Cloud

Getting the Most from Your B2B Network

Two weeks ago I was on a Eurostar train bound for Brussels. I was attending the 122nd EDIFICE plenary, a high tech industry association that GXS™ has been involved with for more than 25 years. EDIFICE works with leading high tech companies to develop best practices and new standards for deploying B2B solutions and services across the high tech supply chain. I have been attending EDIFICE events for the past six years and I have found the sessions to be incredibly informative in terms of understanding the B2B challenges faced by today’s high tech industry but also to allow me to network and share experiences with companies such as HP, Cisco, Infineon, Texas Instruments and Xilinx. In fact the attendee list for these events quite often reads like a who’s who in the high tech industry. For more information on EDIFICE, please visit www.edifice.org. Each member company of the EDIFICE community is invited to sponsor plenary events and on this occasion OpenText™ GXS™ had the pleasure of hosting the event with a theme of ‘Getting the Most from Your B2B Network’. I have presented at several EDFICE events in the past but this event provided me with the first opportunity to introduce OpenText, a company that very few people in the audience had heard of before. I delivered the key note presentation for the event and this allowed me to introduce the world of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and how this is likely to impact the world of B2B moving forwards. In the future, companies will be able to get even greater value from their B2B network due to the availability of powerful EIM solutions from OpenText. So what I wanted to do for this particular keynote presentation was to explain how companies could get more out of their B2B platform, ie once connected to a B2B Network such as OpenText™ Trading Grid™, what could you do with the B2B information flowing across the network, either internally or externally across the extended enterprise. I also wanted to demonstrate that a B2B network can be used for a lot more than just exchanging EDI messages. So with this in mind I thought I would just recap the ten points that I discussed during my keynote presentation to highlight how companies, when connected to a global B2B network, can get more out of their platform: 1. Enabling 100% Trading Partner Connectivity – In order to get a good return on the investment in your B2B network you need to make sure you can electronically enable 100% of your trading partner community. Many companies struggle to on board their smallest suppliers who are quite often located in emerging markets where ICT and B2B skills are limited. OpenText has a range of B2B enablement tools that can help a business to exchange electronic business information, irrespective of the size or location of the supplier. From sending PDF based business documents via secure messaging/MFT, implementing Fax to EDI based solutions, through to Microsoft Excel based tools and web forms, there are many tools available today to help a company onboard their smallest suppliers. 2. Simplify Expansion into New Markets – Many companies today are introducing lean and more flexible supply chains to allow them to be more responsive to constantly changing market and customer demands. Many companies struggle to establish a presence in a new market, either because they do not have a local presence in the market or they do not know how to connect a remote operation, in terms of a plant and its domestic suppliers, to a centralised B2B platform. The benefit of a cloud based platform such as OpenText™ Trading Grid™ is that you can scale up or scale down your B2B activities as required by the needs of the business. With over 600,000 companies conducting business across Trading Grid today and a B2B network which stretches into every major manufacturing and financial hub around the world, Trading Grid significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to establish a ‘B2B Presence’ in a remote market. Even if you currently work across multiple network providers in different countries around the world, consolidating onto one cloud based provider can certainly help to improve the bottom line for your business. 3. Overcoming Regional Complexity Issues – Many businesses today are required to adhere to various regional compliance regulations. For example the area of e-Invoicing compliance is an incredibly complex area that companies have to embrace. For example some countries such as Mexico and Brazil mandate electronic invoicing whilst each of the 27 countries in the European Union have country specific rules for dealing with VAT compliance, archiving and applying digital signatures. OpenText GXS has implemented B2B projects all over the world and hence we have the experience to shield your business from the complexity of dealing with a myriad of regional specific B2B standards and e-Invoicing related regulations. 4. Improving Accuracy of Externally Sourced Information – If you spend $50,000 on a luxury car with a high performance engine, you wouldn’t pour low grade oil into the engine now would you? The same applies to a B2B platform, where information entering the platform can come from many internal and external sources. In fact in one study conducted a few years ago we found that over a third of information entering ERP comes from outside the enterprise. Now what happens if poor quality information enters your B2B platform, gets processed and then enters your ERP environment? All it takes is for an external supplier to enter the incorrect part number or quantity on a shipping document for example and this information will slowly propagate its way through your business. What if you could implement business rules to check the quality of information entering your business according to specific rules templates? Applying business rules and hence improving the quality of B2B information will help to improve operational efficiency, in terms of reducing manual rework, in relation to how information flows across your extended enterprise. 5. Increasing Resilience to Supply Chain Disruptions – Global supply chains have been severely disrupted by many natural disasters in recent years. Companies have been trying to build increased resilience to supply chain disruptions and having access to a single, global B2B platform can help minimise supply chain disruption. Utilising a cloud based platform allows companies to access their B2B related information anywhere in the world, irrespective of where disruption may be occurring. For example many Japanese companies are starting to embrace cloud based B2B platforms as it helps to introduce flexibility into their B2B strategies and also minimises any disruption to their supply chain and production operations. Having every trading partner connected to a single, global B2B network allows you to quickly identify points of weakness across your supply chain during a period of disruption and to take remedial action as required. 6. Adhering to Regulatory Compliance Initiatives – Businesses today have to embrace a variety of industry specific regulatory initiatives. In addition, many companies have established their own compliance initiatives and they expect their trading partners to adhere to these regulations. In many cases suppliers are being asked to adhere to these compliance initiatives as a condition of doing business with them. In the automotive industry suppliers have to undertake an annual quality assessment known as Materials Management Operations Guideline Logistics Evaluation (MMOG/LE) and in the high tech industry companies with headquarters in North America now have to demonstrate that they do not source conflict minerals across their global supply chain. Many compliance related initiatives in place today require some form of assessment to be conducted across a supply chain and the two examples I highlighted above use spreadsheets as the basis of the assessment process. However for this assessment to be effective, companies require up to date contacts for each and every supplier across their supply chain and they need to make sure these assessments are conducted in a timely manner. OpenText GXS can provide a platform that can centralise the management of supplier related contact information, which in turn helps to significantly improve day to day communications and collaboration with a trading partner community. 7. Conducting Transaction Based Trading Partner Analytics – One of the benefits of operating the world’s largest B2B networks is that it can potentially provide a significant source of data to analyse trading partner related trends. As we know, Big Data analytics is becoming an increasingly important area for companies to embrace, but quite often they do not have the internal skills or knowledge to process the information or transactions flowing across their supply chain. OpenText Trading Grid processes over 16 billion B2B transactions each year and this can potentially provide a rich source of information for companies to leverage and allow real time decisions to be made in relation to the management of their supply chain operations. 8. Initiating Process Based Transaction Flows – Many companies have implemented numerous business processes to manage different aspects of their operations. From managing production lines through to inventory replenishment, having a strong process centric approach to running a business is key to winning a competitive advantage in the market and increasing customer satisfaction levels. B2B related transactions have sometimes had a loosely coupled relationship with business processes but many supply chain processes are becoming so complicated today, especially supporting global manufacturing operations for example, that coupling business processes more tightly with B2B transaction flows makes increasingly more sense. For example, managing transactions relating to a reverse logistics process used in the consumer electronics sector. OpenText has significant experience in the Business Process Management space and when eventually combined with OpenText Trading Grid this could potentially offer a different way for supply chain directors and logistics managers to look after their trading partner communities. It is still early days in the OpenText and GXS integration process but this could be a big growth area in the future. 9. Achieving Pervasive Visibility of all Transactions – Achieving true end to end visibility has been high on the agenda of nearly every Supply Chain professional around the world. The introduction of powerful smart phones and tablets has only increased the desire to get access to B2B related transactional information, any time, any place or anywhere. It is already possible to introspect transactions as they flow across OpenText Trading Grid, but the next logical phase would be to make these transactions actionable in some way via a remote device. OpenText has an interesting suite of mobile development tools called Appworks which will help to considerably accelerate the development of B2B related apps which connect into the Trading Grid platform. 10. Integrating to ‘Internet of Things’ Devices – The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to completely transform the way in which companies manage their supply chains in the future. With billions of intelligent devices expected to be connected to the Internet over the next decade, companies will have access to significantly more information from their global supply chains. From IoT connected storage bins, forklift trucks, containers, warehouses, lorries and in fact anything that is part of a supply chain has the potential to send information back to a centralised IoT hub via a simple internet connection. In the same way that we talk today about integrating B2B platforms to ERP systems, tomorrow we will be doing the same level of integration to IoT related hubs. This is a subject that I have discussed extensively via an earlier blog of mine.

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3 Buckets of Customer Data [Infographic]

All hail the humble bucket. Buckets may not be fancy, but they’re useful, flexible and practical. We should all be so lucky. Buckets also are ubiquitous: The paint on our walls and some of the food on our plates likely spent time in a bucket. Golfers relax at the driving range with a bucket of balls. Bikers, skiers and skaters affectionately call their helmets “brain buckets.” Coders use bucket sort to get numbers in sequence. We contemplate our future by compiling a bucket list. Data-driven marketers can  use buckets, too, at least in a metaphorical way. That’s because customer-related data for Big Data marketing projects can be imagined as coming in three buckets: Transactional data. This comes from “classic” data sources, such as CRM systems and data warehouses. This data is typically internal to your organization. Online data. This is data generated by customers themselves, such as when they express preferences or create profiles. It’s external data that complements transactional data. Social and mobile data. These new sources of data rely on social monitoring and listening. Text processing and sentiment analysis help marketers give sense and context to this conversational data. A Big Data marketing program needs to blend data from all three buckets to succeed, according to Allen Bonde, Vice President, Product Marketing at Actuate. Bonde’s observations about buckets of data (and much more) are available in a free briefing paper. The infographic above presents just a small sample of the insights – a drop in the bucket, you might say – that Bonde has gathered over two-plus decades as a developer, analyst, and technology marketer. Bonde is sharing his knowledge and advice on data-driven marketing and customer experience in webinars this month. Two webinars were hosted by SD Times and Data Science Central, and are available for free replay. You can also catch Bonde live, speaking with Forrester Research analyst Andrew Bartels about how to Leverage Cloud Computing to Deliver the Next Wave of Customer Experience, on Thursday, May 29, at 2 p.m. EDT (11:00 a.m. PDT). We think you’ll find these webinars deliver useful, flexible and practical information by the bucketful.

