️Deep B2B Integration: Time to call in the experts
B2B - Business Integration Cloud

Deep B2B Integration on the Cards? Call in the Experts!

| | Chief Cloud Officer, SEEBURGER AG
Deep B2B integration – Outsource the hard work to the experts

The general trend these days is for companies to move their data and applications to the cloud. However, there are still several companies running on-premises and legacy systems. At the same time, for various reasons, some companies are starting to bring the workloads they had previously moved to the cloud back in-house.

B2B Integration: How can you prevent bottlenecks being caused by 2-speed IT?

These developments inevitably lead to a two-speed IT infrastructure in an organisation, as data flows more quickly between cloud applications than between applications run on premises or on a legacy system. Furthermore, as programme and security updates for cloud applications are usually automated by the service provider, they tend to be applied much more frequently and faster than for on-premises software.

It is difficult for companies to prevent such two-speed IT systems from emerging. This also happens if a company is acquired by or merged with another company, as these new subsidiaries often do not have the same technological standards as the parent company.

How can you integrate two systems with very different speeds and capacity?

The differing technical standards above are a challenge when companies need to communicate and share data with one another. The speed, reliability and quality of the data exchange can be severely impacted by these differences, leading to bottlenecks in the information flow between companies. The potential consequences range from work delays to production downtime to lost business opportunities.

It is medium-sized companies who tend to be particularly hard hit in this situation. As a rule, they do not have the market power of international conglomerates, which can dictate communication and technology standards to their business partners. However, long-term business relationships with large corporations are often particularly desirable for SMEs. The challenge is to ensure that is a relationship on an equal footing, based not on coercion but on willingness and mutual trust. This is where an integration solution can help, as this connects the two systems and their different technical standards, without either party needing to carry out a costly technological upgrade or to convert their operating systems.

In some cases, an organisation may already possess the technical solutions, qualified staff and expertise needed to integrate divergent systems. In the majority of cases, however, it’s best to call in the experts and look for a service provider specialising in IT integration.

The advantages of choosing a B2B integration provider with a wide product range

You will need to consider a number of aspects when choosing a service provider to carry out your B2B integration. A decisive factor is their previous experience. Amongst other things, this can been determined by how many pre-engineered connectors they have available to connect you quickly to certain partner systems. On the one hand, a wide range of connectors shows that many of the connections that your organisation needs can be activated almost immediately. Equally, the provider is also likely to have the technology needed to deeply integrate the various internal inventory involved. And this helps prevent a two-speed IT experience for the users.

A company needs an experienced integration service provider to guide it through the labyrinth of integration needs
Figure 1: A company needs an experienced integration service provider to guide it through the labyrinth of integration needs

Choosing a B2B integration service provider with a mediocre range of partner connections, on the other hand, often means that the remaining partner connections will have to be individually designed, programmed and implemented, or that deep legacy integration cannot be adequately supported. This will lead to additional costs, delays and a higher initial error susceptibility as the integration solutions have not yet been fully and comprehensively tested in practice.

Furthermore, it can be assumed that an experienced provider of B2B integration services with a large pool of integration solutions has above-average market knowledge of integration needs. The solutions it maintains, develops and keeps up to date are therefore in line with current market needs. This means that further connections to business partners or new communication standards will be promptly added to the solution pool and updated – exactly when needed.

Modern B2B migration projects: How can you connect everyone and everything quickly and smoothly?

In the old days of mainframes, the cogs turned even slower. Once a software system had been installed it could be used productively for decades. Those days are mostly gone.

In addition, software projects now tend to be more extensive with greater customisation, which raises the stakes for today’s companies. A case in point is migrating to a new ERP system, such as S/4HANA, a challenge many organisations currently using SAP ECC will be facing in the coming months and years.

As well as actually installing a new system, these organisations will need to migrate the many integration points to their other systems. This probably includes legacy systems. This task should not be underestimated, as in many case this involves hundreds of integration points. And to a large extent, this involves integrating both business applications and external partners. In order to hinder operations as little as possible, you need extremely efficient B2B integration. And that requires a provider who can give you powerful connectivity solutions.

ERP migration projects, like those described above, often involve taking a brownfield approach. This means that existing processes are transferred to the new ERP system. This is less disruptive to day-to-day operations than a greenfield approach, which essentially means starting from scratch. However, the effect on operations should still not be underestimated as processes will be running in parallel and those involved will essentially have double their usual workload.

Major B2B migration projects require flexibility – and lots of it

For the reasons above, it is becoming increasingly common for brownfield migrations to initially integrate only those processes and data that are absolutely necessary for the new ERP system.

As economically sensible as this approach may be, practice has shown time and again that it’s impossible to choose the correct data, applications and external partners before the new system is actually in use.

In fact, this selection process needs to be iterative, with a willingness to experiment. It may well become necessary to connect certain applications and additional partners, or import further data later on, even though this wasn’t part of the original plan. Equally, you may later wish to remove applications or data you had originally migrated.

To ensure that your company’s operations continue to run as smoothly as possible during this process, you need integration tasks to be carried out quickly and efficiently. This can be done best by an integration service provider that already has a wide range of pre-programmed partner connections and experience in their integration requirements. And the depth of experience and knowledge such a provider will have at their disposal will benefit you in other ways, too.

