This Supply Chain Matters market education commentary is sponsored by OpenText and the OpenText Business Network.


Many businesses and their respective supply chains are increasingly feeling the pressure to accelerate movement toward digital-based transformation and more digital-enabled processes. However, the reality can present itself with added barriers and challenges. A new concept to consider is often described as Hybrid Integration, namely integrating B2B Business Network information via common API’s with existing Cloud and legacy backbone processes and systems.


B2B Global Business Networks


Many businesses are increasingly feeling the pressure to have their B2B supply and demand networks more connected and intelligent to changing business needs.

Whether it is supporting new models for E-commerce customer fulfillment, a broader, more responsive supply network, or more real-time connections to physical assets and processes enabled by Internet-of Things (IoT) technology, the goal for lines-of-business and supporting functions is often to accelerate movement toward digital-based transformation and more digital-enabled processes.

The reality, however, can present itself as legacy-based business backbone systems that are increasingly augmented by Cloud-based networks that connect various supply and demand-based processes and decision-making.  Another reality is the existence of a disconnect between digital and non-digital network partners with the majority of information exchanged between business partners being fax, email or document based rather than structured automated or electronic based.

A further reality for many of today’s multi-industry global supply networks are siloed B2B connections and functional processes. Business processes spanning supply planning, procurement, customer fulfillment, transportation or logistics provide an existing footprint of multiple EDI messaging translators, VAN or B2B gateways.

Added to the challenge are increased cybersecurity threats up and down various functional networks along with regulatory pressures for data security and privacy such as the European Union’s GDPR directive along with ISO 27001.

While each network can support different processes or regions, the data and information spanning these processes is increasingly required to support more contextual, intelligent or digital based analysis and decision-making.

The challenge presented is an explosion of process integration points that need to be managed, secured or controlled.  Increasingly, connected implies a digital based backbone for secure information exchange between systems, people and, very soon, to be physical devices across extended networks. Intelligent implies deeper, more predictive based insights to business performance, unplanned events or risk conditions.

Network support teams further need to keep up with newer standards (XML, AS2-3-4 messaging), requiring an investment in added technical or network specific support resources. Multiple networks and process touch points into and out of supply or demand networks can add to information security risks and vulnerability points.

The need translates to added interoperability between mission critical on-premise legacy systems and Cloud-based systems.


Hybrid Integration

A new concept to consider is often described as Hybrid Integration, namely integrating B2B Business Network information via common API’s (Application Programming Interfaces) with existing processes and systems.

B2B Business Network platform providers such as the OpenText Business Network are moving in the direction supporting Cloud to Cloud and Cloud to On-Premise information process integration. Users can leverage API’s to integrate to leading Cloud and on-premise backbone ERP or supply chain management systems and utilize a more simplified portal development environment available to either internal IT or external business network support teams. The notion is a developer portal that defines business network relationships to more easily create a series of micro-service applications based on such relationships.

Businesses can then be empowered to build their own augmented applications or dashboards that connect mobile, social, IoT or other data and information sources with legacy applications and data. Augmented applications can additionally be supplemented with business process workflow or event management tools or external document integration. As an example, OpenText™ Programmable Grid allows users to extract B2B information from transaction flows to contribute towards these augmented applications. Access to data is controlled with robust identity and access information methods (IAM) along with conformance to the latest global data security standards.


Augmented Process Examples

Some examples in the leveraged use of Hybrid Integration can be the enablement of new line-of-business offerings that leverage customer support services with actual equipment operational conditional data. Consider automobiles connected via IoT enabled services to a network with direct links to dealers, customer warranty information or existing parts replacement supply networks.

Another could be query of third-party logistics providers (3PL’s) for instant shipment quotes or transport load bidding. Similarly, mobile based applications (Apps) can be leveraged to connect mobile-based workers, drivers or operators with broader customer order or fulfillment information needs.

Documents such as contracts, bill-of-ladings or customer order documents can be shared with mobile based workers.  Supplier invoices can be linked to external accounts payable or banking systems. Various B2B messaging logs being directly integrated with ERP based event logs for consolidated events management and audit needs.


Reader Takeaways

While many businesses and their respective supply chain teams are increasingly feeling the pressure to accelerate movement toward digital-based transformation and more digital-enabled processes, the challenge is integrating business process and support applications among legacy based and Cloud based B2B Connected Systems.

Business should consider leveraging and evaluating network platform providers in the notions of B2B Hybrid Integration, which can allow businesses to connect with suppliers and customers in their own preferred ways or current practices.

The end result can be overall business processes with added agility, lower cost, and faster time to benefit while building the foundations toward broader digital-based business transformation.  


Bob Ferrari

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