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Making the Most of Your CCM Initiative: Automating and Integrating

There are several ways to make the most out of your Customer Communications Management (CCM) strategy. We’ve recently been outlining the 5 steps discussed in the InfoTrends’ white paper, Improve Your Enterprise Customer Communications Strategy in Five Vital Steps. The fourth tip relates less to the processes you put in place and more to how they are implemented, with the goal of automating and integrating through the right CCM technology. Most CCM systems are implemented in IT architectures that are patchy at best, with stakeholders often operating in siloes, with limited knowledge of how the overall CCM process works. Legacy systems may be in place and they may be less advanced in terms of their management and tracking capabilities. Corporate IT systems that could be considered part of CCM include enterprise resource planning, CRM, accounting/tax and archiving systems. Having a centralized approach to your CCM system can help ensure that you automate and integrate everything in the most efficient way possible. To ensure this, communications should be stored centrally, whether it’s in an archive, an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system or a CCM solution. Other things to consider include: CCM technology should be easily integrated with other systems. Legacy communications should also be stored and tracked centrally, since modern CCM platforms and post composition solutions can process and store legacy output in an archive. Vendors that invest in cloud solutions can offer the next level of integration, likely including on-premise data and cloud-based delivery. Lastly, the right technology will also ensure that your communications are tracked and stored properly, giving business users and customer service representatives the information they need to communicate with customers. They also allow for the use of data analytics, offering information you can use for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. We’ll finish off this series in our next blog post, by looking at one final step to successful CCM strategy: Influencing Customer Behavior. Read the full white paper: Improve Your Enterprise Customer Communications Strategy in Five Vital Steps

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How the Internet of Things will Provide ‘Fuel’ for Future Digital Supply Chains

In an earlier blog post I described how future business environments will be more tightly integrated with information flowing from EIM, B2B and IoT based platforms. I outlined how information can be broadly split into structured and unstructured information flows and for this blog entry I just wanted to expand on some of those initial thoughts. EIM, B2B and IoT will collectively provide ‘fuel’ or information for tomorrow’s digital supply chains. Over the past few weeks OpenText has been running a series of events as part of a global Innovation Tour, visiting major cities around the world, to share our vision for the future of Enterprise Information Management. We are using this tour as a platform to introduce our 2020 agenda and managing internal and external enterprise information flows across future digital supply chains will be a core part of this agenda. In parallel with these events, OpenText |GXS hosted our Customer Forum in Washington last week and I was given the opportunity to present my vision of where the manufacturing industry was heading in the future. Tomorrow’s manufacturing industry is going to need to embrace many new and ‘disruptive’ technologies and processes that are just starting to enter the market today. From wearable devices such as Google Glass, 3D Printers, Drone Based Logistics Networks and of course the Internet of Things. Future supply chains will need to embrace these technologies and EIM and B2B platforms will need to process data coming from these devices as part of the overall information flows across a digital supply chain. During my ‘Manufacturing 2020’ presentation I discussed each of these technologies in more detail and provided some real world examples of their applications. It has only been a few weeks since I posted my last blog introducing EIM, B2B and IoT and even during this short period of time the IoT world has moved on and technology has progressed. For example only this week Cisco announced a $1Billion investment to expand their cloud infrastructure which will be used to support the connection of billions of IoT related devices. Cisco’s cloud is being designed from the ground up to support IoT, capable of scaling to billions of connections and trillions of events all supporting real time analytics to help customers get the insights they need from the connections of people, processes, data and things as they happen in real time. At an SAP conference in New York yesterday Cisco and SAP painted their vision for the Internet of Things, especially in relation to manufacturing environments of the future. Cisco estimates that improvements to plant automation processes and improved production output from IoT is a potential $2Trillion opportunity over the next ten years. The chart above, courtesy of Cisco, highlights the potential opportunity of IoT in manufacturing. Building a dedicated IoT platform, processing the data coming off of this infrastructure in an in memory database such as SAP HANA is only part of the story. Providing connectivity to a B2B network which can then take actionable decisions and initiate supply chain processes is the next logical step in the evolution of a company’s IoT related digital supply chain strategy. Dedicated APIs will need to be developed to connect Cisco’s proposed network to a B2B network such as OpenText |GXS’s Trading Grid, the world’s largest cloud based integration platform which processes 16billion transactions per year. The API is a critical cornerstone of developing a completely closed loop IoT connected digital supply chain infrastructure. So what exactly will these closed loop, IoT focused business processes look like and how will they help to enable digital supply chains of the future. In the immediate future there are three key areas where IoT can fuel the digital supply chain, namely offering pervasive visibility, proactive replenishment and predictive maintenance. Let me now expand on these with a few real world examples that I have learnt about in recent weeks. Pervasive Visibility – Bosch is currently developing a software based virtual supply chain. The environment will take the output from various RFID and other sensors located across both their factories and their 3PL providers and this will provide a complete end to end view of shipments as they move from point of manufacture to point of delivery. RFID technology has been around for many years but I wonder if the IoT will provide the platform for RFID technology to prosper? Part of the problem that has restricted the growth in RFID adoption has been the lack of a truly global RFID reader infrastructure. The IoT, with billions of connected devices could potentially change this. Proactive Replenishment – Last October at Cisco’s Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona, SAP demonstrated a HANA powered vending machine. Not only could the vending machine recognise a customer using the machine and make suggestions for their next purchase, but it could also potentially highlight out of stock situations with the machine which would lead to new stock needing to be ordered. Information on every sale from the vending machine would be stored in an instance of SAP HANA allowing a supplier to monitor consumer buying patterns and trends across a network of internet connected vending machines. This is a very simple example but in the context of a manufacturer this could be applied to aftermarket parts replenishment or monitoring stocks in a warehouse that are used as part of a production process. Predictive Maintenance – I think this area is very interesting as it could potentially tie in with the other trend of the moment, namely 3D printing. Take the following scenario, an aircraft is about to experience a problem with a bracket failure in one of its wing flap mechanisms. The bracket is going to fail due to a hairline crack developing in one arm of the bracket. The original bracket is shown to the left. What if a strain gauge fitted to the bracket actually detected the crack developing, this information would be transmitted to the destination airport that the aircraft is flying to and a new 3D printed part is manufactured in the maintenance hangar and once heat treated could be fitted to the aircraft when it lands. This is a great example of what I would term a ‘zero length supply chain’. A part has been manufactured there and then with no logistics infrastructure required at all to deliver the part. This would save airlines a significant amount of money, especially in relation to downtime required to normally wait for a part to be shipped to a maintenance hangar which could be located anywhere in the world. Now imagine a similar process happening to repair a car, a military vehicle or any serviceable ‘asset’ that needs to be maintained to a high level in order to maximise the up time of the asset concerned. I have provided three examples above to illustrate where IoT could potentially fuel a digital supply chain. The RFID example could be integrated with an B2B Advanced Ship Notice (ASN) process to notify customers of an inbound delivery. Rather than customers being told that their shipment may be delivered within a 30 minute window, the network of interconnected RFID sensors and readers will paint a real time view of the shipment as it makes its journey from the factory to the point of delivery. As the parts are delivered, inventory levels can be automatically adjusted and the associated invoicing process could be set in motion. The vending machine example would see an automated order being placed with a supplier when the stocks in the machine get too low and the delivery of goods to the machine could be monitored as well. As for the maintenance example, there will inevitably be parts that cannot be 3D printed and therefore either an automated process could be put in place to order new parts or a web portal front end to an online catalogue of replacement parts could be setup. In fact if parts have to be replaced after so many flying hours then maintenance crews could have access to an online catalogue of 3D printable parts, they would simply select and then download the replacement part that they need, as a 3D CAD model, and then print locally on a 3D printer in the maintenance hangar. These three processes nicely demonstrate how B2B plays a key part of the whole closed loop process relating to future digital supply chains and in fact these processes are in some cases reliant on each other to operate efficiently. Both replenishment and maintenance scenarios will require visibility, especially when ordering non-3D printable parts such as air filters for example. In some cases maintenance crews will need to make sure they have a ready supply of spare parts so that an aircraft can be repaired as soon as it lands. Being able to automatically replenish spare part related inventories will be key to ensuring that maintenance processes can be undertaken smoothly. Once again I have only scratched the surface in relation to how IoT will impact digital supply chains of the future and I will look at other areas in future blog posts.

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The Importance of Client Lifecycle Management for Transaction Banking

In today’s competitive environment, financial services firms are faced with the challenge of maximizing revenue, reducing attrition, and maintaining customer relationships. That means adopting a holistic approach when it comes to developing true customer-centricity—which is the cornerstone of client lifecycle management for transaction banking. My colleague, Deborah Miller, recently blogged about “How Business Process Management adds Value in Financial Services.” Her blog provided insights from Jim Sinur, Gartner Emeritus, a thought leader in applying business process management to innovative and intelligent business operations. Jim provided examples of how BPM enables start-ups, improves customer service and accelerates claims management in the financial services sector. These examples illustrate a concept known as “client lifecycle management,” encompassing: On-boarding Establishing new accounts, products, and services for new or existing clients Processing a mix of paper and electronic information, stored in file cabinets and disparate legacy systems Ensuring compliance with bank policies and procedures Ongoing Relationship Management Processing add/change/delete requests for authorized signers, products, and services Growing the relationship through ongoing, personalized communications Migration Moving clients from legacy systems to end-state, target systems Supporting data migration, new documentation, validation of existing users and services Client lifecycle management is especially important for serving corporate and institutional clients. Using whatever terminology your institution prefers—transaction banking, wholesale banking or cash management services—corporate and institutional clients continue to generate significant fee-based revenue for financial services firms. As such, there continues to be intense competition to win customer loyalty, especially with the increasing number of acquisitions and mergers. For this reason, financial services institutions (FSIs) are building a strong case for developing an effective client lifecycle management program. Technology is a key enabler for an effective client lifecycle management program. As Jim Sinur discusses, the FSIs were an early adopter of business process management (BPM) technologies. For transaction banking, BPM was initially focused on managing customer service inquiries about late payments, missing statements, loan advances, and the like. When implemented across the client lifecycle, business process management (BPM) provides an underlying technology platform for process automation and case management that supports business agility, collaboration, efficiency, and helps you to respond quickly to the needs of your clients and support staff. But as Brian Wick discusses in his blog, “The Four Biggest Trends Changing BPM ,” FSIs are struggling to keep up with dramatic changes in the way employees and customers interact. These changes are a result of four evolving trends: Cloud, Mobile, Social and Apps. OpenText has launched a dedicated micro site, the New Era of BPM, to help you understand how next generation BPM technology solves the problem of ever-changing client lifecycle management requirements. Achieving true customer-centricity isn’t a “set it and forget it” process. Retaining corporate customers (and their lucrative fee-based business), requires you to look beyond client onboarding as a one-time event and more towards an integral, ongoing component within the client lifecycle management process.

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Do You Need a Genius Bar for B2B Integration?

Many of the leading cloud computing providers deliberately avoid talking with their customers. When inquiries come in, they push them back to online resources. Haven’t you read our API specification (it is 200 pages long)? Have you posted the question to our online community (maybe someone will know the answer)? Have you visited our app store (you might get lucky)? Strange as it might seem, not talking to your customers is viewed as the best way to grow your business profitably. But is this the best approach for cloud-based B2B integration platforms? The answer is both “Yes” and “No.” In recent years a number of Integration Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) vendors have emerged in the market. These iPaaS vendors follow a similar strategy to cloud providers such as Google, Facebook and Amazon Web Services. iPaaS providers develop user interfaces that are highly intuitive and can be learned within minutes. Extensive wikis and robust API suites are published with a goal of making users self-sufficient. Some iPaaS vendors even offer libraries of maps, forms and connectors to popular applications, which can be self-provisioned in a matter of minutes. Apple’s Genius Bar What you will not find most iPaaS vendors offering is high-touch customer service models or service delivery teams that can be scaled up and down to support projects. And that is just fine to most of the types of companies who prefer to use an iPaaS. The user demographic that iPaaS appeals to are self-starters. They have 10, 20 or 30 years of EDI/XML experience under their belt. These Do-It-Yourselfers don’t want a high-touch model. But what if you don’t have 10, 20 or 30 years of experience with B2B integration? What if you don’t know how to get data in and out of SAP using XI APIs? What if you don’t know how to publish item attributes to Walmart using the 1WorldSync data pool? What if you don’t know how to use the RosettaNet PIP for a design win? What if you don’t know how to aggregate end-of-day account statements from your international banks using SWIFT? What if you have never used the EBICS protocol to issue payments in France? What if you have never connected to manufacturers in Japan using Zengin or HULTF? What if you are not familiar with the electronic customs regulations for importing goods to India? What if you are not familiar with the policies for issuing electronic invoices in Mexico? If any or all of these scenarios apply to you then a self-service iPaaS model is not the way to go. Not all cloud-based integration providers take the iPaaS approach to the customer experience. Some provide a model more like Apple’s Genius Bar. When you encounter a hardware or software problem with your Mac, tablet or phone you can talk to a real person at the Genius Bar about how to solve it. Many companies don’t have the expertise in-house to master the hundreds of different networking protocols, messaging standards and ecommerce regulations that exist around the globe. For these organizations, having a real person (not a wiki or API spec) they can contact is essential to meeting the integration requirements of their customers. When you need to “Map an SAP IDOC to a VDA 4938 for an automotive OEM in Turkey” you have a team of experts that will hold your hand through the process. You need a Genius Bar for B2B integration!

