosystem, cloud, application, and big data integration flows using both self-service and managed-service experiences.

As a complete and robust platform with flexible deployment options, and spanning all modern integration use cases, Cleo Integration Cloud delivers the automated solutions and intuitive controls you need to easily connect and consolidate systems, applications, services, people, and processes. It’s your key to meeting evolving trading partner requirements and defining your business’s own pace of change.

The Need for Transparency in Business Process Integration

The modern enterprise has a greater thirst for how its critical data flows fit into the broader context of the business, and thus, organizations demand more of their integration technology. But existing approaches to integration are lacking in their capabilities to meet these modern demands and fully enable business process integration.

That’s because integration requires more than just point solutions that can deliver B2B and EDI capabilities. Modern integration comprises a broader network of applications, SaaS solutions, and cloud services as part of the IT infrastructure, and requires greater connectivity needs for a fully transparent solution.

While many integration platforms fail to provide adequate visibility into the important information flowing through the system, they also fail to provide adequate transparency into the integration process. In this sense, transparency describes a window into the current state of a business process, whereas visibility describes how we take information we’ve made transparent available to key stakeholders.

Visibility gives us an idea of what’s moving and transparency into how and why it’s happening, where we can see a full view of the data flows, errors and remediation measures, and system health. An ecosystem-driven cloud integration technology supports all manner of B2B, cloud, application, and big data integration, while providing not only visibility into such data flows but full transparency into how they happen.

Why Transparency Matters

Consider a soda vending machine, where for a few quarters (or even a credit card today) you can push a button and the machine will deliver the canned beverage of your choice. But if there’s no light or message indicating that a product isn’t available, you end up pressing the same beverage button over and over with little clue as to why it won’t dispense the beverage.

In integration technology, when you inquire about an order or some other business process and nothing is happening – and nothing clearly tells you whether there’s anything wrong – it’s extremely difficult to know how to respond. The lack of transparency, specifically with issue identification and the resolution process, hinders workflows and frustrates users.

Modern integration technology provides enhanced transparency, enabling users to go deep into a document, understand its content, view and assess an error, and communicate with the support team within the context of the message. By leveraging integration technology to understand just how and why things are happening, users become part of the integration process and gain heightened control over the interaction.

With a fully transparent view of the ecosystem, organizations obtain more granular insights into business process integration and thus, the revenue-generating data exchanges critical to its business.

Business Context and Insights

The byproduct of elevated transparency is a better understanding of how critical data flows and transactions occur and how they impact your business. Increased transparency across the enterprise enables business leaders to make informed decisions with the most up-to-date, accurate information –where files are going, to whom, when, and if they aren’t why they aren’t.

For instance, many integration approaches can track when an order comes in, when the acknowledgment goes back, whether a change order slip is processed, and when shipping notices and invoices go out. When one of those transactions fails, however, can you easily ascertain its impact downstream?

Because a business process consists of multiple connected transactions, true transparency consists of in-context understanding of each transaction, including data you send and receive. What most integration tools fail to do, then, is provide adequate business context of those documents and any errors surrounding them because they don’t comprehensively integrate the right systems, applications, and services in the ecosystem.

Transparency, then, goes beyond the fact that files are moving. It dives deeper into how these files are moving and how each relates to a larger business process. A modern ecosystem integration platform, which flexibly integrates every system, application, and data exchange workflow in your enterprise, provides such transparency into business process integration.

It’s this expanded understanding of your internal and external business interactions that helps you leverage operational insights and better guide organizational strategy.

Benefits of Transparent Ecosystem Integration

One area businesses are demanding more transparency in is when they seek support help for an integration error. Just like a business wants to know the status of its data flows, it also wants to know about the status of a support ticket, especially in a managed services or as-a-service integration model where most of the system already is out of their control.

So, ask yourself this: Do you have a clear understanding of what your integration vendor is doing to resolve an issue? The likely answer is no, and perhaps that’s OK. But the world’s leading organizations cannot be kept in the dark on issues related to a high-stakes trading partner relationship, and they require greater transparency into when an issue will be resolved.

