In 2020, digital transformation has accelerated so quickly that companies are either pulling further ahead or falling further behind than their competition than they were before the pandemic.
Those companies with legacy business models are struggling to keep up with the pace of customer demand, and find themselves unable to offer a sufficient customer experience.
With that being said, given the current environment and trends around digital transformation growth, we can’t think of a more appropriate topic to discuss than why you should move your integration solution to the cloud.
Table of Contents
1.1. Business Agility
Here are the top five business reasons you can make today that your business should migrate integration to the cloud.
If COVID-19 has taught business leaders anything, it’s that agility is mandatory for survival. The only constant, especially in a year like 2020, is change. Business agility is the capability of a business to be adaptive, flexible, and creative through a changing environment. Agile businesses respond quickly to opportunities or threats, whether they are internal or external.
Throughout the current pandemic, organizations have had to respond rapidly and flexibly to meet customer demands because consumer behavior has changed significantly. Companies that adjusted the quickest after the 2008 recession focused outside-in by, taking their cues from what was really happening in their markets. Similarly today, shifting integration solutions to the cloud enables users to see their business operations from the outside-in, deploy applications quicker, and to be able to connect and adapt to change by evolving their digital ecosystem quicker than their competitors through cloud-based APIs.
When companies embrace a modern integration platform, they no longer have to worry about the hassles of software maintenance and manual upgrades to the latest software, enabling the IT department to focus on other important issues. A centralized cloud integration platform really capitalizes on an EDI translator that can accept and transform EDI, but also other data formats such as XML and flat files to move data to other systems or applications.
As businesses evolve, the support models are evolving alongside them, including drop-shipping, omnichannel retail, and eCommerce. Speaking of eCommerce, given increasing rates of adoption right now, all the more reason companies should consider a modern platform with more dynamic integration capabilities. That’s why it’s more common for companies to adopt subscription-based cloud technologies in order to drive those initiatives.
While EDI is a standardized format for the movement and transformation of data, more often than not the members of a company’s digital ecosystem will each have their own EDI transaction sets that a company must support, so there are always going to be variations. EDI can vary from company to company and industry to industry, especially when a company has a large number of trading partners, or is relying on outdated EDI software that cannot scale to support all of the data requirements needed as a business grows.
In 2020, a company must have the ability to scale its business, handle new trading partners, and onboard quickly. When companies are still relying on a legacy environment, they are going to quickly find that managing rapid growth actually puts a strain on the business processes and systems. And being unprepared can lead to increased outages and downtime, which impacts continuity and relationships with customers and trading partners.
Cloud-based workflows and file-sharing applications allow for not only real-time updates, but they also provide full visibility into your business processes. As a business grows and becomes more and more complex, the amount of data that a company collects increases exponentially. In order to handle all of that new data, many companies find that they are only ‘rubber-banding’ solutions together. That’s why when you look at eCommerce and all the application integration that is so prevalent today, an end-to-end view is completely necessary. And when you have a centralized integration platform, one that can handle both API and EDI integrations equally well, it really provides a holistic view for your company to make data-driven decisions.
When you’re discussing OpEx versus CapEx, a cloud integration platform allows you to use remote resources that can save your organization the cost of servers and other equipment, as well as people to manage all of those resources. This is one way a company can cut out the high cost of hardware, and enjoy a subscription-based model that is not only kind to your cash flow, but it’s also predictable so you can budget for it, which CIOs always appreciate.
Once you’ve made the business case for a cloud migration, what specific use cases and initiatives are customers taking advantage of, once in the cloud?
Re-platforming is generally driven by an ERP replacement or the decommissioning of an AS/400. Businesses will look for your platform because they need to improve the level of integration between their current ERP system and other mission-critical applications, such as a CRM or eCommerce warehouse management system or supply chain portal.
The integration between multiple modules and functional business areas often will require complex interfaces. Programming and custom coding is needed to achieve a workable level of integration, however during a re-platform migration project, it really allows for a close look at the current state of your business processes.
You can map out the bottlenecks within your business processes, and determine where the waste is occurring from a lack of data integration. From there, you can look at how you can streamline your complex legacy processes and develop new processes as well. Really, an ERP project is a platform for continuous improvement, and data integration can help companies achieve key business outcomes, such as improving customer service, reducing lead time, raising business quality, and gaining higher productivity.
The most common scenario companies encounter when moving to the cloud is replacing a legacy EDI and B2B system. Being able to bridge the gap from a traditional EDI model ensures you have full connectivity, visibility, and support for non-standard document syntaxes. When you’re modernizing your EDI platform, it’s going to provide that flexibility and scalability for a full and comprehensive end-to-end solution.
Many enterprises have turned to a modernized EDI platform because with it there is a shift from tools to outcomes, which is what really drives success. In fact, there are some companies out there that spend upwards of 2,500 hours a year simply building, maintaining, and updating scripts, work that would be completely eliminated if they modernized their current system. Today’s EDI processes support high-value revenue production, which further helps generate the type of business outcomes that you are looking for. But it’s critical that you be able to communicate and exchange data with your business ecosystem, fully confident that your systems is reliable to support your growth.
When you look at the key activities in developing map specifications, i.e., the logical maps to and from sourcing your target, determine what are the business processes, and which are the ones that need to develop map patterns and deployments. From there, you can review the existing processes and determine which connections need to be migrated to the cloud and where do you have an opportunity to improve processes when reviewing the existing processes.
The most common scenario around application integration revolves around expanding into eCommerce or integrating into a new CRM or financial system. The first key activity regarding application integration is transforming the data into the format that is needed for APIs as well as developing an orchestration for unique data flows. One of the biggest benefits for modern EDI cloud solutions is that it can integrate with other business systems and applications quickly, so you can automate processes such as order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, or load-tender-to-invoice.
Traditional EDI systems usually are pretty rigid, and you can only perform certain EDI tasks that cannot natively integrate with an ERP or CRM for end-to-end processing. So it becomes very time consuming, inefficient, and noticeably unscalable. When you modernize your EDI solution, one of the primary benefits comes from an application connector. Being able to leverage an Amazon Marketplace connector, for example, lets you digitally have end-to-end business processes that allows you to eliminate the complex API flow for data and transactions, product items, and more.
An application connector also allows enterprises to easily add, update, query, and delete information with Amazon Marketplace, and then integrate that to their ERP and CRM fulfillment systems so that they can align data between their front-end and back-end systems. Just thinking about Amazon, which really maintains stringent guidelines for fulfilling orders, if you are not EDI compliant with Amazon, you run the risk of having not only unreliable data that is costly in and of itself, but this can also translate into costliness in the form of a chargeback or late ASN
In summary, it’s the needs and opportunity of the business that should drive technology buying decisions, not the other way around. No company should have to conform to constraints presented by legacy systems, especially in a post-recession boom where moving applications to the cloud is becoming commonplace. Simply move your integration into the cloud so your business can turn on a dime, and you’ll be well positioned to capitalize on today’s change-driven markets.