Back in the day, one of the biggest wrenches a business trading partner could throw in the gears of your B2B ecosystem was asking you to support a new communication protocol or data format. The whole thing ultimately changed the way you did business, and it felt like trying to abruptly turn a large ship with a steady head of steam.
You’d have set up various calls and form task forces to determine how to support AS2 for EDI, explore the cost of a VAN for OFTP2 to do business in Europe, or custom-configure an SFTP connection for secure banking. With all the configuring, testing, and migrating, it would take months – and countless internal resources – to get into compliance and get the business firing over that connection.
Today, the scene is a little different, as trading partners are handing down new requirements all the time. Companies are increasingly modernizing their IT systems, as well as adopting newer SaaS applications to effectively differentiate and compete in the marketplace, and any one of these changes –internal or external – could affect your business.
Meeting these evolving requirements, however, no longer has to be paradigm-shifting with the right solution. Organizations understanding the fickle nature of commerce deploy adaptive integration infrastructure solutions to efficiently support evolving B2B interactions.
What Walmart Taught Us about the Velocity of Change
Now for a history lesson: In 2002, Walmart adopted AS2 as the global standard for partner interactions, and the way businesses handle electronic data interchange (EDI) to execute business-to-business (B2B) connectivity was reshaped forever.
The inherent advantages of advanced protocols such as AS2 include:
- Enhanced message integrity
- Ease of routing
- Industry-specific compliance or standards, and
At the time, this then relatively new communications standard paved the way for companies to shed decades-old reliance on VAN providers and do business with each other directly, faster, and over the internet. It also significantly improved the reliability, accountability, and visibility of communications compared with other common B2B protocols, such as FTP.
An important consideration is that as a global commerce hub with thousands of trading partners, Walmart is typically the power broker in any technology decision relating to how its suppliers connect their business. But as with AS2, the message was loud and clear to organizations of all sizes: Adapt and modernize to the stated business standards or get left behind, possibly losing the ability to do business with what is likely your most important trading partner. Under these circumstances, the body of Walmart trading partners simply couldn’t afford non-compliance or failing to meet the new connection marching orders.
If anything, the Walmart story captures a categorical shift across one business-to-business trading network, one that illustrates the velocity at which digital business evolves and indicates a larger pattern of consistent change over time. In fact, the pace of change today, the speed of new requirements cropping up that affect how a business needs to connect, is almost incomprehensible.
Address Immediate and Future Needs
The need to adapt to ever-evolving demands presents a technology challenge for many businesses, specifically how to address the immediate requirements while strategically preparing for future challenges. Dealing with system failures that cause service disruptions and jeopardize the flow of business would represent an immediate threat to an organization’s ability to operate, whereas the ability to meet additional protocol requirements as the business grows is a realistic need down the road.
But modern organizations don’t have to weigh one (now) against the other (future). They can address the multifaceted requirements of B2B connectivity via a flexible integration solution that supports multi-enterprise networks and seamlessly connects the company with its suppliers, customers, financial institutions, and others to help drive business velocity.
It can’t just be any old solution, however. To connect with all these B2B trading partners in their preferred way (at any time) and to keep up with evolving internal business demands, organizations need an agile technology platform that can support not only the proliferation of advanced protocols and data formats, but also integrate cloud services and SaaS applications, and aggregate datasets for big data initiatives, with all the necessary control, governance, and security features. In short, they need an ecosystem-driven cloud integration solution.
The Advantages of a Cloud Integration Platform
Any integration requirement could change at any second, and rapid adaptation and agility are required to handle the pace of constant change, from evolving trading partner requirements, industry standards, and regulatory shifts to the adoption and deployment of cloud applications and cloud services.
So, how quickly could you adapt if:
- Your big-box retailer decided it was moving to AS3 for EDI?
- The CIO wanted to integrate a new SaaS CRM?
- Your AS2 suddenly had to support SHA-2 encryption?
- A new trading partner demanded ebXML over TLS 2.0?
- Your department manager moved your ERP to the cloud?
If you’re not sure how to answer some of these questions, it might be time to assess your integration strategy. Ecosystem-driven integration requirements necessitate a cloud integration platform that can support all manner of integration use cases. A modern cloud integration solution ensures comprehensive connectivity and the secure movement of data among people, systems, and businesses internally and across a multi-enterprise trading network.
In short, an ecosystem integration solution provides organizations with a single-platform technology that supports:
- Data connectivity and movement
- Data transformation
- Large file transfer
- End-to-end process orchestration
- Real-time visibility
- Governance and security
- Detailed reporting and auditing capabilities
Companies viewing integration as a core competency understand how low-friction and automated integration better positions them to deliver exceptional flexibility in the front end of their business process ecosystem, while adding agility on the back end to proactively respond to changing market needs.
Adapt or Die
The business world is a selfish one. It’s not Walmart’s concern whether its army of suppliers can do EDI over AS2. Its concern – the same as any company out there – is how it can best do business and better serve its end customers, and it’s up to its trading partners to adapt or die. Similarly, it’s up to you to arm your organization with adaptability or get left behind.
Well into the era of digital transformation, change is a fundamentally common denominator. Speed and agility power the modern digital business ecosystem, and companies are beginning to realize adaptability is a value-generating form of competitive differentiation. Adaptive integration infrastructure technology can help companies meet new trading partner requirements and successfully onboard a new customer almost immediately.
Keeping up with the pace of change today requires an agile platform that evolves with your business and trading partner relationships. The right solution will promote growth via a secure and scalable deployment and enables you to modernize any IT system, consolidate multiple legacy point solutions, and streamline ecosystem enablement.
Cleo Integration Cloud is a powerful integration platform that allows your business to connect, move, transform, and orchestrate ecosystem, cloud, application, and big data integration flows using both self-service and managed-service experiences.
As a complete and robust platform with flexible deployment options, and spanning all modern integration use cases, Cleo Integration Cloud delivers the automated solutions and intuitive controls you need to easily connect and consolidate systems, applications, services, people, and processes. It’s your key to meeting evolving trading partner requirements and defining your business’s own pace of change.