A modern ecosystem integration platform delivers such transparency, enabling businesses to:

  • Act directly on the order in the integration dashboard
  • Skip executing any processes in an external system and eliminate data re-entry
  • See in real time every support interaction and every comment associated with a ticket
  • Receive information firsthand and in context
  • Share information directly from the file and keep relevant people in the know

Full transparency into every business process integration arms organizations with more valuable, usable intel on its important B2B interactions.

Cleo Integration Cloud combines service and technology to provide the most flexible and frictionless way to exchange B2B data. A cutting-edge, ecosystem-driven cloud integration platform focused on creating value at the edges of business networks, Cleo Integration Cloud shields organizations from the complexities of multi-enterprise and application integration, and further enables real-time visibility, transparency, and governance across important partner and customer relationships. See a demo today.

In the next part of our blog series on the shortfalls of typical B2B integration technology, learn why most solutions lack the control and collaboration tools required to manage your important B2B transactions.

The Do’s and Don’ts of IT Modernization in Business

We’ve all heard the buzz around IT modernization and how it supports digital business transformation. But what does IT modernization really mean? The IT modernization definition will certainly vary across businesses, industries, and personas, but it ultimately means leveraging technology to meet expanding business goals. It means aligning IT and business units to compete in today’s digital economy. It means digitizing and improving the customer experience to improve service levels and create market differentiation.

While it can be all or some of those things, it’s become increasingly clear that the likes of Amazon and Google have made modernization mandatory for organizations to increase agility and meet expanding customer demands. Let’s dive into a few of the reasons companies decide to modernize IT infrastructure and some common examples of IT modernization.

What is IT Modernization?

Consider how much telephone technology has evolved since 1876. Connecting processes began with manual switchboard exchanges and have evolved dramatically with direct dialing and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Designs and utility have gone from a two-piece handle/cradle combination to today’s internet-equipped mini-computers that fit right into our pockets.

Every step of the way, advances in phone technology (and of course, semiconductor technology) have transformed how we communicate. Embracing new technologies and processes (imagine if we still used AOL dial-up modems to connect to the internet) to modernize how communication occurs also transforms how business happens.

In much the same way, business IT modernization is the process of managing or moving away from aging software and hardware solutions and often involves consolidating systems and workflows in favor of more automated, innovative solutions. With phones, it might be taking the premise of a two-way radio and modeling it into a mobile telephone.

In business, it might be the journey of how companies integrate customer order and fulfillment data. Gone (or mostly gone) are the days of taking fax, email, or over-the-phone orders and manually entering data into a back-end ERP system, and then having that system spit out acknowledgments, invoice, and shipping documents that we have to print out and fax or email back. Modern B2B integration technologies, like EDI, automate this and speed up these order-to-cash processes.

IT modernization also means embracing cloud, cloud-first, and data center approaches, where much of the hardware and software is hosted by a third party while your business consumes as much or as little as needed. But while IT modernization often is the generic term for upgrading technologies, it also means upgrading skillsets. Modernization projects often entail applications, systems, and migrations that require IT skills current staffers may not have. To account for these resource and skills gaps, modernization might then happen in the form of managed service and as-a-service offerings.

Why Modernize?

In short, it’s about survival. The modern company must develop new processes to handle omni-channel approaches (thanks to the “Amazon Effect”) and gain the agility to reduce time to market. Too many businesses are held hostage by their homegrown and legacy solutions, and cannot efficiently onboard new partners and new sources of revenue. This limits their ability scale and grow.

Organizations with the bigger company picture in mind modernize IT systems end-to-end to better achieve goals and compete in today’s business ecosystem. What we mean by “end-to-end” is integrating all inbound and outbound data flows to enable the visibility to effectively track the entire order life cycle, automate workflows, proactively troubleshoot problems, and meet customer SLAs.

Such IT modernization, with the secure data movement and data transformation capabilities that enable all manner of application and EDI integration, vastly improves important revenue-generating processes, including order to cash, load tender to invoice, and procure to pay.