Simultaneously connecting several external partners within a short period of time using the Managed Trading Partner Cloud Service by SEEBURGER
Figure 2: Simultaneously connecting several external partners within a short period of time using the Managed Trading Partner Cloud Service by SEEBURGER

How do you choose the right B2B integration service provider?

In order to reap the benefits described above long term, and to select the most suitable integration service provider for deep B2B integration, it is important to take a long-term view of your needs, market and potential future developments. This also means that it’s not necessarily the integration providers who are currently most prominent in the trade press, or even those who currently occupy top spot in market research rankings, who will be the best fit for your B2B integration needs.

The integration services market itself is undergoing rapid change. This is partly due to the increasing speed of innovation and the resulting emerging technology trends. Equally, as the web-based integration services that are currently driving market growth are only about ten years old, the market is still relatively young and in a state of flux.

The B2B integration market is in a state of flux

Experience has shown that, earlier or later, this perfect storm is likely to lead to a shake-up in the market. Leading market research institutes such as Gartner have already indicated that many iPaaS providers are likely to be bought out or go out of business in the next few years. A similar development can be expected for providers of other web-based integration services.

If we analyse this development, we may arrive at the following prognosis: It will probably be providers of integration services who cannot sufficiently differentiate their offering in the market who will be first affected. As their market share shrinks, sooner or later they will be forced to leave the market. Or, they may be bought out, but this would most almost certainly lead to a change in the services they offer. These are not ideal conditions for a long-term customer-supplier relationship.

Financially, in the short to medium term, things look better for integration service providers who operate as part of large corporations. In the event of financial difficulties, they can initially count on support in the form of cross-subsidization and benefit from preferential access to the large corporation’s customer base.

Products for the masses vs. made-to-measure

It is important to consider the strategy followed by these large B2B integration service providers. It is more profitable for them to focus on standardized services which are a best-fit for most scenarios, rather than on customer-specific needs. There also have an incentive to market intra-group integration services within their shared customer base through cross selling or upselling.

In addition, the B2B integration solutions offered by most large service providers are generally not products they have developed in-house. Rather, these have probably been procured as they have acquired smaller providers and / or their solutions. This could lead to a lack of cohesion within the group.

In practice, this often means that the bought-in B2B integration service providers are divested or sold on if they are no longer sufficiently profitable, or no longer fit in with the overall strategic orientation of the Group.

Overshadowed by this built-in insecurity, many corporate B2B integration service providers have started pursuing short-term strategies. It is therefore no longer in their interest to develop their offerings to the extent they need to enable deep integration.

So where can you find a good, reliable partner for your long-term deep B2B integration needs?

It should therefore be no surprise that the B2B integration service providers whose integration services have the best scope and depth for the real needs in the market tend to be found in established mid-sized firms who haven’t lost sight of their roots.

These integration service providers are economically sound and have many years of experience in the B2B integration business. Their range of integration products and services have generally grown organically, as needs in the market have evolved, and are seamlessly linked to their core business activities. Best of all, they have the autonomy to make their own strategic and business decisions, including long-term. This makes them ideal, long-term business partners.

How can SEEBURGER support you long-term in your deep B2B integration needs

SEEBURGER is an independent, medium-sized integration service provider. It has decades of experience in the B2B integration business, specialising in EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). Over the years, their range of solutions has been expanded to include ever more solutions that are related or adjacent to their core business. At the core of SEEBURGER’s integration services is the hard-working BIS (Business Integration Suite). This includes a fully-fledged iPaaS solution.

Key strengths of SEEBURGER Cloud Integration

  1. Large Partner Community
    Many trading partners are already connected to the SEEBURGER gateway. Connections only need to be activated.
  2. Customer & Partner Self Service
    Customers can search, find & create Partners in the B2B Directory
  3. Handling of Partner Changes
    Optionally, SEEBURGER takes care of the handling of partner changes (e.g. SSL Certificates) as part of the Communication Service.
  4. Ready to Use Conversions
    With > 35 years of EDI experience, our Cloud Integration Service provides ready-to-use mappings for almost all partners in all industries in a Mapping Repository
  5. Exzellent Backend Connectivity
    Our dual conversion strategy combined with our legacy integration expertise enables rapid integration and migration of ERP systems.
  6. Comprehensive B2B solution
    • Focus on maximum standardization with simultaneous coverage of all B2B requirements
    • Release management incl. enhancements of this solution as part of the service (=no project effort)
      (Only this way the whole preconfigured content is so easily deployable)

SEEBURGER’s integration solutions have all been developed in-house. Their middleware stack is therefore a well-integrated, cohesive and well-coordinated portfolio of mappings.

Another SEEBURGER emphasis is on services that go beyond the purely technical aspects of integration services. These include content-rich repositories as well as individual consultancy services and (extended) support.

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Dr. Martin Kuntz

Written by:

Dr. Martin Kuntz has worked for SEEBURGER AG since 2000, and is a member of the Board of Directors since 2015. His strengths lie in the Cloud, business applications, and the digitalization of specialty and technical business processes. He has degrees in physics and business administration. Earlier, he worked for several years in the Simulation department of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology and for Airbus subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space.