It’s no secret that modern business requires companies to be able to easily trade with one another. 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 a slow connecting and transacting implementation.
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 trading partner onboarding process. Companies without software that enables successful and efficient trading partner onboarding will find that potential customers are choosing their competition without any hesitation. Additionally, the sooner you get your customers and trading partners onboarded, the quicker you can turn a profit and make money.
If any customers or trading partners describe your trading partner onboarding processes as slow, complicated, or challenging, odds are you have a B2B onboarding problem. So, how can you remedy that, improve your onboarding, and become easier to do business with?
In this post, trading partner onboarding and B2B partner onboarding should be considered interchangeable.
Table of Contents
- What is B2B Partner Onboarding?
- Why is Efficient Trading Partner Onboarding Important?
- 5 Symptoms of Poor B2B Partner Onboarding
- 3 Ways Integration Can Help Your Trading Partner Onboarding Processes
- 5 Benefits of Automated B2B Partner Onboarding
Simply put, partner onboarding is the process of signing up new partners with your organization, such as customers, carriers, suppliers, etc. It's a more or less complicated process of gathering, validating, and consolidating partner data and documentation that must be integrated into your existing systems. B2B partner onboarding refers to things like the configuration of a partner’s EDI profile and/or building out the necessary maps to send and receive data. The goal when onboarding any new trading partner is to maximize the potential of each relationship from the beginning of the onboard, starting by connecting to that partner quickly and accurately.
Every single trading partner is going to have different requirements when it comes to onboarding. Failing to meet those requirements on time often results in a reduction in new sales and lost revenue opportunities.
In short, slow, or inefficient trading partner onboarding can be crippling to a business.
In contrast, efficient onboarding differentiates outstanding organizations from good ones. It reinforces their brand, increases customer retention, and propels growth.
Efficient onboarding means getting to business faster and accelerating time-to-revenue.
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 correctly implemented.
Companies that have a trading 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 lack 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, leading 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.
Unfortunately, companies with a slow and time-consuming onboarding process will not grow as fast as their competition. Companies must be able to get their trading partners up (or replaced) quickly, else they risk lost revenue in the time it takes to do so.
Here are 5 common symptoms of a broken trading partner onboarding process.
1. You Can’t Accept and Route Partner Data
The most fundamental ability you must-have when it comes to your business ecosystem is the ability to integrate and exchange data, as your bottom line depends on the ability to execute B2B transactions. But that means you must support all the secure communication protocols (AS2, AS3, SFTP, and more) as well as the EDI and non-EDI formats that your trading partners use.
It also means integrating those external B2B processes with your internal systems, so you can automatically orchestrate and route data for end-to-end processing.
That’s often a struggle because, over time, businesses accumulate many different systems, technologies, and processes, which are siloed and do not natively communicate with one another. Companies with outdated legacy and custom-coded systems will be unable to support new partner requirements and newer integrations with SaaS applications, such as Salesforce and NetSuite.
2. Your Integrations Are Becoming Increasingly Difficult Manage
When a company is attempting to onboard a new trading partner, the typical process often requires a bit of custom coding. Each trading partner or customer has a very specialized and unique set of requirements that organizations must accommodate. Many organizations find that manually customizing partner requirements slow their ability to connect with those trading partners and effectively conduct business.
If it is taking you a couple of weeks simply to start doing business with a trading partner, that is also a couple of weeks of lost revenue. One-off B2B integrations that are custom-built for each trading partner lead to countless hours spent trying to manually support and maintain them, and there’s no central visibility into the associated data flows and integration processes.
3. Your Integration Service is Slow to Respond and Becoming Expensive
A common approach when organizations are faced with an IT skills shortage has been to outsource. Managed service vendors and VANs are designed to provide the skills and expertise for complex data communication processes. Unfortunately, these services also are limited in what they can adequately provide to support your B2B needs.
The reality is that many service providers can be slow to respond, especially if they’re serving various clients, and these services end up being pretty expensive as the costs to add new connections or modify existing connections mount. Enterprises are also giving up a certain level of control when they outsource, which can become problematic if you don’t have visibility.
Additionally, you’re at the whim of your service provider and may not be able to address issues as fast as you could if the technology was under your umbrella. These can lead to delays in critical onboarding processes and revenue.
4. Your Partner and Customer Relationships Are at Risk Due to Missed SLAs
From data loss or inaccuracies and slow transaction delivery times to incorrect file formats, there are many ways a company can violate a customer SLA. Those risks are elevated when businesses rely on legacy technologies that cannot reliably communicate with their customers and partners.
Modern integration technology is designed to ensure you stay compliant with your business ecosystem, even having alerts in place to let you know if any files go missing or errors are triggered. Conversely, because a legacy environment can get so customized, it’s difficult to monitor data flows and understand where the errors are occurring, meaning you’re in the dark on what’s jeopardizing your trading partner relationships.
5. Your Connections are Heavily Customized
Typical onboarding processes require a heavy amount of custom partner configuration to meet the unique requirements of each new customer. According to a recent market survey, 63 percent of respondents admitted that manually customizing partner requirements slows down the rate at which they can do business with that partner.
Those same companies surveyed would often take 2 to 4 weeks just to start doing business with a new trading partner. That greatly reduces the rate that an enterprise can acquire new business revenue while also potentially slowing the organization’s overall business operations.
If any of these five symptoms of trading partner onboarding sound a little too familiar to you, that’s OK. Advanced ecosystem integration technology enables you to improve on those poor onboarding processes in a way that supports the modern business.
When your business upgrades its integration capabilities, it simplifies its onboarding processes and becomes that much easier to do business with. So, how can your business gain credibility and achieve “preferred vendor” status?
Below are 3 Ways Integration Can Help Your Partner Onboarding Processes.
Every one of your trading partners is going to have different needs that you must deliver, and modern enterprises must leverage multi-protocol support, pre-built project templates, and enhanced visibility to accommodate those partners and optimize the relationships.
1. Support 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 to support a different protocol; you’ll have each at your fingertips.
2. Use 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, 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 can automatically generate and customize any integration projects.
This allows you to quickly build out even more complex transformation initiatives in a shorter amount of time.
3. Increases 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.
To maintain healthy and successful relationships with your trading partners, you must 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.
Onboarding is a very early and very critical step for participating in a business ecosystem, and the onboarding process must be quick and efficient.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customers or trading partners: They chose your business to help them improve their own business, and they want to reap the partnership benefits sooner than later. Few will be happy if it takes weeks or even days to get going.
Having the right integration technology in place enables you to automatically onboard the members of your business ecosystem faster so you can focus on delivering business value to your organization. Let your competitors waste their resources on arduous and manual onboarding tasks while you kick-start your B2B relationships with ease and in just a few hours.
Below, you will find some positive outcomes that are made possible by an efficient and automated trading partner onboarding process.
If your business needs to enter new markets faster to maximize earnings potential, automating trading partner onboarding can make all the difference. When we say automating, we mean completely getting rid of all those manual, time-consuming processes.
Once you’ve made the smart decision to improve the way your partner onboarding is done, you will immediately begin to see the benefits. For example, your business will:
- Cut the amount of time it takes to onboard new partners
- Reduce errors from manual data entry
- Save money and resources with a well-designed plan
- Get visibility into the onboarding process
- Extend a repeatable process to future partners
End Result? A Better Customer Experience. Better Business.
When you can onboard your customers quickly through automation, you are already putting your best foot forward. First impressions go a long way towards customer satisfaction and being able to accelerate the onboarding process can be the critical start to a long and fruitful relationship with the members of your digital ecosystem.
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.