Examples of IT Modernization

Today’s businesses can modernize in variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common in 2018 include:

  • ERP replacement: Electronic Resource Planning systems are the information backbone of most companies, and upgrading to a new solution (whether cloud-based or on-premise) is increasingly common as more ERP products that better align to a company’s vision hit the market.
  • AS/400 decommissioning: The IBM iSeries AS/400 has been a highly dependable software solution across industries for decades, but a lack of product knowledge and integration capabilities have many companies phasing it out in favor of a more modern, user-friendly platform.
  • Mergers and acquisitions/divestitures: When businesses merge, a whole bunch of systems and processes come together under one proverbial roof, and the business often chooses to consolidate many of them onto a single integration platform. Conversely, when a divestiture happens, one or more of the divested organizations may be left without a proper EDI technology (and its associated resources), for example, and have to procure and implement a managed-service solution.
  • Replacing a legacy EDI solution: The standardized EDI format and digital file transfer transformed B2B communications when it replaced paper documents, and EDI still very much drives global commerce today. But many aging EDI solutions, including EDI VANs, cannot deliver the modern governance, visibility, and integration capabilities in a cost-effective way that supports such important revenue-generating data flows.
  • Migrating homegrown integration tools: The custom-built solutions that facilitate your data flows are too often pieced together by layers of hand code that is development-intensive, hinders partner onboarding, and limits scalability and growth. Modern B2B integration platforms provide out-of-the-box functionality so you spend less time managing the data minutiae and more time managing your core business functions.

Best Practices for IT Modernization

When modernizing IT systems, organizations are looking to replace or improve upon existing functionality via a more simplified workflow. And, thus, it’s critically important to thoroughly understand the source system in order to properly implement the new one. Only then can businesses properly evaluate project and business needs, and lay out the goals, timeline, and overall vision for the modernization initiative.

Once these are fully understood and the migration roadmap becomes clear, organizations can carve out time and resources to:

  • Develop new processes that fit your company’s current business patterns and culture
  • Consult with partners and thoroughly scope the extent of map development
  • Go through multiple development iterations and testing cycles to ensure a successful go-live

Services Teams for IT Modernization

Before any IT modernization happens, a host of expertise is needed to understand existing data flows and the downstream effects of any application upgrade. Some organizations may have internal resources who best understand specific data movement patterns and others may lack those resources. Either way, modernization and system migration are no small undertakings, and most organizations require at least some help.

Professional services teams are integration experts have vast experience with all type of IT modernization. Such resources are invaluable to the overall modernization effort and will help expedite the process. Professional services teams are extremely beneficial, for instance, when:

  • Legacy system specs are outdated and require a lot of interpretation.
  • The project requires additional development cycles because the organization is constantly “finding” new requirements.
  • Customers lack knowledge of existing processes and need assistance with analysis.

These experts also are highly capable of advising on best practices and implementing process improvements, and their advice could be the difference between a direct, seamless ERP integration instead of indirect integration with intermediate tables.

Modernize Your Business

IT modernization helps drive business growth and strategy across various departments, and it frees up internal IT resources to focus on the bigger picture – the company’s core service. But IT modernization is difficult and encompasses a number of technologies, people, and processes that make the business run.

The very definition of a legacy application, as defined by Gartner, is “an information system that may be based on outdated technologies, but is critical to day-to-day operations.” But because such solutions are so critical to the enterprise, companies often put up with the hefty time, maintenance, and support costs rather than modernize for fear of business disruption, often to the detriment of the business.

Still, you don’t want to be the business carrying the proverbial pager while everyone else has a smartphone. When the time is right for IT modernization, confiding in a professional services team will help understand your needs, simplify the effort, and accelerate the process.

What the Modern Enterprise Should Know About B2B Integration

Well before businesses ever start selling, transacting, and doing business with their customers, they must sell, transact, and do business with other businesses. The need to digitally connect and communicate quickly and reliably with other organizations – retailers, manufacturers, shippers, etc. – is why business-to-business (B2B) integration technologies are increasingly in demand.

While it’s important to facilitate these critical data exchange requirements through modern business and system integration strategies, B2B is also very difficult to do, which is why so many companies use cloud managed services for their specialized B2B processes. Before deciding on a solution, however, it’s important for the enterprise to first understand all that B2B integration entails, the direction B2B integration technologies are headed, and how they can improve their revenue-driving business processes using these solutions.

What is B2B Integration (B2Bi)?

A good B2B integration definition isn’t hard to find online, but we wanted to simplify it as much as possible: B2B integration, or B2Bi for short, is the automated business communication between two or more organizations. It’s the comprehensive digital strategy that enables business process automation and the foundation for businesses to integrate their critical applications.