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Adoption of Cloud B2B Services Continues to Grow in Japan

It has been 18 months since I first discussed how Japanese companies were taking a keen interest in moving to cloud based B2B services. In that particular blog entry I highlighted five reasons why Japanese companies were considering a move to cloud based B2B platforms. I wanted to take the opportunity to revisit each of these reasons and update according to some of the industry trends that I have been seeing over the past 18 months. I also wanted to provide some personal insights from my recent trips to Japan. As you will see it certainly provides some validation in terms of my original findings relating to cloud B2B adoption across Japanese companies. Reason 1. Introduce Flexibility: Japanese manufacturers need to scale production as seamlessly as possible to ensure they can meet varying consumer and market demand levels. By moving a B2B environment to the cloud, it allows companies to build flexibility into their supply chain as required by the needs of the business and the cloud also offers a secure, ‘neutral’ environment into which key suppliers or business partners can be connected. Update – Over the past 18 months we have seen Japanese companies continue to rethink their production footprint around the world. There has been significant interest in setting up new plants in Brazil and Mexico to leverage low cost labour in these countries as well as use these locations as a springboard into the lucrative North American market. Mexico is one of the most important automotive manufacturing hubs in the world at the moment and that importance will grow further over the next few years. Nissan is certainly taking the lead in terms of trying to build a flexible production footprint, not just to service their production requirements but those of their partners Renault and Daimler as well. In fact over the last 18 months we have seen a number of new industry partnerships emerge, one of the most significant being Toyota and BMW who are working together to develop a new sports car. In addition I believe we will see a new round of investment in the so called MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) countries, a new set of emerging markets that I discussed at length in an earlier blog entry. Considering the investment placed by Japanese companies in the existing BRIC countries I would expect Japanese companies to take the lead in investing in the MINT countries as well. It is interesting as I studied Flexible Manufacturing Systems when I was at University over twenty years ago but these systems were for use within the confines of a production plant. Now, these FMS environments need to work across multiple plants and connecting to a single, cloud based environment is key to the success of these production environments. In fact the analyst IDC coined the phrase the ‘Global Plant Floor’, a great description of what many manufacturers would like to achieve, today. Building flexible, scalable production environments should now be on the agenda of every manufacturer that has truly global aspirations. Reason 2. Implement Modernisation: Japanese manufacturers have relied on bespoke, behind the fire wall software solutions to manage their global production facilities. The cloud is going to drive a revolution in how IT environments are managed and maintained on an on-going basis and IT resources can be re-deployed on to other IT projects within the business. Update – Over the past 18 months I have had two trips to Japan, one trip focussing on the high tech companies and the second trip looking at automotive companies. On each trip it was interesting to see which companies were taking the bull by the horns so to speak and were proactively looking to upgrade their B2B platforms. Since I posted my last blog relating to Japan we have had many enquiries from Japanese companies wanting to move to a Managed Services environment. Interestingly most of these companies are in the high tech sector but in each case they wanted to move away from their legacy communications network and on to a single platform that would give them the future proof communications infrastructure that they need to compete on the global stage. It may be due to the shorter life of high tech consumer electronics products that makes it easier for these companies to identify a window where they can move to a new platform. In the automotive sector it is not so straight forward as cars will normally have a five year life cycle and it is not so easy to identify a suitable migration window to a new B2B platform without disrupting production in some shape or form. From an automotive perspective one B2B application that is likely to see rapid adoption over the next few years, based on some of the discussions I have had in recent months, are Managed File Transfer applications. The reason for this is that car manufacturers are de-centralising their design offices and hence they need the ability to exchange very large files between different locations. The increased trend for partnering with other vehicle manufacturers, for example BMW and Toyota, has also led to a need to be able to share design information. I would expect this trend to continue into the foreseeable future and cloud MFT based solutions will be perfect for this application. Reason 3. Initiate Consolidation: Japanese manufacturers have expanded their production facilities all over the world, building out extensive internal networks and deploying multiple B2B hubs. Cloud based B2B environments, such as GXS Trading Grid, are helping Japanese companies consolidate their global B2B hubs and networks and at the same time contribute some way towards future proofing their B2B platform. Update – As highlighted above, the pace of consolidation to a single B2B platform appears to be quicker across high tech rather than automotive companies. This could be due to the fact that production operations are generally outsourced across the high tech industry as they tend to utilise more contract manufacturers. So it is the contract manufacturers such as Foxconn and Flextronics that need to develop cloud based platforms to connect with their own suppliers. In fact over the past 18 months we have seen many more consumer electronics companies such as Sony outsource their manufacturing to an external provider and I think this trend will continue. In general we have seen more companies consolidate onto a Managed Services platform, either due to a lack of internal resource availability or a desire to route all transaction based traffic through a single provider. In addition to B2B networks, many Japanese manufacturers have built their business around home grown ERP platforms. However these ERP platforms are becoming expensive to maintain and with an increasing desire to embrace mobile, social and Big Data technologies, these companies will need to upgrade their ERP environments as well. ERP upgrades and ERP instance consolidation provides an ideal opportunity for considering B2B Managed Services. I believe we will see Japanese companies focus on both upgrading/consolidating their ERP and B2B environments moving forwards and this will be a good thing for all concerned, especially for vendors such as OpenText. Reason 4. Improve Collaboration: Japanese manufacturers are now embracing collaboration and co-opetition in order to respond to changing consumer and market demands. Therefore cloud environments utilising feature rich, web based applications that can be accessed anywhere across the business help to encourage collaboration between two or more partnering companies and their respective supply chains. In addition they offer companies improved predictability and visibility of long term costs associated with running cloud based B2B platforms. Update – As highlighted earlier, we have seen more and more examples of Japanese companies needing to work with their competitors in order to exploit new market sectors. This need to embrace co-opetition has forced Japanese companies to change the way they work, especially with western partners. Using a cloud B2B platform is ideal for companies who wish to work jointly on a project as they can use a hosted platform for just the length of their joint project without much risk to their respective back end IT environments. One thing I found during my trips to Japan was that more and more Japanese companies were becoming increasingly interested in how western companies were implementing and conducting B2B, for example what document standards were being used and how they connected to their trading partner communities. This demonstrated to me that a significant cultural shift was underway in terms of proactively wanting to learn about how companies were using B2B in other markets and how they could deploy similar cloud B2B platforms across their own operations. The mere fact that more Japanese companies were willing to use a cloud platform meant that they were also willing to work more collaboratively with trading partners around the world. I still believe that the Japanese Earthquake in 2011 was the catalyst for this urge to adopt new collaborative ways of working. Reason 5. Increase Resilience: Japanese manufacturers are having to build stronger resilience into their global operations in order to minimise future supply chain disruption. Cloud environments help to foster collaboration amongst trading partners around the world and more importantly helps to speed up communications out to a trading partner community during a time of crisis. Update – Increasing resilience to future supply chain disruptions has been one of the more important issues that Japanese supply chain directors have needed to address over the past 18 months. Dual sourcing of suppliers, mapping out supplier networks and identifying potential points of weakness in a supply chain have all been addressed from an operational point of view. From a data centre point of view, moving to a cloud based environment hosted by a third party provider helps to ensure that business related transactions and information flow across a state of the art data centre infrastructure. Even though Japanese companies have not had to test their back up and fail over processes in a major way since the 2011 earthquake, these companies are in a much better position today, from an increased resilience point of view, than they were before. The investment they have made in setting up new plants in different regions around the world will also help to protect against future supply chain disruption. Using a cloud B2B platform has provided the speed and flexibility to move production anywhere in the world.

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SWIFT Services Vendor Selection Checklist

More and more corporate treasury organizations are considering SWIFT services to route payment instructions or collect account statements from their banks around the world. But connecting to the SWIFT network can be daunting with the associated requirements for dedicated hardware and software, along with in-house SWIFT certified experts. Few corporates choose to host their SWIFT connectivity in-house, instead opting to use an outsourced SWIFT services solution. The best way to compare different SWIFT services providers is to compile a list of the technical capabilities, corporate to bank connectivity, SWIFT services operations, and implementation considerations that you require. Then, you can rank each provider according to how well it meets your needs. When choosing a vendor, don’t just consider whether the provider can meet your needs for today; be sure that your provider can meet your future requirements as your treasury management needs evolve. DOWNLOAD THE SWIFT SERVICES VENDOR CHECKLIST APP We’ve developed a new Checklist App to help you engage in more educated conversations with SWIFT vendors and evaluate the various SWIFT outsourcing options that best fit your business requirements. It includes features that we recommend you include in your vendor evaluation, including: TECHNICAL CAPABILITIES Supports your preferred communications protocols e.g. FTP, AS2, HTTPS, SFTP, etc. Performs vulnerability/penetration tests on networks and connectivity Regularly tests their Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans Meets your recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) standards CORPORATE TO BANK CONNECTIVITY Supports direct, host-to-host bank connectivity to your cash management banks to save you SWIFT transaction fees Has experience integrating to various accounts payable, general ledger, and treasury management systems to improve straight through processing Can translate inbound and outbound files (e.g. bank statements, vendor payments, check images, etc.) into your preferred formats Provides visibility, monitoring and support services for all messages (SWIFT and non-SWIFT) SWIFT SERVICES OPERATIONS Does not require a PC or laptop with USB port to access the SWIFT Network and to release payments Handles all of the required SWIFT message types e.g. FIN, FileAct, MX (XML/SEPA) Licenses SWIFT’s Alliance Gateway and Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) to ensure SWIFTNet compliance Supports your choice of digital signature providers e.g. SWIFT 3SKey or IdenTrust Trust Link IMPLEMENTATION Provides experienced financial services implementation specialists Can meet your implementation timeframes Provides a designated project manager Has a proven, comprehensive implementation approach and project plan CUSTOMER SERVICE Has operations across your geographic footprint Offers 365/24/7 support as a standard offering Offers customer support in the languages required for your geographic footprint Meets your standards for problem resolution timeliness, quality and metrics These are just a few of the features and services you should consider before finalizing your checklist. Click here for an Excel-based SWIFT Services Vendor Evaluation Checklist you can download and use today!

