Although business-to-business (B2B) systems and processes have been in place for decades in all industries, integrating and gaining true synergy from those systems have become elusive goals for many enterprises. In particular, the rush of mergers, acquisitions, consolidations and takeovers among businesses has stretched and strained supply chains and integrated business processes among an organization’s vast network of suppliers, business partners and trading networks.
Now, couple in the fact that many enterprises still run much of their B2B transactions and processes over legacy infrastructure and aging applications, and it’s clear that pressure has mounted to find new ways to transform those B2B processes and systems in a modernized, integrated and efficient framework.
In many cases, industry-wide M&A activity has increased, rather than reduced, complexity in managing B2B processes, because so many of those systems are incompatible or based on infrastructure no longer appropriate for new, tightly integrated workloads. And it’s not just internet-based B2B workloads like e-commerce and virtual supply chains, but even traditional supply chain management and partner onboarding that must be modernized.
In fact, failure to modernize legacy systems and processes will have a negative impact beyond higher costs and inflexibility. It will actually expose organizations to serious competitive risk by failing to keep pace with the changing nature of B2B relationships. This means, for instance, that instead of running different B2B workloads like credit card transaction clearings and credit verification on different servers, financial services companies need to consolidate all of their B2B use cases on a single server.
In today’s always-on business environment, enterprises in all industries need to make sure their systems reflect a more modernized approach to integrating B2B activities across infrastructure, applications and architecture—all on a global basis.
The good news is that many IT leaders have seen this storm growing and are ready to take steps to not just modernize, but essentially future-proof their IT frameworks for the new realities of B2B. But in many cases, line-of-business executives have yet to feel enough pain to push for and/or approve budget upgrades to support modernization efforts. This is a dangerous scenario for organizations trying to cope with the chasm between what IT knows and what the business side will support; while they hesitate, more and more competitors are aggressively moving ahead with B2B modernization.
Of course, there are many elements to modernization in B2B processes and systems:
- High availability is no longer a luxury, but an absolute. And the concept of 24/7/365 is now a fact of life in most businesses.
- Security defenses must be expanded, deepened and enhanced to reflect the critical nature of data being shared throughout trading networks and for the highly attractive nature of those transactions to hackers and cyberthieves.
- B2B networks are no longer constrained by local, regional or even national boundaries; global is an absolute requirement for today’s B2B systems, and those partner and trading networks exist all around the globe.
- The concept of wide-area file transfer, traditionally at the heart of legacy B2B networks, has evolved in important ways to require more security, reliability, performance and security around the world, at any time and from any device.
- High performance is one of those qualities most organizations always viewed as akin to motherhood and apple pie—assumed and often taken for granted. Instead, the physical, regulatory and commercial requirements of integrated B2B networks mean that any performance degradation can literally risk the value of multimillion-dollar transactions.
- The widespread swing toward mobility in its many forms has put added pressure on B2B networks, with partners and suppliers demanding the same access and the same user experience for their transactions as they did when they sat in front of a desktop on a hard-wired network.
IBM has recognized the fundamental changes taking place in the B2B economy, and has developed a broad mix of products and services to help organizations modernize their B2B integration methods and systems.
IBM Sterling B2B Integrator ties together processes, transactions and relationships across an enterprise’s vast B2B networks in a rock-solid, secure, high-performance and highly available framework. B2B Integrator also works closely with other IBM B2B services, bringing a more modernized, tightly integrated philosophy to these transactions, including IBM Sterling File Gateway, which allows companies to consolidate file transfers and B2B use cases on the same B2 platform.
For more information on how IBM’s modernization tools and services can enhance your B2B integration efforts, please visit https://www.ibm.com/watson/supply-chain/campaigns/optimize-b2b-integration.