Today’s global business ecosystem requires companies to connect, communicate, and collaborate with:

  • Customers
  • Partners
  • Suppliers
  • Service vendors

So why do we need B2B integration? For one, every organization takes its own approach to exchanging files and messages with their trading partners. That means each business uses a distinct mix of systems, cloud, and applications that require various format, B2B protocols, and security and governance considerations. B2B integration helps these disparate technologies – which don’t inherently communicate with each other – communicate and seamlessly exchange business-critical information within and across business lines.

The ultimate goal of B2B integration, then, is to improve external logistic workflows and system integration throughout the supply chain and the value chain. But B2B integration also sets the table for end-to-end process execution – including business process management (BPM), supply chain visibility, and global community management – for comprehensive control of your important business data exchanges.

How Does B2B Integration Work?

Business integration starts with pulling information from an internal source application and transferring it to an end external application via a secure data movement and integration platform. The nature of technology today means that one or both of these applications could be cloud-based, on-premise, or hybrid – a combination of both. Furthermore, B2B services and platform providers must also support cloud integration and hybrid integration scenarios.

Here are the four components of a standard B2B integration process.

 No. 1: Source Application

B2B integration begins by extracting information out of your front-end business application. This document could be a purchase order (PO) from your ERP system or a specific retail store’s monthly sales figures from a point-of-sale (POS) system. How the data gets pulled out, however, depends on the application itself, whether it’s a SaaS solution or is deployed on servers behind your own firewall.

Some software solutions provide APIs for this step, and some use traditional middleware technology. But a modern B2B integration solution should be able to flexibly connect to the application through whatever method it allows, so it can begin preparing the data to be transmitted to the external business partner.

No. 2: Data Format

The part about technologies not natively communicating with each other is never more evident than in the payload format. That’s because not all data is standardized. Business systems and applications produce and store information in their own proprietary formats (iDoc or flat file, for instance), which usually must be converted into EDI, XML, CSV, JSON, and other standardized formats to allow for integration into an ERP, TMS, CRM or other enterprise system of record.

Many industries also require their own specific formats, and even those could vary depending on their location. Global companies who source materials and transact with geo-located retailers, distributors, and logistics organizations require support for a breadth of data formats so the target application can automatically ingest it and data can keep flowing efficiently. It’s why data transformation and mapping is so critical in a B2B integration solution.

No. 3: Transport Protocol

Much like a CB, walkie-talkie, or other radio communication device, both parties must agree on a communication channel, or protocol, to exchange information. A trading partner (and even industry) most often will dictate the transport mechanism, but determining how to send a message (in the proper format, over the internet) ultimately requires an assessment of the payload:

  • Does it contain sensitive information?
  • Do you need confirmation that it was received?
  • How big is the file?
  • How fast does it have to get there?

From AS2, SFTP, HTTPs, Web Services, and even proprietary high-speed file transfer methods, there are a number of advanced protocols out there to facilitate data exchange. But companies using B2B integration solutions that support any protocol are more agile and more business-friendly.

No. 4: Target Application

The final step in a B2B integration involves the target application, in which your trading partner receives and processes the data sent making it readable and able to be integrated into their core business systems. The target application must then be able to reliably transform the data from the original standardized format back into one that’s accessible and ingested throughout the ecosystem. Many organizations offer web portals for easier uploading and exchange and also to automatically execute the transformation process and application ingestion.

For years, business communications were human-oriented; things like fax and email were the primary means of exchanging business data. But through consistent modernization efforts, pushed by the increasing emphasis on digital automation along with evolving B2B integration patterns – and the various components needed to accommodate them – it’s easy to see that enterprises are rapidly adapting and enhancing their approach to B2B in order to keep up with the speed of modern business.

Today, these four components are delivered by a B2B integration platform that collects data from source applications, transforms it into the proper format, and delivers it to the target application using the appropriate transport mechanism. In doing so, the platform also serves two key types of integration.

2 Types of B2B Integration

There are two key types of B2B integration: data-level integration and people-level integration. We’ve mostly talked about data-level at this point, but it’s also critically important to consider the human role of integration.

