The last few years have highlighted the divide between early adopters and laggards of automation and digitization. Buyers and suppliers that invest in integration capabilities between eCommerce platforms and eProcurement systems have outshone their competitors — and they are reaping the benefits via improved efficiency and stronger trading partner relationships.
While many industry leaders are interested in providing a more sophisticated commerce experience, for too many B2B commerce remains a manual and tedious process. Digitization efforts place a heavy burden on teams that are often already-strained, including IT, eCommerce and digital procurement.
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Industry leaders, especially those in the technology sector, must be more resourceful than ever to achieve the speed and volume of digitization requirements of businesses today.
Given the current environment, C-level executives and IT managers would be wise to take proactive steps that reduce the workload associated with the integration and automation of eCommerce and eProcurement systems. As the B2B sector embraces digitization, it is time for businesses to modernize time-consuming buying and selling processes while scaling connectivity.
Accelerating time to value
Automation and integration are key technology focus areas for leading B2B buyers and suppliers. Organizations are implementing solutions like PunchOut, Purchase Order (PO) Automation and Invoice Automation to support seamless digital commerce. However, businesses that attempt to tackle integrations in-house are bound to encounter the complexities of executing this type of integration.
First and foremost, developing these integrations takes time. Each solution requires a separate connection. Companies that choose to develop and maintain these integrations in-house must understand the hours of development work and testing required to ensure these systems are set up properly and functioning as they should. The process can be overwhelming for teams who have never been exposed to this type of integration. And even if a team has created 10, 20 or even 30+ integrations, there is still a time requirement to build each integration. In our experience, having implemented more than 15,000 of these integrations, the nuances of source system implementations means that connecting routes and maintaining them is rarely plug and play.
Successful integration requires expertise to understand the nuances of B2B commerce with a platform flexible enough to adapt to the intricacies of buyer and supplier systems. Third-party integration solutions providers specialize in building these integrations, and they often have pre-built connectors that expedite the integration process. Because B2B commerce integration is the sole focus for these providers, they are able to significantly expedite initial integration while also managing the ongoing maintenance of these integrations.
Leveraging third parties to redirect and reallocate it resources
Technology leaders are feeling pressure from all areas of the business to keep pace with digitization. Outsourcing to third parties is one way teams can satisfy a portion of incoming requests so employees can focus on other areas of the business.
Too often, companies seek to deploy technology for technology’s sake, but this can be counterproductive if it leads to yet another platform or system that teams must manage. Ideally, technology platforms should make employees’ lives easier, not create more work.
eCommerce and eProcurement integration is no exception. Many IT teams are fielding requests to develop integrations between the two systems, but this can be a challenging feat. Most systems do not speak the same language, and creating a seamless communication flow can be tedious if not impossible. One integration may take months to complete, then IT teams must manage and maintain that connection moving forward.
Now imagine having to create, manage and maintain dozens or hundreds of these integrations simultaneously — all while the eCommerce and eProcurement systems are continuously pushing updates. That is a surefire way to drain resources and burn out employees, while also increasing FTE requirements and taking away from their ability to service other areas of the organization. The ongoing management and maintenance of these connections is as important a challenge to solve as the development of the integrations themselves. Leveraging a third party to build and maintain those integrations not only saves money and resources, but it also spares employees’ sanity.
Enhancing digital dexterity
Harvard Business Review defines digital dexterity as “the ambition and ability to use technology for better business outcomes.” Gartner reports that high digital dexterity in an organization increases the likelihood of successful digital transformation.
Despite this, a Gartner survey revealed that 83 percent of leaders struggle to make lasting and meaningful change related to digital transformation. This begs the question: “if digital dexterity is so important to the business, why are so few companies able to successfully achieve it?”
There are many factors that contribute to poor digital dexterity, but one that is often overlooked is technology teams’ inability to focus on a smaller number of key strategic technology initiatives. It should come as no surprise that IT teams are stretched thin. How can they explore innovative technologies that support digital transformation if they are constantly bogged down with manual and tedious tasks? Offloading complex integration development and maintenance to a third-party solution provider is absolutely critical to unlocking a technology team’s full digital dexterity potential.
Digital transformation is more important than ever, and technology leaders play an integral role in driving digitization within the business. It is in business leaders’ best interest to strategically partner with third party technology providers that have the resources and expertise to support integration and automation within B2B commerce so their teams can focus on technology innovations that drive increased business value.
Michael Sonier is Vice President of Product at TradeCentric, the global leader in B2B commerce integration specializing in connecting eCommerce platforms with eProcurement and ERP systems.