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From Super Powers to Supply Chain Power 50, a Busy Week for B2B

So time for reflection, last week I attended the last ever GXS sales kick-off event in Washington DC. Last event I hear you say, well yes because in January GXS was acquired by OpenText. It was great to hear last week about what GXS had achieved as a business over the last few years and now we are all looking forward to being a part of the OpenText family. The theme of our event was Super Heroes/Powers and needless to say I had a few takeaways from the event as shown below. The combined power of OpenText and GXS will transform and bring together the Enterprise Information Management and B2B market sectors. Any likeness between the Superman statue shown below and myself, no matter how small, is purely coincidental This morning I was contacted by an organisation called Supply Chain Opz, they have recently pulled together a list of the top 50 supply chain related blogs. One of my recent blogs on how the Internet of Things will impact B2B and Supply Chain environments managed to get included within this list. There are hundreds of supply chain related blogs on the internet and Supply Chain Opz decided to pull together a definitive list of blogs from supply chain related industry thought leaders. Interestingly they use social media coverage as a key measure of the success of a blog, and this particular blog had the most shares and likes on our blog site, so there must be a huge interest in this emerging area. I have been blogging at GXS for nearly seven years now and I have found it to be a great way to do industry research and then present my own opinion on things. Moving forwards I will be blogging on behalf of OpenText so another chapter opens up in my blogging ‘career’, one that will discuss in more detail how companies and supply chains can leverage Enterprise Information Management and B2B integration platforms that our combined companies can now offer.

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Implementing iHub 3, What You Need to Know Now

The latest version brings a host of improvements to big data and mobile apps including animated HTML5 visualizations. I was building a custom report the other day to support a new opportunity for the sales team when I got an email from one of the guys in my group. He asked if he could access and personalize my report on both iPads and Android tablets; something I wasn’t able to do before. “No problem,” I said. “I’m working with the latest version of BIRT iHub and it should be a snap.” The latest version announced in December 2013 and currently available for download includes animated HTML5 visualizations as a default setting. This now makes BIRT a perfect presentation tool for all the iOS, Android or Windows mobile devices out there with HTML5 capabilities for running custom charts, apps and maps. Having both mobile and web compatibility is especially helpful for the growing number of people using tablets and smartphones to view data. The best part about preparing my data for this latest version of iHub is… I don’t need to do anything differently. No reconfigurations or recoding is needed. BIRT supports the best known Internet and Big Data repository sources, including MongoDB, Cloudera’s Impala, Hortonworks, and Cassandra. This is important because you can now include social sentiments around the product to alert the sales team so they know what people are saying. It’s nice to know that even if my data set became infinitely more massive, that my BIRT iHub environment could handle it. I can also make the report really stand out compared to the way other reporting toolkits handle visualizations. The BIRT Designer Professional includes more than 200+ HTML5 animated widgets for web and mobile design and deployment. BIRT Designer Professional also adds Mac OS and 64-bit Windows operating systems to its list of supported platforms to support developers’ current platforms of choice. And the cool thing is that if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I can embed any third-party HTML5 visualization such as D3. The BIRT iHub 3 revamp combines the dashboards, interactive viewer, and report studio into a single unified interface. Dashboards can be built, tested and installed by developers directly within BIRT Designer Pro, improving how dashboards perform and respond to user changes. The BIRT iHub is perfect as cloud-based software platform that can be hosted outside the company firewall and managed on or off premise. So, I got my work cut out for me in choosing from the different visualization options, but my platform of choice is easy; it’s BIRT iHub. If you want to see this kind of example in action, Actuate will be hosting Cloudera’s Impala group at SF Bay Area BIRT Developers’ first Meetup on Thursday, February 6 at 6pm. The meeting will spotlight how to create a seamless application experience by integrating BIRT’s powerful visualizations and analytics with Hadoop via Cloudera Impala, in combination with other data sources. Cloudera’s Gwen Shapira, Solutions Architect and Actuate’s Michael Williams, BIRT Product Evangelist & Forum Manager will be on hand to share their tips and tricks. We hope you can join us.

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Bringing it Altogether – EIM, B2B and IoT

This is my first blog writing for OpenText. OpenText I hear you say, have you changed companies?, well yes, GXS was acquired by OpenText on 16th January. Now you can read about the acquisition HERE and I don’t really need to cover this in any more detail but I am very positive for the future. Not just for myself in an industry marketing role across OpenText but for the companies that will be able to leverage the software and services from both organisations, it really does provide a strong value proposition for managing information across the entire extended enterprise. As part of my role at GXS over the last eight years I have been writing blogs around B2B integration and looking at the exchange of information from an external trading partner point of view. Now as part of the OpenText family we can help companies address their internal exchange and management of information as well. The traditional world of B2B has been focused on connecting external trading partners together via our Trading Grid platform, the world’s largest cloud based B2B integration environment. The trading partners are typically located across different industries, different regions and each has a different requirement from a document exchange and connectivity point of view. I have been working with manufacturing companies, from a vendor perspective, for over twenty years now and it has been interesting to understand how they structure their operations both internally and externally in order to compete on the global stage. In my former company PTC, a global provider of software based Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, there was a strong focus on data management and collaboration across internal departments. These departments needed to utilise 3D design based information in many different ways and the information was exchanged across the business depending on whether you were in design, production or the aftermarket service department. Much of the design related information is stored centrally in a design repository, which is typically accessed by a web portal type environment. These web based environments are crucial to supporting the continued globalisation of today’s manufacturing industry. So this covers the management of design based information but what about other types of information that could be flowing across a manufacturing business?, for example test reports, assembly procedures, product presentations, industry analysis reports, sales reports, compliance documents and other media such as video and audio files?  Welcome to the world of Enterprise Information Management (EIM), a world where ‘unstructured’ information is managed using a common platform to allow all stakeholders across the business to be able to access any type of information. Most manufacturers have setup ERP and database environments to manage different aspects of their information flows but once inside a database this information becomes ‘structured’. Even information contained within an Excel spreadsheet is considered structured in nature. From a B2B perspective EDI related documents could be considered as structured information because the documents are created using a specific EDI standard such as EDIFACT or ANSI and will contain a standard header describing the content of the EDI document. But what about a PDF document for example?, lots of textual information but unstructured in nature, in a similar way Powerpoint presentations have lots of information on each slide but it is not structured in any way. The management of unstructured information, especially information that lives outside of a traditional database needs to be managed and accessed more effectively. The high level diagram below illustrates a typical manufacturing company where ERP and PLM systems are central to design and manufacture of today’s goods. Another new IT term or TLA (Three Letter Acronym) is just starting to get on the agenda of global CIOs, namely the Internet of Things (IoT).  This is a subject that I discussed extensively in an earlier blog, HERE. In summary it is estimated by some analysts that over 200billion devices or machines will be connected to the internet by 2020, representing a market opportunity of potentially $14.4Trillion.  There are really three components to an IoT device, the sensor, the WiFi/Network connection and the on board processor to monitor all the information coming from the sensors on the machine.  Now it is interesting to note here that the term ‘Big Data’ started to be discussed two years before IoT went ‘mainstream’ in 2013. Many companies are still at the very early stages of learning about IoT, some are simply trying to work out which devices or ‘Things’ could be connected to a network. But with billions of devices connected to the internet and Petabytes of information being extracted from machines around the world, it presents an interesting challenge in terms of how this particular set of unstructured data will be managed. It also presents the ideal opportunity for companies to develop their own Big Data strategies as well. IoT information would for example be taken from connected utilities infrastructures, office equipment, production machinery and warehouse & logistics equipment. The information would typically contain for example proximity, temperature, performance or stress loading related information. All of this information needs to be captured and in some cases processed in real time, and in other cases archived in some form of storage server for downstream processing by other business systems.  Combined with the existing information that is flowing across the extended enterprise, what would a typical information management and exchange environment look like in the near future?  In my earlier IoT related blog I included a diagram of how the IoT could potentially connect with a B2B platform via a dedicated API, now with EIM in the mix as well I thought it would be good to try and update this diagram. I will stress that the following diagram is my own opinion on what a future EIM/B2B/IoT environment could look like moving forwards. However at a very simplistic level I think it contains some of the key building blocks for a future EIM/B2B/IoT infrastructure to support a manufacturing operation. The IoT presents an opportunity to connect the digital and physical supply chains together and develop more closed loop business systems that are more responsive to changing real world business environments. In my earlier blog I highlighted three scenarios of how this could benefit supply chains, namely proactive replenishment, pervasive visibility and predictive maintenance. In future blogs I will expand more on these closed loop business scenarios and the broader role of EIM in the context of today’s manufacturing sector. Two weeks ago I co-hosted a Twitter chat in partnership with The Business Value Exchange relating to IoT and the impact it is likely to have on the CIO, here is a quick recap of the main discussions that took place.

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From BRICs to MINTs – the Second Round of Emerging Market Growth Begins