Data-Level Integration

Data-level integration is the automated document exchange between external applications, which could include all transactions in an order-to-cash or load-tender-to-invoice process, for example. Integrating at this level requires a high degree of automation for connecting using a secure protocol, for the electronic exchange of data, and for the data transformation processes that convert documents into a format readable by each trading partner’s application.

People-Level Integration

People-level integration enables B2B collaboration among people in different companies during business processes, such as dispute resolution, trading partner onboarding, and other customer support scenarios. This level of integration demands various trading partner management capabilities to manage profiles (and enable your partners to do it themselves) and also capture and share data related to performance. People-level integration tools enabling traceability and audit control come in handy for improved relationship management, including dispute resolution, chargeback situations, any missed SLAs, and other issues that require heavy collaboration.

B2B Integration Example in Real Life

A retail order-to-cash scenario reflects typical B2B integration concepts. A big-box retailer like Walmart looking to buy cereal from Kellogg’s creates an EDI data flow looks like this:

  1. Walmart preps an order in its ERP or purchasing system. The order is pulled out and translated into an EDI document: an 850 Purchase Order.
  2. The 850 is then securely transmitted to Kellogg’s via the internet (over AS2, for instance) and processed by Kellogg’s.
  3. Kellogg’s sends back a 997 Functional Acknowledgement (and/or an 855 EDI Purchase Order Acknowledgement to provide fulfillment status) to confirm the order was received.
  4. After processing the order, Kellogg’s sends an 856 Advance Shipping Notice over the same AS2 connection to let Walmart know what’s coming.
  5. Walmart receives the 856, sends a 997, and then integrates the 856 into its back-end ERP and prepares to receive shipment.
  6. Once Kellogg’s ships the order, it sends an 810 Invoice is sent to Walmart and Walmart returns a 997.
  7. Walmart sends an 820 Payment Order to Kellogg’s to confirm payment details, and another 997 goes back to Walmart to acknowledge document receipt.

This simple order kicks off additional B2B integration processes for both buyer and seller, including converting an 850 into a 940 Warehouse Shipping Order, and leverages the same data movement and transformation capabilities to electronically communicate with other distribution, warehousing, and fulfillment applications.

The Challenges with Existing B2B Integration Technology

Traditional B2B integration tools like VANs and homegrown solutions are slow, inflexible, and typically expensive to maintain, and alternatives like iPaaS solutions are mainly focused on solving developer-level API-based integration problems. There also are a ton of B2B integration vendors out there that can deliver a fair amount of useful technology, but most can’t support every modern format, protocol, or governance need to meet EDI B2B integration and other business integration requirements.

But the heavy lifting of today’s B2B communications requires a more modern approach that goes beyond integration “tools” that are fit for purpose. Today’s enterprises have a greater thirst for how their critical data flows fit into the broader context of the business, and they demand an experience that helps connect how these specialized B2B processes drive overall business revenue and goals.

But most existing B2B integration technologies can’t deliver the experience customers are seeking and actually create more obstacles to adoption. On that note, here are the 10 main challenges most business face in trying to solve B2B integration with deficient technology today:

  1. It’s intimidating
  2. It’s inefficient
  3. It lacks business content
  4. It lacks business context
  5. It’s opaque
  6. It offers limited business controls
  7. It has weak collaboration tools
  8. It gives inadequate business insights
  9. It facilitates poor interactions
  10. It lacks personalized content

If vendors could plug these gaps, more organizations could improve their B2B integration processes and gain quantifiable outcomes oriented to the business.

How Companies Benefit from Improved B2B Integration

Because the need for B2B integration is so ubiquitous, an organization’s industry, size, or location will not exclude anyone from reaping the benefits of B2B integration.

Benefits by Industry

Additional Benefits

In addition to the automation, multi-protocol support, and application integration benefits, organizations deploying a robust B2B integration platform also gain:

  • Improved partner onboarding: Reduce manual processes, bring on new customers faster, and increase team productivity
  • Expanded governance: Ensure the secure integration of your data, and meet stringent government and industry compliance regulations.
  • Comprehensive visibility: A centralized view of revenue-driving B2B processes provides actionable intelligence to the enterprise, enabling more responsiveness and better customer service.

