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Think Tank: B2B Integration | Curing & Preventing Business Pain

Frank Kenney
A pill filled with coins mirrors the idea that B2B integration is a cure for business ailments

Welcome to the Think Tank with Frank Kenney

With decades of analyst and integration industry experience, Frank Kenney is a fountain of knowledge on all things tech. Now, he aims to share that awareness with you. Come back every other Thursday for your biweekly dose of thought leadership in this blog from one of technology’s most insightful thinkers and gain perspective on a variety of topics ranging from what’s happening in integration today to what’s on the horizon, poised to disrupt the integration space going forward.

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In the news this week, you couldn’t help but see stories covering Bayer’s historic purchase of Monsanto, and that got me thinking about aspirin.

Bear with me here, but I know a lot about acetylsalicylic acid. ASA or aspirin, the common name given to this versatile medicinal compound, has copious applications.

It is a cure:

Have a headache? Need a painkiller? Take some Aspirin. Ankles a little swollen from the last round of pickup basketball? One of the many well-known properties of aspirin is that it is an effective anti-inflammatory agent. Here’s a chewable. Aspirin can help quickly bring down that acute swelling.

It is a prevention:

Worried about your long-term health? Cardiologist making a heart-smart recommendation? Recently the American Journal of Preventative Medicine published a study based on a survey of more than 2500 people. According to the results, 52 percent of those surveyed regularly use aspirin to prevent heart disease, strokes, blood clotting, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

I include myself in the segment of the population that believes in the preventative properties of the drug, having taken a baby aspirin every day for over a decade.

To sum up, it is either a great cure or a decent preventative agent depending on how it’s administered, but…

It is also not perfect:

Despite all the proven remedies, there are of course downsides to taking aspirin. Humans have been taking acetylsalicylic acid in one way or another for thousands of years, so it is natural to assume a few side effects have been discovered along the way. Even if taken properly, aspirin can:

  • Act as an irritant on the stomach and gastrointestinal system
  • Cause hemorrhaging due to its blood-thinning properties
  • Increase certain forms of stroke related to brain bleeds
  • Lead to allergic reactions

To some, the downsides of regularly taking aspirin may outweigh the advantages in a healthy person.  To others, the preventative properties of aspirin are contestable. In fact, there are questions around the underlying ethics of much of the research that’s led many doctors to recommend the daily dosage.

So why am I writing about aspirin on a technology site? I’m a fan of metaphors.

When I write that I am thinking about aspirin, I’m really thinking about B2B integration.

To some, B2Bi is a cure. To others, B2B integration has preventative properties that could stop certain headaches from ever showing up. That said, B2B is inherently complex, so getting it right also means recognizing its strategic importance.

B2B Integration as a Cure

While having preventative properties, B2Bi can also act as a cure to many of the persistent challenges faced when transacting business with external parties.

B2B trading network agreements are necessarily strict. They enact the standards and expectations of conducting business. If an organization lacks the core B2B integration capabilities required by a trading hub they may not earn the right to conduct business, losing revenue, the ability to compete, and the opportunity to increase market penetration.

Consider the following technological considerations for connecting to an external business:

  • Secure communications and protocols
  • File-based integration
  • New and existing formats
  • Relationship management
  • Process and event management
  • Governance and maintenance
  • Ease-of-use tooling like the interface, portal, and visibility

Specific stipulations in such agreements can exclude an organization that is unable to comply with the connectivity or security level requirements.

If an individual trading partner refuses to do business with you until you do things electronically, this will inevitably impact the bottom line.

Too many errors from the human processing of purchase orders? B2B integration technology is the cure!

Can’t connect? Need to meet a new requirement to continue or even start doing business? Take some B2B integration technology and call me in the morning.

Proven B2Bi solutions with the modern versatility to meet broad integration requirements across multi-enterprise networks have inherent properties to meet SLAs and keep your trading partners happy.

B2Bi for Prevention

As mentioned earlier, B2B is naturally complicated. As organizations need to handle the dynamic change of a constantly evolving multi-enterprise trading environment, B2B integration technology allows enterprises to simplify connections, manage relationships, and develop seamless business processes. In terms of the ability to combat complexity, B2B integration is also a preventative type of technology.

First, it insulates the business against disruption as business relationships change. Being armed with B2B integration technology can give you the necessary speed, flexibility, and agility to quickly and easily maintain connections and onboard new trading partners. Because trading partners come and go, you need to be well-equipped to provision and re-provision trading partner connections – quickly, reliably, and with ease.

Second, it assists rather than detracts from modernization efforts. Have newer types of technologies that allow more meaningful multi-enterprise collaboration with RESTful APIs? B2B integration technology will be right there!

Finally, B2Bi has the power to futureproof the business around certain aspects of technology. For instance, new protocols. Imagine a new protocol coming along, like AS9. B2B integration technology will enable your business to support it. (By the way, I’m purposely using an unusually high number in the hopes that this blog post is appropriately archived after five years. If AS9 does become a thing in that timeframe, I’ve got dibs on all of the interoperable testing!)

Strategic B2B Integration

B2B integration can also provide your organization with a strategic advantage. Think about the following what if questions relating to digital business:

  • What if you could instantly gauge the health of a partner relationship based on the volume and monetary representation of business transactions?
  • What if you can tie SLAs to contractual agreements that give you the edge in a whole new line of business?
  • What if you could collapse established sales and marketing channels in a particular industry and profit off of that disruption? And
  • What if you could piggyback off of existing applications and processes and open up a new business in emerging economies halfway around the world?

You should know the answers by now. Yes, B2B integration can do all of these things.

When you choose B2B integration technology, you win on three planes. On a purely tactical level, B2Bi can act as the cure to certain pains that arise around multi-enterprise trading requirements. But, perhaps, more importantly, B2Bi is undervalued as a preventative and strategic technology.

Successful companies like Bayer have been providing the cure and concurrently, the prevention. But after 10 years of daily use, I can’t help but wonder, “What if aspirin could have provided a strategic advantage?” I could, but then I’d be stretching the metaphor.

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