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries have seen significant growth over the last decade since the group of countries were defined as emerging markets in 2001. Brazil is currently experiencing significant growth in its manufacturing industry thanks in part to high import taxation laws imposed by the government. These laws were introduced to try and encourage companies to manufacture goods in Brazil rather than import them into the country. The government policy of high import taxes has worked, especially as far as the automotive industry is concerned and the high tech industry is growing quickly as well. In fact I would argue that next to China, Brazil is seeing more inward investment, from a manufacturing investment point of view, than many other countries at the moment. Whether it is to take advantage of a growing economy or leverage the country as a stepping stone into the North American market, you cannot deny that Brazil is on a roll at the moment. Russia has also seen significant growth over the past decade, thanks in part to a reduction in government imposed restrictions and red tape. Traditionally many companies have chosen markets other than Russia to invest in but those that have taken the plunge and invested in Russia have seen huge growth in their own market share. The automotive industry is a prime example, many Russian car plants look as though they have just come out of the stone age due to tight government control and lack of investment, but St Petersburg Port has become an unlikely investment hub for the global automotive industry. Renault-Nissan made a significant investment in the government controlled automotive manufacturer Avtovaz, which has resulted in the alliance controlling a significant market share. Like a Phoenix, the whole automotive industry in Russia is now rising from the ashes and it is just a matter of time before millions of consumers start to spend their money on new cars. Moving across to India, the country is still seeing significant growth in its economy, thanks in part to a decade of setting up one of the world’s largest markets for outsourcing companies to invest in and it has become the offshoring destination of choice for many companies around the world. Consumer wealth in India is growing significantly and many consumers are making the switch from two and three wheeled vehicles to cars. India’s manufacturing industry has grown around its ability to produce high quality goods from a relatively low cost but highly skilled workforce. Most goods manufactured in India are for export but increased consumer wealth is likely to slow down the rate of export as manufactured goods are sold into the domestic market instead. So some interesting dynamics at play here which has helped companies such as Tata invest in overseas luxury brands such as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). In fact in 2013 JLR sold more cars than any previous year thanks in part to the significant investment from Tata who has a strong belief in the future of the luxury brand. Ten years on and China is still referred as an emerging market by some analysts but out of the four countries China has seen the largest growth in its economy when compared to the other three countries. As consumer wealth has grown in the country, so has the consumer desire for luxury goods such as cars. In fact China is the largest car market in the world and it continues to grow. Strict government laws, namely establishing joint manufacturing ventures, around how western companies can establish a presence in the country, has helped its own domestic manufacturing industry to flourish. However times are changing in China as the government tries desperately to spread the wealth across the country rather than have it all focused along the East Coast. Large tax based incentives are now seeing more western investment in central and western China and this trend is likely to grow over the next ten years. Today, companies are finding they have a choice, either to put up with the increasing wage rises in Eastern China or move their operations to lower cost regions of the country. In some cases companies, even Chinese ones, are looking at other emerging markets around the world to invest in. Increased wage costs, labour strikes and a desire to exploit other growing markets has led to the emergence of a new wave of emerging economies, thirteen years after the BRICs were defined. Hold on tight, the second wave of emerging markets is vying for inward investment, say hello to the MINT countries! This new acronym refers to Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey and was coined by Jim O’Neill, the former chief economist and head of asset management at Goldman Sachs. Interestingly Jim was also credited with introducing the BRIC term back in 2001, so you could say he has expertise in identifying key growth economies around the world. So let me now explore why these countries are likely to take over from the BRICs as the economic growth engine of the world. One of the common things that three of the MINT countries share is that they all have geographical positions that should be an advantage as patterns of world trade change. For example, Mexico is next door to the US and also Latin America. Indonesia is in the heart of South East Asia but also has strong connections with China. The BRIC countries have certainly helped boost the profits of many logistics providers around the World as they ship manufactured goods from China and India to all corners of the world. Given that the MINT countries are geographically better positioned next to key economies then I would expect the dynamics of the logistics industry to change given the shorter distances that goods will have to be shipped to reach their point of distribution or sale. As for Turkey it can be regarded as being in both the West and East however Nigeria is the odd one out here as it is located in a part fo the World that has traditionally seen little development, at least by Western standards but it could be a key country once other countries stop fighting with each other and trade finally opens up across the Continent. Given that Nigeria has been included in the MINT definition it could lead to the country being accepted as a member of the G20 as the other three countries are already members. Economically three MINT countries, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria are commodity producers and only Turkey isn’t. This contrasts with the BRICs where two, Brazil and Russia are commodity producers and the other two countries aren’t. In terms of wealth, Mexico and Turkey are at about the same level $10,000 per head, this compares with $3,500 per head in Indonesia and $1,500 per head in Nigeria which is roughly the same as India. They are slightly behind Russia at $14,000 per head and Brazil on $11,300 but still a bit ahead of China on $6,000. As part of the research for this blog I found a great set of infographics which dives deeper into each of the MINT countries, click here for the article. From an infrastructure point of view, these countries have some significant catching up to do, especially in Indonesia and Nigeria. Jim O’Neill recently completed a trip to each of the MINT countries on behalf of the BBC and he found out some amazing facts. One of the most interesting was that about 170million people in Nigeria share the same amount of power that is used by about 1.5million people in the UK. Almost every business has to generate its own power. So this begs the question, how has Nigeria grown at a rate of 7% with literally zero power! If Nigeria is able to sort out its utilities infrastructure then it is estimated that Nigeria could grow at 10-12% per year and become a key economic hub for the African continent. Indonesia faces both political and infrastructure challenges and Turkey has its politics and a desire to do things the Western way which when combined with the Muslim faith in the country is certainly a challenge but they are determined to see their economies grow over the next decade. It is no surprise that Turkish Airlines is currently the fastest growing airline in the world. From a manufacturing point of view, Mexico is grabbing most of the MINT related headlines in terms of levels of manufacturing inward investment. Over the past two years it has established itself as a key automotive manufacturing hub, thanks in part to its relative proximity to the huge North American market and significantly reduced labour rates. Nissan, Daimler and VW have all announced multi-billion dollar investments in new production plants in the country. Indonesia is seeing significant investment from both Western and Chinese companies looking to get out of the increasingly more expensive Chinese labour market. Just as Mexico stands to become a leading automotive hub, then it is possible that Indonesia could become a leading high-tech investment hub over the next decade. High Tech goods have been manufactured in Indonesia for many years but I would expect exponential growth to now continue given that the country has now been identified as a significant growth economy. From a B2B perspective it has been interesting to watch how technology has been adopted across the BRIC countries in recent years as it provides clues on B2B adoption levels across the MINT countries. Out of all the BRIC countries and from a communications point of view, China has placed a lot of emphasis on improving its legacy telecommunications and network infrastructure. It has also been keen to develop its own XML based message standards due to the increasing importance placed on internet based trade around the world. However what has actually happened over time is that Western companies entering the Chinese market have brought in their Western ways of working and this includes their best practices for deploying B2B, ERP and other IT infrastructures that are key to operating a business today. Also, China has huge global expansion plans and if they are to establish further operations in North America and Europe they will have to adopt Western B2B message and communications standards such as EDIFACT and AS2. For this reason I believe that EDI messaging is here to stay and in fact the growing success of the emerging markets and their global expansion plans could lead to a growth in EDI traffic around the world. Who thought that would happen back in 2000 when XML was touted as the replacement for EDI messaging! Since the BRICs were identified as growth economies in 2001, technology has moved on very quickly and I think we will see the MINT countries move straight to new telecommunications infrastructures such as mobile networks. After all reliable, fixed line internet connectivity is not widely available in many of the MINT countries. Given that it is far quicker to install a mobile network when compared to a fixed line telecommunications infrastructure then I would expect mobile commerce or M-Commerce to grow faster in the MINT countries than the BRIC countries over the next few years. Here is a great SlideShare presentation that I found highlighting how a local telco provider, Vodacom, plans to support the mobile communications market in Nigeria, click here for more information. China will probably be implementing more mobile networks across the Western parts of its country but collectively I think mobile network adoption will be faster across the MINTs. If companies are able to get access to reliable mobile and utilities infrastructures then we will see levels of B2B adoption increase quickly as the MINTs look to utilise more cloud based B2B integration services. Given the relatively low IT skills that exist in some MINT countries, a cloud based approach to rolling out B2B infrastructures will help these countries grow their economies far more quickly than the BRICs were able to achieve in their early days on the world stage. International expansion is an area that I have covered in numerous blog posts over the past few years, but this particular one encapsulates most of the areas that companies have to be aware of when entering a new market for the first time. I have discussed Mexico extensively in an earlier blog post and future blog posts I will cover the other three MINT countries in more detail. So in summary, an interesting time for Western companies, should they invest in BRICs or MINTs ?, as I have a sweet tooth I think I know where my money would go!

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10 More Features a Cloud-Based B2B Integration Platform Needs to Offer

cloud B2B integration

In my last post I shared 10 features that a cloud-based B2B integration platform should offer beyond simple message translation and protocol mediation – services such as compression, encryption and data enrichment. But there are many more features that the leading platforms have already started to offer: 1) Digital Signatures In Plain English – Put your electronic John Hancock on it to confirm that you actually sent it Example – You recently shipped 5000 brake pads from your plant in Stuttgart to your customer outside Paris. Now it is time to send an invoice. The German tax authorities require all electronic invoices be transmitted with a digital signature. If there is an audit, government authorities can be sure that fields on the invoice were not manipulated to evade Value Added Taxes. The cloud-based integration service should be able to apply the appropriate digital signatures to comply with German law. 2) Message/File Split In Plain English – Take one message and split it into two Example – You need to make 100 payments to various suppliers for goods and services rendered.  Some payments are to be made by check. Others by wire transfer. The remaining payments will be made by Automated Clearinghouse. You upload a file with the names of each supplier; the payment amount; payment method; and payment date to your bank. But before the files are transmitted to the bank, a cloud-based integration service splits the list of payments into three separate files – one for checks; one for wires; ones for ACH. The three files are then routed on to the corresponding payment processing systems in the bank. 3) Message/File Merge In Plain English – Take two (or more) messages and merge them into one Example – Your online retail customer requires that you sent an inventory update once an hour for the high-volume consumer electronics product they sell on their website. But the inventory data is housed in four different applications behind your firewall. Instead of sending four different files to the retailer you prefer to consolidate the information into a single report. The cloud-based integration service should be able to collect the files from the four different applications then merge them into a single report. 4) Long Term Archiving In Plain English – Keep a copy of the message on file for several years You exchange invoices electronically in Europe with your customers and suppliers. The tax regulations in several EU member states require copies of invoices to be kept on file for up to 10 years. A cloud-based integration service could store the invoices in the original format for a period of years to comply with the regulation. 5) Alerting In Plain English –Tell me when something is wrong with my message. Example – The map translating a $1M purchase order from your largest customer into your SAP system just failed. You have a 2 hour service level commitment to acknowledge orders from this account. Your sales organization needs to phone the customer to confirm the order, but how do they even know it exists? A cloud-based integration service could notify individual sales representatives when errors or exceptions occur for big customers. 6) Quarantine In Plain English – Put incoming data in a holding cell until it gets cleaned up Example – Your supplier sends you an invoice for $500,000 for widgets it delivered last week. But the invoice does not contain the general ledger code of the buying organization or a reference to your purchase order number. If the invoice goes into your ERP system then it will be your accounting team’s problem to track down the information. Unless there was a way to force your supplier to enter the missing fields before it is allowed through your firewall.  Cloud-based integration services should be able to quarantine messages with bad data in them. 7) Search and Replace In Plain English – Replace “This” with “That” Example – You recently changed the name of your primary product. Your marketing team insists that the brand be represented properly on any outbound communications including EDI/XML. Just like in your word processor you need to replace the words “Big Widget” with “Ultra Widget.” Your cloud-based integration service should be able to perform a global search and replace within inventory reports, ship notices and other electronic messages. 8) Duplicate Checking In Plain English – Don’t send the same document twice Example – Your supplier is having problems with their B2B integration environment. It is unstable and has been restarted three times in the past week. Each time the supplier restarts its B2B environment it attempts to resume processing all the transactions in its queue. But the queue gets corrupted causing the same messages to be sent more than once. As a result, you receive two duplicate invoices for $2M each. Will your accounting team catch this before you make a double payment? Your cloud-based integration service should be able to perform duplicate matching on transactions. 9)  Carbon Copy In Plain English – Send a copy to a third party Example – Just as with email you can carbon copy interested parties on EDI/XML documents in addition to the intended recipient. You have outsourced fulfillment and inventory management of certain products to a third party logistics provider (3PL). Whenever you receive purchase orders for those items, you want the 3PL to receive a copy as well so they can process the order. 10) Out-of-Sequence Processing In Plain English – Make sure the documents are received in chronological order At 9:56AM a status message is received from a trucking company stating that your shipment is on the road 100 miles away and will arrive this afternoon. At 10:30AM you receive a shipment notification from the manufacturer that the same order has just shipped from the original factory 500 miles away. Have the laws of physics been violated? No, the trucking company sends its EDI messages more frequently than the manufacturer. Companies often send EDI/XML documents in batches once per hour (or a few times a day). Cloud-based integration services can re-sequence documents into their chronological order so that there is no confusion about timelines.