How As-a-Service Solutions Improve B2B Integration

Businesses require a reliable and agile way to enable electronic interactions between organizations and their ecosystem, but managing these B2B systems and the specialized talent to run them is a challenge most organizations are no longer willing to take on.

Modern B2B integration involves a technology approach that combines software and integration expertise to provide organizations a frictionless way to achieve their B2B integration needs. An ecosystem-driven cloud integration strategy built for the cloud-first organization, flexible B2B integration is a more comprehensive alternative to the traditional cloud managed services offerings that fail to deliver on the B2B expertise, the robust capabilities, and the visibility companies demand.

This style of B2B integration puts the complexities of data processes like EDI – including owning and maintaining complex software, infrastructure, processes, and talent – into the hands of the experts while giving companies visibility into the process to monitor and act on critical B2B communications as needed. It’s all the robust data movement and data transformation capabilities underneath, and all the visibility, governance, and collaboration on the surface, tied neatly together via a single platform.

The Future of B2B Integration

The time and resources organizations will be able to devote to their complex yet critical B2B integration processes will continue to diminish, and businesses will further seek to hand the heavy B2B lifting off to seasoned integration professionals.

The enterprise of the future will no longer struggle to facilitate frictionless, fluid interactions with its most important business partners. It will no longer have to prolong time to value in adding new business because it can’t support a customer’s requested data format or protocol. It will no longer lack critical business intelligence – gone is the guesswork of how to interpret reports and dashboard data surrounding key revenue-driving business processes.

And thus, the future of B2B integration is more than just technology; it’s an intuitive, self-service experience that reliably executes the critical data exchanges and enables real-time interaction and business agility. The future of B2B integration also encompasses the confidence in knowing that you cannot connect anytime, anywhere and do business faster and better than the competition.

Why Cleo Integration Cloud

Cleo Integration Cloud combines service and technology to provide the most flexible and frictionless way to exchange B2B data. A cutting-edge ecosystem-driven cloud integration platform focused on creating value at the edges of business networks, Cleo Integration Cloud shields organizations from the complexities of multi-enterprise and application integration, and further enables the real-time visibility and governance required to gain insight and control across important partner and customer relationships. See a demo today.

How to Tackle B2B Data Exchange with B2B Integration as a Service

The exchange of information and documents, such as orders and invoices with customers and trading partners, is the lifeblood of modern businesses. Simply put, commerce cannot happen without it. But while these transactions are critical, the business information inside them also is critical and extremely valuable to the organization.

Yet for too long, business content has been trapped inside EDI and other technically complex systems that only a few people in the company can understand. Like drinking business insights through a straw, this leads to intense pressure on technical teams to interpret and communicate out updates to the business and the trading partner community. This process also introduces severe inefficiencies for the rest of the company as key stakeholders wait to get important information they need to drive the business.

The fact is, not everyone is an expert in EDI and B2B data exchange, and most people outside your IT teams do not care about the actual integration processes. What these personas do care about is the information and insights within these transferred files.

With so much riding on the business data exchanges, it makes sense that the key personnel in your company, no matter what their role, can understand what’s inside those documents and how it’s affecting the organization. They need access to the order, shipping, or pricing information that’s trapped in the EDI document because it has a real impact on the business.

But that hasn’t been the case historically. In most companies, key business stakeholders can’t glean such information because the systems are extremely complex and not user-friendly. They likely couldn’t do much with system access even if they had it. Traditional integration systems show these thousands and millions of data transfers that run in the background of your organization, but they fail to surface their impact on the business that key C-level execs and other non-IT types can understand in a non-intimidating way.

Key stakeholders can see that things are being moved, but they would rather know what’s being moved. And that’s where traditional B2B integration technologies continue to shortchange users.

Organizations demand a better way to access information in an efficient way the entire company will understand, and B2B-integration-as-a-service offerings continue to raise the bar on such consumable content by delivering proper business content and context.

The Need for Business Content

Too many managed file transfer (MFT) and integration tools simply tell users that they received 1,000 EDI messages, with little detail on the content within them. It’s a bit like the postal service, which moves packages around without ever knowing what’s inside each box. And they don’t have to know, because it’s not their job.

It is, however, your business executives’ job to know the business function these file transfers are enabling. The data inside EDI and other documents tells so much more than a simple file transfer record could ever tell, and the value inside these transactions has been inaccessible.

