By Tushar Patel, Cleo
Market upsets and regional disasters are, unfortunately, inevitable. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is one of the worst black swan events that global trade has experienced in recent memory. Manufacturers, retailers (both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce), logistics companies, and businesses across a host of industries depend on a global network of partners and suppliers. These organizations are currently being forced to hastily integrate new trading partners, move data between applications to accommodate new transactions, as well as expand operations to drive revenue and marketplace channels. These are operational business changes that, while crucial to strategically weathering the pandemic, are swiftly and simply achieved if a business thinks in terms of ecosystems and has integration confidence.
What Is Integration Confidence?
Simply put, integration confidence is the comfort organizations feel when they have the right combination of modern software and a capable managed service provider (MSP) to support critical integration flows. Call it “peace of mind” if you’d like, but by whatever name this type of comfort comes when an organization can support any B2B integration requirements from any of the myriad stakeholders and trading partners that comprise their business ecosystem.
Does your organization have the supply chain visibility to anticipate and quickly respond to unexpected changes in the marketplace, such as COVID-19? Does your organization have the necessary control to meet stringent service-level agreements (SLAs) from partners and customers, especially when external factors impact them? If not, it’s probably time to upgrade your integration capabilities to support EDI and API-based integrations with your external and internal ecosystems.
In other words, integration confidence is an organization’s knowledge that it can leverage its existing ecosystem (or create new ones) to deliver outcomes that are critical to its business.
The Six Pillars Of Integration Confidence
Modern, capable integration protocols are required for any organization that hopes to remain competitive in today’s multi-channel marketplace where diverse companies like Amazon, Uber, and their like are dominating market shares and attention. However, attaining integration confidence takes time and strategy. As with all great philosophies and structures, it is built on a series of foundations or tenets. We see six pillars of integration confidence.
Pillar #1 – Flexibility Of Choice
A flexible organization should have the choices of designing and implementing B2B integrations on their own, outsourcing those integrations to an Industry 4.0-enabling MSP, or a combination of both strategies that are tailored to their needs given the current situation.
In the case of COVID-19, this flexibility, or agility, means an organization never has to modify its business strategy to accommodate its integration approach. Instead, companies can modify that integration approach as needed to respond to market or ecosystem circumstances, for example, the availability of its workforce to execute critical business operations. Flexibility of choice directly impacts a business’s time-to-market and total cost of ownership (TCO) in times of crisis.
Pillar #2 – The Ability To Control
Control over integrations isn’t easily achievable for many organizations, but not for lack of trying. If it were, would you be reading this article?
It’s a legacy challenge that a large portion of organizations have been struggling to master for years – leading to pent-up frustrations and year-over-year struggles in the face of market upsets like COVID-19. However, to achieve integration confidence organizations must have a certain level of control over daily execution of operational tasks; user access to critical integration information; and resourcing strategies.
How does an organization recognize when it has adequate control over these operations? Controlling daily execution of operational tasks is as simple as identifying and assigning exactly who does what when it comes to integration protocols, and how those actions are carried out. Also, make sure each necessary team member and partner has access to the critical integration information to continue business operations. Finally, an organization has achieved control of resourcing strategies when it can grow and shrink teams as needed based on demand and the task at hand. An organization should strive to have as much control as it needs to continue its business operations.
Pillar #3 – The Power Of Credibility
Credibility and trust are the foundation of any relationship – be it a personal or business related. Building a durable relationship with external partners and internal stakeholders requires credibility and trust.
Credibility allows your organization and partners to trust you when it comes to expanding market opportunities, increasing customer retention, accelerating time-to-value of integrations, and therefore time-to-market. This credibility takes time and experience to build. Having a capable integration MSP along for the ride can help provide your organization with a mix of services and technology to support the integration strategy that best aligns with your business.
Pillar #4 – The Impact Of Real-Time Insights
In the digital, multi-channel world of today’s global trade, many organizations harness the power of real-time operational insights to power their decision-making processes. Consolidating integrations to a single platform that provides those real-time insights into integration flows helps to drive decision-making confidence.
Pillar #5 – The Efficiency Of A Complete Technology Platform
Consolidating the design, build, analysis, and optimization of workflows of all B2B integration transactions into a single integration platform will allow the organization to see a rise in efficiency, which means reporting will become easier, resolving issues will be simpler and faster, and assessing the health of your business and ecosystem partners becomes more intuitive.
When teams are efficient, they can deliver more value and expertise to their business, all while mitigating business risk. This only serves to increase an organization’s level of integration confidence.
Pillar #6 – The Visibility Of End-To-End Integration Workflows
The ability to gather insights into end-to-end integration workflows – that is, workflows that stretch beyond the edge of your organization – is crucial to building integration confidence. This end-to-end visibility is typically lost when a transaction spans across multiple cloud and on-premise systems. The workflow information is, at best, piecemeal and users are left to puzzle the pieces together and decipher the full path of the transaction. This leaves organizations blind to certain parts of the transaction that can cause missed SLAs or increased resolution times.
Investing in a modern integration platform eliminates integration blind spots by connecting cloud environments with legacy, on-premise systems to provide true end-to-end visibility across business processes regardless of where the systems are hosted.
These six pillars are the necessary foundation on which to build confidence in a robust ecosystem integration strategy. Market upsets and black swan events are not going to stop; if the first few months of 2020 have been any indication of things to come, disruption is a constant for which businesses need to be prepared. Organizations that rely on legacy integration technologies and strategies cannot expect to remain competitive in a digitally-driven world where the Amazons and Ubers are constantly investing in new and experimental technologies to improve business operations. But every organization would be advised to engage an integration platform MSP to solidify confidence in their ability to continue driving business and profit in 2020.
About The Author
Tushar Patel is Chief Marketing Officer at Cleo.