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Santa Deploys the ‘Internet of Things’ Across his North Pole Operations

Over the past five years I have been providing updates on one of our more secretive customers based out of a large factory in the North Pole. Nearly all of our B2B solutions have been implemented across the supply chain and distribution network of the big man himself, Santa Claus. I have listed five years worth of project updates below, simply click on the web links to learn how cloud B2B integration helps Santa with his operations. 2008 – GXS Managed Services chosen to support Santa’s new B2B hub, GXS Intelligent Web Forms deployed to create SantaNet 2009 – Santa completes deployment of GXS Managed Services and begins to embrace social media tools 2010 – Santa evaluates how cloud computing and mobile devices could improve North Pole operations 2011 – GXS Active Community (formerly RollStream) gets rolled out across Santa’s trading partner community to improve day to day collaboration across his Present Delivery Network and he also gets nominated for B2B Hero award by GXS 2012 – Santa begins to evaluate the information flowing across SantaNet and implements a Big Data strategy Five years on from the initial discussions with Santa’s IT team I have just returned from a three day trip to the North Pole. Getting an audience with Santa has always been difficult, especially this time of year, and it was whilst I was returning from a business trip to Amsterdam that I received an email from one of his many assistants. “Please can you come up to Santa’s factory in the North Pole as he would like to update you on how we have expanded our Present Delivery Network Hub during 2013. A seat has been reserved for you on ELF001 which will be leaving from Schipol Airport at 21:00hrs” I cancelled my flight home and boarded ELF001, a 747 ‘DreamLifter’ up to the North Pole International Airport. I showed a picture of one of these aircraft in last year’s update and it always amazes me how much you can fit into one of these aircraft, Santa leases several of these aircraft each year to help with the distribution of over 520million presents to his global network of Present Distribution Hubs. When I arrived at Santa HQ I was whisked through the fast track security channel, (security is normally tighter here than any TSA check point found at North American airports) I was taken straight to the ‘Project Dasher’ war room where the global deployment of GXS Managed Services was initially masterminded from. In the corner of the room was Santa, sitting by the fire reading a copy of our new EDI Basics book (download a copy HERE). One thing you quickly learn about Santa, probably due to the nature of his job, is that he knows most of the IT and technology trends that have made news in recent years. Santa always looks for ways to continuously improve his operations and during 2013 he has been implementing a new project relating to the ‘Internet of Things’. The Internet of Things basically relies on machine to machine connectivity via the internet to exchange real time information from one device to another. ‘The Internet of Santa’s Things’ (IoST) has now been deployed across his entire operation. Santa already had good visibility across his operations but the connected nature of the Internet of Things has meant that he has been able to take enterprise wide visibility to an entirely new level. Santa already had his trading partners connected to his Present Delivery Network Hub and last year he spent a lot of time implementing a Big Data strategy to analyse information flowing across this platform. Santa quickly realised that if he could somehow connect his digital and physical supply chains together then he would obtain even greater operational efficiencies. However there was one major stumbling block to deploying IoST, he had to connect every machine or piece of equipment to the internet. Santa decided to extend this still further by connecting every employee and reindeer to IoST as well, but more on this later. Santa had to sign partnership agreements with numerous network and industrial automation providers as well as one of the world’s largest mobile network companies to allow all aspects of his operation to connect with IoST. Every piece of equipment that needed to be connected to IoST had to have a WiFi card connected to the machine or equipment’s main control board. The extended real time connectivity that IoST now provides allows Santa to obtain some interesting insights into his operation. Here are just a few examples of how IoST is beginning to help Santa’s operation. Every piece of warehouse and logistics equipment within Santa’s global network of Present Distribution Hubs is now connected to the Internet. Increased connectivity across his distribution network has helped to remove traditional blind spots where inventory levels had previously been difficult to monitor. Every stock movement via ‘internet connected’ machines such as fork lift trucks and pallet movers can now be accounted for and this provides a more accurate view of inventory levels. Given the tight schedule that Santa has over the Christmas period, every second saved through improved visibility helps to improve the overall service to his customers, the children of the world. Closed loop processes were implemented to allow the automatic ordering of toy parts. As soon as the level of parts inventory fell below a certain level, sensors in the storage bins sent a message to the order management system and electronic orders for new parts would be sent directly to the supplier with no elf intervention at all. This closed loop ordering process has helped to significantly reduce buffer stocks of toy parts which are now ordered on demand, as they are required. Santa’s army of warehouse associates, elves, work in warehouses ten times the size of Amazon’s largest warehouse in the world. To improve elf productivity it is important for presents to be located quickly in their respective storage locations within the warehouse. In order to maximise efficiency, each elf has been issued with Google Glass which helps to locate specific presents in the warehouse and provide instant access to product information. The extensive network of sensors and other connected devices transmit a constant stream of information across the warehouse and factory locations. Google Glass provides one of many visual ‘entry points’ into information flowing across Santa’s Present Distribution Network. The North Pole Union of Elves (NPUE) has been keeping a close eye on the working environment of Santa’s elves in recent years. The elves work tirelessly during the Christmas period to fulfil ‘orders’ from the little children of the world and to protect the health of the elves, they have been issued with a slightly modified Jawbone device which they can wear on their wrists during the working day. The Jawbone device helps to monitor the work, health and sleep patterns of each elf. As each elf clocks out at the end of each day, information from their Jawbone device is uploaded to a central database and the health of each elf is analysed overnight to ensure they are working within the union’s guidelines. So as well as machines being connected to IoST, every one of the 10,567 elves are connected to IoST as well. Santa started to implement a Big Data strategy in late 2012 but now with every machine and elf connected to IoST, Santa has a huge amount of data available to him which helps to make improved and better informed management decisions. Santa heard from one of the leading industry analysts that Big Data Analytics was going to become a more important area in coming years and this is why Santa has now decided to sponsor a degree at a local Elf University which will help elves analyse these rich data sets and essentially become world leading information scientists. The scale of Santa’s operation is huge and so are his energy bills to run his numerous factories and distribution facilities. Santa’s business is at the heart of an area often depicted in news reports relating to global warming and for this reason Santa has an added interest in preserving the environment. The Internet of Things presented Santa with an opportunity to monitor energy levels across his facilities and take corrective action to improve the energy efficiency of these operations. Over the past year Santa has built up a global network of technology partners, one example was Google discussed earlier and another is NEST, a producer of leading edge thermostats and smoke detection systems. These devices are installed in every major work area of Santa’s operation and each device is connected to IoST. They allow Santa to remotely monitor and control the temperature to ensure his elves have an optimum environment to work in. Santa also worked with local water supply and electricity companies to find ways of monitoring energy usage. Power for his factories and warehouses can be supplied from either water based power generation equipment located under the Arctic ice flows or the giant solar panels and wind turbines that have been installed across the North Pole. Santa takes great pride in the operational efficiency of his elves on the production lines as they are assembling toys. To improve his levels of factory automation, Santa has also worked with leading industrial automation companies to install automatic assembly and packaging machines. Needless to say these pieces of production equipment have also been connected to IoST. In fact since connecting to IoST the production line has experienced virtually zero downtime. This is due to the ‘predictive maintenance’ processes that have been put in place. In the old days Santa’s maintenance elves would carry out preventative maintenance on production equipment but with the introduction of IoST, Santa decided to implement a predictive maintenance process that would harness the information being transmitted from each machine and allow them to make decisions on whether parts needed replacing. This process has been so successful that even Santa’s contract manufacturers have connected their production equipment to IoST so that they can leverage the benefits of predictive maintenance. Some people think that Santa’s reindeer have some form of nuclear power source as they are able to go around the world in a matter of hours. In fact following the elves adoption of Jawbone devices, Santa thought it was only fair to ensure the well-being of the other key members of his extended staff, his herd of reindeer. Santa had read in a recent edition of Wired magazine that some scientists had experimented with health monitoring chips embedded under the skin to monitor key functions of the body. Santa worked with one of the world’s leading universities conducting research into improving animal health, to see if a chip could be embedded under the skin of a reindeer. This would allow the reindeer’s health to be monitored remotely 24/7. The chip monitors nearly a dozen key body functions and this information is transmitted back to Santa HQ via IoST every minute so that if necessary Santa can replace a reindeer as and when required and thus ensure that the herd of reindeers are working to their optimal performance. Santa’s sleigh contains nearly as many sensors as a Formula One race car. The 150 sensors placed at strategic points on the sleigh monitor everything from speed, sleigh distortion, temperature, weight and on board inventory levels. The information from ‘Sleigh Force One’ is transmitted to Santa HQ via IoST. The burst of information, nearly 2Gb worth of data, is transmitted every five minutes and is archived on a bank of storage devices within Santa’s newly upgraded data centre. Remember those barges mysteriously floating off the California coast recently? Google said that they were going to become facilities for show casing new products. In fact one of the barges is actually a new data centre that was recently towed up to the Arctic Circle. This data centre is at the hub of Santa’s IoST infrastructure. A team of elves located in the Mission Control facility at Santa’s HQ are constantly monitoring the sleigh to make sure it is perfectly balanced and optimised during its journey through some of the harshest weather conditions around the world. Santa’s sleigh also contains a temperature controlled locker and sensors placed on presents stored in this locker ensure that the temperature is maintained to a specific level. The one other area where IoST has been applied is with the presents themselves. Whilst on the sleigh, sensors monitor the condition and temperature of the presents. However when they are dropped down a chimney the sensors switch mode and start transmitting information about its condition after being delivered. As presents are sent out from Santa HQ, two identifying labels are automatically applied to each present. One label has an embedded RFID device which is directly linked up to IoST and the second label is essentially a QR code. This QR code is applied for the purposes of the children’s parents. The QR code once scanned, takes you to a website which not only shows what the present is, but includes downloadable instructions etc, more importantly it describes how the packaging should be recycled or disposed of. This initiative alone has helped boost Santa’s green credentials and as the information is transmitted across IoST it has helped Santa achieve REACH and RoHS compliance to ensure materials are disposed of safely. Following the implementation of IoST, Santa also upgraded SantaPAD, a mobile app that was developed last year to help him keep track of his operations whilst he was delivering presents around the world. SantaPAD v2.1 now provides details of every device connected to IoST, through a machine to machine equivalent of Facebook, and this means that Santa can effectively monitor the ‘pulse’ of his operations from anywhere in the world by simply using his iPad app. So it has been quite a year for Santa, each time I visit he manages to extend the functionality of his IT infrastructure in a different way. Santa’s Internet of Things strategy has been his most ambitious project to date and it seems to have stretched into every area of his operations. I think it certainly provides a great case study in terms of how other companies could deploy the Internet of Things across their own production and logistics operations and I am sure Santa will be open to showing companies around his new and fully connected operation. 2014 will see many companies start to embrace the Internet of Things and Santa’s big bang approach to rolling out IoST across his operations has worked out well but not every company will want to take this approach. Providing an update on Santa’s B2B platform traditionally means that this is one of my last blogs of the year and so with this in mind I just wanted to offer season’s greetings and best wishes for 2014, See you next year !  

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Common Ground: A Roundtable Discussion on the Future of Connectivity

During a recent roundtable discussion, GXS and its financial services clients held a rousing discussion about key trends affecting the Future of Connectivity and the complexity faced in serving corporate clients. With representatives from North American and European financial institutions, the discussion aimed to provide thought leadership on key trends affecting financial services innovation. Prior to the financial services roundtable, the participants received “Your Solution to Pain-Free Corporate-to-Bank Connectivity”, a white paper commissioned by GXS from industry analyst Jeanne Capachin, formerly of IDC Financial Insights and Meridian Research. Jeanne’s white paper served as a jumping off point for the roundtable discussion. Jeanne moderated a discussion of the key trends affecting innovation across financial services segments: Improving the Client Connectivity Customer Experience The roundtable participants are dealing with a complex set of connectivity solutions that they are maintaining on behalf of their key customers. Complexity arises from diverse formats, protocols, handshakes and standards. This complexity is driving financial services firms to outsource to third party integration providers to avoid further investment in disparate, one-off solutions. Firms are also looking to experts in client onboarding to quickly get clients enrolled in products and services, accelerating “time to revenue.” Ever-Growing Regulatory Compliance Regulatory changes around the global are impacting financial institutions’ ability to invest scarce technology resources in new product development and innovation. Firms in North America and Europe are deep in the thick of meeting the requirements of Dodd-Frank and the Payment Services Directive, respectively. Evolving industry standards As regulations are ever-growing, industry standards are ever-evolving. Evolving industry standards can be viewed as an expensive burden or an opportunity to drive innovative change. But in the meantime, financial institutions must support both legacy and next generation industry standards for file formats. This is especially true for banks implementing SEPA, who face a looming February 2014 deadline. Conclusion The most important message from the event was this: By working together and finding common ground, banks and vendors can help to take the lead in customer experience, standards development and regulatory change – ensuring that as an industry we deploy technology effectively and manage change at a safe, but aggressive pace. Click here to read a full synopsis of the roundtable discussion, titled “Common Ground: GXS and Financial Services Firms Discuss the Future of Connectivity.” And to find out how GXS Managed Services can help you manage complex client connectivity requirements, click here.