Your CEO, for instance, probably cares less about the number of B2B data exchanges daily and more about the business impact of those data exchanges. Thus, he or she would need to know what’s in the document and know whether it’s:

  • A $1 million order for a major trading partner, such as Walmart or Target
  • Associated with a first-time customer and can help identify the status of that customer’s onboarding experience
  • A recurring invoice problem stemming from a once-reliable business connection

It’s important that your B2B integration vendor understands that to the business user, the stats jumping off the dashboard and reporting tools are so much more than just packages moving around. These figures represent the state of the business and provide valuable information about your B2B community.

Modern B2B integration services allow all types of users to understand a given document in a language familiar to the sales, executive and marketing teams, as well as the IT and technical types. That’s why user-defined rules within your B2B integration platform enable configurable business content, so users can expose as much or as little business content for various people.

Surfacing content within these critical revenue-generating data flows enables more people to understand what’s driving the business, but it also requires business context.

(Data) Relationship Advice

Business context, or the circumstances and relationships associated with a particular purchase order, invoice, or another document, helps key personnel fully understand that document’s role in relation to a wider business process and assess its significance.

Consider each individual headline on a scrolling news ticker. You know that there was a car chase on a nearby highway, for instance, or that a flash flood warning was issued for your area, but more details are required to grasp the scope of the situation and understand its impact on your life.

With so many documents flowing through various systems and applications inside the enterprise, the linkage between order, invoice, shipping, and other updates are unclear at best and easily lost at worst. Your internal personnel can waste valuable time trying to track down whether an invoice associated with an order has been sent or whether the order has been shipped.

In global commerce today, showing an order in relative context to the broader data exchange process it is a part of – the “where is it in the workflow at this exact moment?” aspect – helps critical personnel view it within the entire lifecycle of order-to-cash, load-tender-to-invoice, and other key business processes.

And it’s essential because one business “process” often includes multiple, interconnected transactions. A standard EDI purchase order, for instance, is just one transaction in a larger order-to-cash process that looks something like this:

B2B Business Process

Instead of looking at documents individually as merely documents and treating every document equally, great B2B integration dashboards automatically make the connections for us. They provide the relationships between individual files within a lifecycle, such as showing the relationship between an order and its associated shipping notice and invoice, and aggregating such business context paints a high-level picture for the executive-types as well.

When users don’t have to tie things together themselves, the system becomes less intimidating, easier to use, and more likely to gain adoption. Just like using a calculator means we don’t have to show our work in solving a math problem, a B2B integration platform has done the proverbial math for us and churns out the business context we sought all along.

The Benefits of a B2B Integration Platform

B2B integration technology was built to rigidly solve problems and doesn’t always provide the best user experience, but it’s partially because the dashboards and visibility tools lack in providing the right business content in the right business context.

A B2B integration platform not only delivers a backbone of robust integration technology to manage the heavy lifting of data movement and data transformation, but it also efficiently surfaces highly relevant information about the data being transferred in a digestible way for users of varying skill sets and organizational roles. By providing the business content and context in a way that anyone in the organization can understand, a B2B integration platform removes the bottleneck that happens when only one subset of people can access information inside EDI documents and opens up insights for the rest of the organization.

Additionally, content-rich and context-heavy views within a B2B integration platform enable users to understand a file transfer’s broader business trends and insights, and obtain further business value right out of the integration system, including:

  • What types of sales are going up?
  • Are transfer errors trending down?
  • Did we improve our SLAs last quarter?
  • Which trading partners are hustling for us?

When B2B integration tools can easily explain how the massive volumes of integration data relate to each other and how they relate back to critical business goals, it makes the behind-the-scenes data exchange and integration activity more valuable and more meaningful to the organization.

In the next part of our blog series on the shortfalls of typical B2B integration technology, discover how typical solutions provide limited visibility and poor insights regarding your important B2B transactions.

How EMS Companies Like Kimball Electronics Use MFT Within High-Tech Manufacturing

Integration Benefits for Kimball Electronics

  • FTP consolidation
  • Multi-protocol support
  • SAP integration

Inside that portable tool charger, that air conditioner, that thermal imaging system, that “infotainment” display and airbag inside your car, and even that X-ray machine in your nearest radiology department, is an electronics circuit board or assembly built by Kimball Electronics.

