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Features CIOs should look for when evaluating B2B integration platforms
SEEBURGER is a market leader in business-to-business integration with more than 25 years of experience and over 9,000 satisfied customers around the globe, including many of the world’s largest companies. The SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite functions as a central platform and data hub for all business processes with external partners as well as for file sharing both inside and outside the corporate firewall, providing the industry-first ability to manage both structured and unstructured data exchange with one solution and merge all logs in a single view. SEEBURGER solutions are available in installed, managed service and cloud-based deployment models.

San Madan: What is the problem with legacy B2B infrastructures? What benefits do IT departments gain with B2B modernization?

Rohit Khanna: Legacy B2B infrastructures have been cobbled together over the years to accommodate new protocols, trading partners or corporate entities added after mergers and acquisitions. The result is a tangle of disparate components – including multiple gateways, adapters, plug-ins, and FTP and SFTP servers – that is expensive to manage and lacks a centralized audit trail to facilitate regulatory compliance, risk management and customer service.

This jumble of technologies is also missing modern services such as large file exchange, easy supply chain monitoring within ERP systems, and tools for vital functions ranging from easily onboarding new trading partners to expediting customer problem resolution. Not being able to quickly locate a purchase order that has been held because of missing data, for example, can harm trading partner relationships.

Newer B2B integration systems reduce IT overhead by consolidating multiple components into a single package. They typically also add modern features such as checkpoint/restart for increased security, drag-and-drop process changes that minimize coding, automated error notification that avoids delays in learning about problems such as transmission failures, and the option to deploy the B2B platform in the cloud or as a managed service.

Advanced systems also add point-and-click message traceability, managed file transfer, and other features that improve visibility, security, governance, compliance and/or customer service.

San Madan: What is the advantage of integrating EDI/B2B and MFT technologies in one platform?

Rohit Khanna: Managed file transfer (MFT) is a secure and centrally managed alternative to exchanging large and/or sensitive files by FTP or consumer file sharing services. MFT technology creates a central hub for data transfers, encrypts shared files at the point of origin, enforces corporate policies on who can send what to whom, provides an audit trail of all file sharing activities for compliance and forensics purposes, and offers other protections required in today’s business environment.

If the MFT platform is not integrated into the EDI/B2B system that handles trading partner communications, however, businesses must deploy and manage two separate B2B infrastructures: a conventional B2B system that manages the exchange of structured documents such as P.O.s and invoices, and an MFT system to handle the exchange of unstructured documents such as PDF orders, CAD drawings and payroll data sent from one IT system to another.

B2B integration platforms with built-in MFT services make that second infrastructure unnecessary, reducing the total cost of ownership while also eliminating the need for IT staff to learn multiple tools.

In addition, systems that merge both structured and unstructured file exchange activity in a single audit trail provide a ‘single source of truth.’ This streamlines corporate and regulatory compliance efforts by eliminating a hunt through multiple systems to track down an errant file or reconstruct the path of a security breach.

San Madan: What features should CIOs look for when evaluating B2B integration platforms?

Rohit Khanna: There is a long list, but here are a few to start. First, be sure the platform supports the data formats and protocols your organization requires. Second, check to see if it supports those needs out of the box or if additional work is required. Third, find out if it’s equally capable of handling both transactional and unstructured data so that you can manage EDI/B2B and MFT functions in the same system.

Fourth, see if it is possible to automate your business processes through a workflow engine – and if so, whether the engine is based on proprietary technology or on open standards such as BPEL that will make it easier for your staff to learn. Fifth, determine whether the various components have been developed internally or whether they are plug-ins acquired from different companies. That will have a direct impact on the level of integration, which in turn will dictate how much overhead is required for both IT staff and end users to access information.

Also be sure to ask questions that will allow you to gauge the vendor’s commitment to the platform. What is the development roadmap for the product? (Be cautious about companies that have not invested significantly in their solutions for three to five years.) What percentage of revenue is put back into the product? (Less than 20% is below industry benchmarks and should cause concern.)

1230 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA U.S.A.

Founded in: 1986
CEO: Bernd Seeburger
Public or Private: Private
Head Office in Country: Germany
Products and Services: SEEBURGER is a global provider of business-to-business integration solutions, including trading partner communications, secure managed file transfer (MFT) and ERP extensions that enhance the value of enterprise resource planning deployments.
Company’s Goals: Helping companies streamline business processes, reduce operational costs, facilitate governance and compliance, secure data exchanges, and provide visibility to the farthest edges of the supply chain to maximize ERP effectiveness and drive new efficiencies.
Key Words: Business-to-Business Integration, Trading Partner Communications, Managed File Transfer, Secure File Transfer, EDI/B2B, Supply Chain Visibility

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