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Top Ten Trends that will Impact Automotive Supply Chains in 2014

I recently published my thoughts on some of the key high tech related industry trends for 2014, so now I thought I would follow up this blog with my predictions on what could happen across the automotive industry in 2014. The industry is going through an exciting period of change with significant global expansion, introduction of new technologies and a global desire to introduce greener vehicles. So let me now outline some of the key supply chain and B2B related trends that are likely to impact the global automotive industry in 2014: Increased adoption of global vehicle platforms will simplify and consolidate supply chains – companies such as VW Group have proven that if implemented correctly, global car platforms can bring significant benefits to an automotive manufacturer. Despite the initial high investment, consolidated suppliers/parts/sub systems, simplified production systems and logistics flows all contribute to justify the investment. With the trend for global expansion growing, especially by Far Eastern automotive companies at the moment, I would expect more automotive manufacturers to start rolling out global car platforms or vehicle architectures during 2014. ‘Internet of Automotive Things’ becomes more deeply embedded within both vehicle and production environments – 2013 saw the ‘Internet of Things’ go mainstream. 2014 will see all participants in the automotive supply chain working to get their ‘machines’ connected to the internet. Production equipment, logistics networks, and aftermarket service infrastructures will become connected to a common enterprise platform to allow information flows to be analysed and acted upon. Every car manufacturer will begin to offer a ‘connected car’ within their respective range of vehicles. Automotive OEMs follow Tesla and BMWs lead by developing dedicated electric vehicle brands – exponential growth in sales of Tesla and BMW i-Series electric vehicles in 2014 will see many other vehicle manufacturers introduce dedicated platforms and sub brands for their electric vehicles. So far many car manufacturers have decided to enter the electric vehicle market by ‘electrifying’ existing vehicle platforms. From a packaging point of view many of these vehicles are not suitable for housing large battery packs or electric motors. To be successful in 2014, vehicle manufacturers will have to follow Tesla and BMW’s lead by developing dedicated, lightweight and ‘connected’ vehicle platforms China accelerates global expansion plans with acquisition of key suppliers and struggling western OEMs – China has so far failed to set the world alight with some of their own car brands. Lack of quality, limited brand awareness and having to compete against strong western brands has all contributed towards China’s limited global expansion of its domestic automotive industry. Increasing wealth in China will see a continued stream of western companies being acquired by Chinese manufacturers, the acquisition of Volvo Cars by Geely has shown how successful this can be. What if Chinese domestic OEMs could sign agreements in 2014 to use under-utilised production facilities in Europe and North America? This would serve to increase production levels globally, China would get a foothold in other markets and the whole supply base becomes rejuvenated. Adoption of Cloud B2B platforms accelerates due to continued consolidation of global ERP and legacy B2B environments – The continued globalisation of the automotive industry in 2014 will see stronger efforts to upgrade old legacy B2B environments. Continued expansion into the ‘2nd wave’ of emerging markets in 2014 will require an extension of IT infrastructures into North Africa, Vietnam and Thailand. Limited IT skills in these countries will see cloud based solution being deployed to allow all suppliers to be connected to a centralised B2B hub. The introduction of ‘connected plants’ to support strategies relating to the Internet of Things will see increased levels of consolidation amongst ERP instances to provide a single view of ERP information across multiple automotive plants. Automotive OEMs form alliance to lobby regional governments to invest in electric charging infrastructures – range anxiety is the number one barrier to electric vehicle adoption and the automotive industry is going to need the help of regional governments if they are to overcome this barrier. Cities such as Amsterdam have successfully implemented charging networks and even manufacturers such as Tesla have decided to fund the development of their own charging infrastructure to help drive electric vehicle adoption in the market. However if automotive companies are going to meet stringent government set emissions targets by 2020 then the government should be investing in regional charging infrastructure investment policies to provide an incentive for consumers to make the switch to electric vehicles. 3D printing technology matures and moves from conceptual design applications to limited use in production environments – this technology has been around for more than twenty years but in 2013 it was introduced to the general consumer. Automotive companies have been using 3D printing technologies for rapid prototyping at the concept design stage of a vehicle’s development for many years. Increased awareness of this technology will now see it begin to be deployed in certain production and aftermarket service situations where parts can be manufactured at a production or service centre location. Production of castings and housings will be one of the initial beneficiaries of this particular technology in 2014. More countries adopt global B2B communication and message standards to support international operations – increased globalisation of production has complicated logistics flows and supplier on-boarding initiatives. We are already seeing ERP and B2B platforms being consolidated to support these global operations. In 2014 we will see an increased interest in adopting global standards such as OFTP2 for communications and the soon to be introduced global message set being developed by the German automotive industry. In 2014 I would expect to see more regions follow Germany’s lead in using global standards. I would also expect regional industry associations such as AIAG in North America and JAMA in Japan to take a close look at the EDIFACT based global message set (which is being developed by manufacturers such as VW Group, BMW, Hella and Bosch) to see how they can be applied in their own countries. Strategic partnerships announced between high tech and automotive OEMs – Over the past few years we have seen a number of strategic partnerships being announced between for example Panasonic and Toyota, Ford and Microsoft. In 2014 I would expect to see a new generation of partnerships emerging thanks to the increased interest from consumers to connect their electronic devices to in-car entertainment systems. To date we have seen traditional consumer electronics vendors form partnerships with the automotive industry, moving forwards I would expect to see Google, Apple and other consumer centric high tech brands develop stronger relationships with the automotive industry. Will downloadable apps become common place in 2014?, will wearable devices interact with vehicles?, will Google’s Android and Apple’s IOS platform form the basis of future in car software platforms? Europe and other regions follow North America in rolling out regulations to minimise use of conflict minerals – North America is one of the first countries to try and significantly reduce the amount of conflict minerals flowing across supply chains. New regulations being introduced in 2014 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in North America will require companies to demonstrate that they are not using conflict minerals as part of their supply chain operations. In 2014 I would expect Europe, Japan and other key industrialised regions to begin evaluating the implementation of their own conflict minerals reporting laws. AIAG in North America has already been working extensively with the automotive industry in North America, I would expect them to work closely with other industry associations such as Odette in Europe and JAMA in Japan to share key learnings and best practices. This will help to develop a unified approach to the removal of conflict minerals from global automotive supply chains during 2014.

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What was Driving B2B in 2013? – Top Ten Most Popular Blog Posts

As we reach the end of 2013 I thought it would be a good time to review the top ten most popular blogs from Driving B2B for the year. The Top Ten list below was derived using results from Google Analytics and for the purposes of this blog looks at which posts, from all my blog entries over the years, were most visited during 2013. 1. Why is India’s Automotive Industry Growing so Quickly? – Even though I posted this blog in March 2012, this has been the most reviewed blog on Driving B2B for 2013. I think it helps to highlight that there is continued interest in setting up automotive operations in India. Growing consumer wealth, an interest in premium level cars and low cost labour are all contributing towards continued inward investment in the country from the world’s automotive industry. Interest in Jaguar Land Rover, recently discussed in this blog, who are owned by India’s TATA Motors has also helped to fuel the growth of the automotive industry in India. 2. How will Cloud Computing Benefit the Manufacturing Industry? – This blog was originally posted in February 2011 and each year proves to be one of the most popular blogs read on Driving B2B. Cloud computing has transformed the way in which business can operate. The manufacturing sector is truly global in nature and this blog described how the industry could benefit from deploying cloud based infrastructures to manage the direct materials supply to their production operations. Today’s manufacturers need to quickly enter new markets to remain competitive and cloud B2B infrastructures provide the scalability and flexibility to achieve this. 3. Top Ten Trends That Will Impact High Tech Supply Chains in 2014 – This blog was posted in August 2013 and has been the most popular in terms of those that have been posted on Driving B2B during 2013. The high tech industry is currently going through an exciting period with the wide spread adoption of tablet devices, wearable devices and the ‘Internet of Things’. The adoption of these three tech trends alone has transformed the high tech industry over the past 12 months and is likely to continue driving consumer interest in 2014. This blog describes the top ten tech trends that are likely to impact high tech supply chains in 2014. 4. How the ‘Internet of Things’ will Impact B2B and Global Supply Chains – This blog was only posted in October this year, however this post has been the most popular as it has received a lot of reviews in just a two month time frame. It is not surprising as the Internet of Things has been one of the most popular tech trends for 2013. This year companies have been learning about IoT but I think in 2014 we will see more companies actually start to deploy more machine to machine connectivity environments. I will continue to keep a close eye on this emerging sector as we go through 2014 as it will help to drive convergence between the physical and digital supply chains. 5. How the Brazilian Government Plans to Stimulate Growth Across Their Automotive Industry – This blog post was originally posted in July 2012 and has continued to prove popular amongst visitors to Driving B2B. As with India, Brazil is also seeing exponential growth in its automotive industry. Imported automotive parts or vehicles are subject to high taxes and as a way of boosting their domestic automotive industry the Brazilian government introduced the INOVAR directive in 2012. This has proved very successful as many of the global car manufacturers have now invested billions of dollars in setting new plants in the country. 6. Build to Order or Build to Stock? – This is one of my oldest blogs to appear in the Top Ten list for 2013, however it helps to demonstrate that there is a continued interest in the automotive industry to reduce inventory levels by adopting build to order production processes. Changing consumer demand, combined with exponential growth in premium car sales in the emerging markets has led many vehicle manufacturers to implement build to order production. This in turn led to increased adoption of Just-In-Time production techniques which helped to considerably reduce the volume of parts flowing across automotive supply chains. 7. Arriba, Arriba, The Automotive Industry Speeds Up its Investments in Mexico – This blog post was originally posted in 2012 and continues the theme shown in this Top Ten list regarding continued interest in the emerging markets. Over the last two years Mexico has emerged as one of the most important automotive manufacturing hubs in the world. Many Far Eastern and European vehicle manufacturers have established a presence in the country as it provides the ideal stepping stone to export vehicles into the lucrative North American market. 8. Why Eastern Europe Could Benefit from the ‘Perfect Storm’ Currently Brewing in the High Tech Industry – This blog was originally posted in October 2012 and discusses how Eastern Europe has become a magnet for inward investment from the high tech industry. Restructuring across the industry and a continued interest from Far Eastern companies to enter the Western European market has led to significant inward investment in the region. Close proximity to Germany for example and access to a highly skilled, low cost workforce has made this one of the fastest high tech investment regions in the world. 9. How Cloud B2B Integration Enables Michelin’s International Operations – This blog was posted in September this year and promoted our recent joint webinar with Michelin. This has become one of the most popular manufacturing related webinars that we have produced this year. Michelin is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of tyres and this blog discusses how the company uses Cloud based B2B integration to connect with their extensive trading partner community around the world. 10. German Automotive Industry to Move From VDA to Global EDIFACT Messages – This blog was posted in June this year and discussed the German automotive industry’s move towards using Global EDIFACT messages rather than VDA messages. German automotive companies such as VW have globalised their operations in recent years and they found the VDA message set to be too restrictive in terms of managing global logistics flows. The introduction of the Global Message set aims to standardise the way in which the German automotive industry exchanges messages with its global trading partner community.