Electronic manufacturing services (EMS) companies like Indiana-based Kimball Electronics design, test, manufacture, and service electronic parts for original equipment manufacturers. With an uptick in demand for technology innovation across global markets, the EMS industry has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Spun off by Kimball International in 2015, Kimball Electronics has been at the forefront of that resurgence, having been consistently recognized by customers and trade experts for its quality, reliability, and service. And that’s no easy accomplishment, given that Kimball’s reach crisscrosses industries and the world, with manufacturing operations in North America, Asia, and Europe.

To successfully enable on-time deliverables for defibrillators, ultrasound equipment, and respiratory monitors, HVAC and optics assemblies, and electronic power steering and vehicle telematics systems, Kimball Electronics must leverage a variety of communication channels to comply with countless international mandates and file transfer requirements.

How to Modernize IT Systems

Kimball Electronics produces printed circuit boards and electronic assemblies and also executes much of the design, engineering, prototyping, testing, and packaging. The electronics manufacturing organization, then, requires file transfer support to move the data needed to build customer widgets, and to connect with financial institutions and credit card companies for payment remittance.

Kimball Electronics has been in business for more than half a century, and like many of today’s organizations seeking digital transformation to better compete, relied on multiple legacy systems and applications supporting its B2B processes for too long. Kimball Electronics’ previous file transfer solutions, which consisted of an out-of-support FTP server and a Microsoft FTP tool, were on the way out in favor of more modern capabilities.

With so many systems and applications accumulating over time – many of which were one-trick ponies that couldn’t support all the protocols Kimball Electronics wanted – the EMS company decide it was time to modernize IT systems and retire the “spaghetti” infrastructure for good.

FTP Replacement

And so began the search for a managed file transfer (MFT) and B2B integration platform that could support AS2, FTP, SFTP, and SSH/FTPS and could integrate its document management system from SAP to support the critical flow of financial files.

The question boiled down ultimately to this: “How do we effectively consolidate FTP solutions and modernize our data movement infrastructure?”

According to Jim Sitzman, application developer at Kimball Electronics, the EMS company sought “a single-source provider that can easily make AS2 and SFTP transfers and provides a wide range of protocols for any future needs.”

The electronics manufacturing organization also desired a simpler solution for users and for business partners, with automated self-service and user creation features, “something that could decentralize the maintenance of the user authorization and business partner setup,” said Lynn Scheu, Kimball’s director of IT system support.

Finding the best data movement software that could meet all its file transfer requirements, while certainly difficult, was not impossible.

MFT for Electronics Manufacturing

Kimball Electronics discovered a leading MFT platform supporting multiple protocols, SAP application integration, and the automation of file-based workflows meant the electronics manufacturer could consolidate its FTP servers and provide a better experience for its customers and trading partners.

All the multi-enterprise document exchange that enabled Kimball Electronics to deliver engineering and supply chain support, rapid prototyping for industrial electronic assemblies, and electronic components for automotive safety systems and the like became part of a streamlined, B2B integration engine that could communicate with any trading partner and deliver full visibility into its data flows.

The company gained:

  • Support for the advanced protocols it needs to communicate with a global network of partners, suppliers, and customers
  • A web-based front-end system and portal that facilitates easy customer uploads and dramatically reduces manual document processing
  • An intuitive data movement solution that internal users without vast technical skills can understand.

“The ease with which administration can be done with a web UI is a big win for our administrators,” Scheu said.

Why MFT?

What if I can’t deliver design specs on time? What if my parts don’t arrive when needed? What if I can’t access a banking network and we don’t get paid?

These are the types of things Kimball Electronics no longer worries about after deploying an industry-leading MFT and B2B integration platform and gaining renewed confidence in its communication capabilities and its ability to manage its important data flows. The EMS provider consolidated FTP tools, regained control of who it could do business with, and automated various manual processes, including the ability to ingest files into SAP.

Modern communication methods and standardized integration technology drive so many critical B2B processes today, and Kimball Electronics has streamlined those processes to improve its ability to manufacture durable electronic goods on a global scale.

From the Blog

Measuring the Value of Your iPaaS in Ecosystems

Published December 13, 2018

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