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The Need for Modern Electronic Archiving Solutions

With the increasing prevalence of smart devices in this fast-moving digital world, customers demand all information available whenever and wherever they choose. Whether it’s a credit card or savings account statement, pension or insurance documents, they want it at their fingertips Today, companies are looking for cost-effective repository solutions which can store virtually all document types and make them available to customers electronically with strict security and audit measures. These solutions will store documents only once and retrieve them in multiple formats (e.g. AFP for printing, PDF/Accessible PDF for e-presentment). Organizations also want a modern repository that is easy to deploy with minimum production in order to achieve maximum ROI in less time. Moreover, many companies are looking for an archiving solution which can replace their existing legacy ECM system or work in conjunction with their existing archiving systems to fulfill their new requirements. It is clear, that, when evaluating repository solutions, organizations take into account many factors, including business requirements, cost, and expected ROI, but technical characteristics of the solution and its performance remain the key for decision makers. Below are questions that Enterprise IT Managers often ask when assessing the capabilities of the Repository solution. These questions should be considered when comparing solutions, as they provide insight into how well the repository will perform and suit modern needs. Q. Can the Repository store print streams like AFP and Metacode? A repository must have the capability to store any print stream documents, including AFP, Metacode, PCL, TIFF, PDF, PDF/A and Accessible PDF formats. Additionally, the repository must have the capability to reduce storage requirements of PDF documents by using Document Storage Reduction technology. Q. Can the Repository be installed on Mainframe? What other platforms should it support? A modern repository can be installed on Mainframe and supports all major platforms like Windows, UNIX, AIX and all the flavors of Linux. Q. Can the Repository be deployed on the Cloud? The repository must have the capability to be deployed on any Cloud infrastructure. Q. Can the Repository store MS Office documents like Word, Excel, or Powerpoint? Can it also store other document types like HTML, or XML? A modern repository must support storage of virtually any document type (see Figure 1, demonstrating a common Repository interface screen). For commonly used formats like MS Office Word, Excel, Powerpoint, XML and others, it must have the capability to parse the document to extract metadata and use it as index values for the respective documents (Figure 2). Q. Can the Repository store customer emails? Can you analyze the emails in the Repository? A modern repository solution can store emails in their original format. The repository should also have the capability to parse emails for basic information like email address, subject, from, to, CC and other fields. In addition, the repository also needs to include an Analytics plugin to analyze emails and enable targeted marketing messages to customers. Q. Can I index the documents when loading into the Repository? Is there a facility to edit the index details later? A modern repository can index the documents either using metadata of the document or by extracting the main attributes (like account number, customer id, credit card number, etc.) in the content (Figure 3) and using them as index values. It also allows editing indexes after the loading process has been completed (Figure 4). Q. Can I search for the documents in the Repository? Yes, the repository must provide multiple interfaces to search documents in various application groups. This provides the capability to search on all index fields. It also enables customers to use plain SQL type operators like (=) equals, (>) greater than, (<) less than, and percent (%) (Figure 6). Q. Is it possible to access documents from legacy archives? Can I have a federated search from multiple ECM instances? A modern repository provides multiple connectors for major ECM providers like IBM CMOD, IBM File Net P8, EMC Documentum, IBM File Net Image Services, and Microsoft SharePoint (Figure 7). It must also connect to any ECM system (as long as it supports CMIS framework) using CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Service) Adapter. The repository can also create a federated layer to search documents from multiple ECM instances. Q. Are there any restrictions on volumes or number of documents to be stored? Can the Repository support billions of documents? A modern repository must be tailored to support high volume transactional output (HVTO). The solution should not only store high volume documents, but also process high volume transactions with ease. Q. Does the Repository support COLD archiving? What other storage technologies does it support? The repository must support COLD archiving. It provides a logical physical layer for storage and it is also agnostic of the storage medium used. With just a couple of configuration changes (Figure 8), it is possible to switch from one storage medium to another. The Repository supports multiple storage mediums like Hadoop , Centera etc. Q. Does the Repository convert print stream documents to PDF? Yes, the repository must have the capability to transform print stream documents to PDF on-the-fly whenever customers want to view the documents. Q. Does the Repository support Accessible PDF documents which would be suitable for individuals with disabilities, including the visually impaired? Does it comply with accessibility regulations? Yes. A modern repository must have the capability to to convert print stream documents or existing PDFs into Accessible PDF documents (Figure 9). Look for vendors that partner with multiple industry organizations in different regions across the globe to ensure that all Accessibility requirements are met. If you would like to learn more about Actuate’s Repository solution, download the Repository Datasheet or contact Actuate.

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Your Solution to Pain-Free Corporate-to-Bank Connectivity

“Global multi-national and large corporate clients expect sophisticated connectivity solutions from their financial institutions. These clients also expect their financial services providers to make it easy for them, by supporting their preferred connectivity method and file formats. But for financial institutions, the trick is balancing customer ease against increased expense and complexity.” Financial institutions support many customer access channels. For commercial clients, institutions invest in branch, call center, online, mobile, and direct, host-to-host file transfer. They have made dramatic investments in channels, but the biggest beneficiaries of these investments are those supporting human interaction, rather than machine-to-machine connections. These machine-to-machine or host-to-host file channels often support limited file types, are difficult to change, and require lots of expertise to support. The file channel is often referred to as corporate to bank connectivity. GXS recently commissioned industry analyst Jeanne Capachin, formerly of IDC Financial Insights and Meridian Research, to research and author a white paper addressing the complexity of host-to-host connectivity for financial services firms. Connectivity complexity arises for a few different reasons. Fortunately, there are third-party specialist providers that are well-versed in overcoming the complexity of corporate client connectivity. And financial services institutions (FSIs) are becoming more comfortable with relinquishing in-house control of the file channel in favor of managed services. As explained in an earlier blog post, managed services enables FSIs to offload complex integration requirements, including protocol mediation, file transfer and messaging, and data transformation.Supporting transaction types and regulatory requirements across geographic regions; Developing solutions to accept proprietary formats from a wide range of corporate financial systems; Continuously evolving industry standards; Expanding financial institution offerings; and Supporting unique customer requirements. For financial services firms considering outsourcing connectivity, the white paper outlines the attributes of best-in-class connectivity solutions: Connectivity—solutions that are configurable (as opposed to customizable) reduce bank staffing expense, speed customer onboarding, and support evolving standards. Visibility—The “no news is good news” approach isn’t good enough. Clients expect positive confirmation and clear, understandable messaging if and when an error occurs. Future proofing—Solutions must adapt as standards evolve and new requirements are introduced. Institutions already have enough solutions that were great at a point in time, but have not kept pace with change. Scalability—Both upward and downward scalability is important. A single platform for both large and small clients reduces expense and complexity. Security—There is no one answer now, nor will there ever be. Institutions must support a wide range of security protocols, and their connectivity solutions must be flexible enough to support multiple, layered approaches. To learn more about “Your Solution to Pain-Free Corporate-to-Bank Connectivity,” download Jeanne Capachin’s white paper here. And to find out how GXS Managed Services can help you manage your business requirements, not your technology requirements click here.

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Commsbursting

Every night retailers around the world batch up their Point of Sale (POS) data and transmit it to their suppliers shortly after the stores close. Suppliers can gain a great deal of insights from inspecting retail sales data. Suppliers can understand how many of each of their products were sold and in what stores. If they are lucky the retailer may provide insights about what other items that were in the shopper’s basket and purchased at the same time. And if they are really lucky, the retailer may provide demographics about the specific shopper who made the purchase, which suppliers can use to understand the profile of their target customer. Transmitting POS data is critical to demand sensing in the consumer products supply chain, but it often comes at the expense of a migraine headache for the IT department. The root cause of these headaches is that each retailer sends data differently. Some retailers will send each supplier the data for their specific SKUs. Others send over their entire day’s results across all their suppliers. Some retailers send five fields for each purchase transaction while others might send as many as 100 fields. Some days only a subset of the POS may be transmitted if the stores are unable to report in a timely manner. And during busy seasons like the Post-Thanksgiving holiday buying season there may be a spike in sales for particular items, which means much larger files. As a result the size of the POS files to be received can vary considerably from day-to-day. Why are large POS files a problem for IT? Well, they can be a big problem if the IT infrastructure for which they are destined wasn’t expecting them. First, there may not be enough disk space to accommodate the files. Suppose you have a 100GB hard drive. Your NOC has set an alert to notify them when the disk has less than 10% capacity remaining. At 9pm the disk has 12GB of space remaining. But the retailers send over unusually large files starting at 10pm, whose combined size is in excess of 14GB. Suddenly you are out of space and cannot accept the data. Large files also tend to choke firewalls and local area network capacity. They can also monopolize the resources of the Managed File Transfer or B2B Integration Software that processes the files. If your B2B/MFT software becomes too overloaded you may get what is effectively a Denial of Service (DOS) condition for other transactions. So a customer who wants to send you a $1 Million purchase order via EDI is unable to do so. Your HR team who needs to submit their weekly payroll run to the local bank is unable to do so. POS files are not the only types of large files. These days’ companies are exchanging many different types of unstructured data – images, videos, audio files, telemetry, logs and entire databases. And you never know when you will get one of these files, because sender rarely gives any type of warning . In today’s era of nearly-ubiquitous broadband and virtually-free storage costs, why should they be bothered with worrying about the size of files? By now you can probably guess where this is leading. Couldn’t cloud computing help with this problem? The large file transfer problem should be easily solved with the principles of elasticity that cloud providers introduce to storage and processing power. Enter Commsbursting, a new technique being used by cloud-based integration providers such as GXS, to automatically provision additional file transfer capacity in situations where large files threaten to deny service. For example, if processing or storage space hits a certain threshold (e.g. 70%) then the cloud provider could auto-provision additional resources to accommodate the spike in traffic. Commsbursting is not only useful in situations with large files. It can be used to respond to any type of spike in demand. For example, most of the payment clearinghouses around the world operate only during business hours. For example, a payment processing window might be from 9am to 4pm. As a result, near the end of the payment processing window as 4pm approaches there is a surge in demand for payment requests as accounting groups rush to get transactions recorded with today’s date. The pre-cutoff volumes are relatively unpredictable. But banks do not want to be in the situation of telling a client that they could not process an important wire transfer submitted at 3:55pm because their IT infrastructure could not accommodate the load. Using a commsbursting model to handle the spike in payment transaction volume is an elegant and economical solution for a financial institution. So you may be wondering – how do you get commsbursting for your B2B integration environment? Technically, there is no reason why you could not build the capability into a private cloud in your own data center. But the ROI of having additional capacity available to burst up may not be very compelling. With a public cloud, however, the economics are far more favorable. A provider can recover the costs from a wide base of customers each of whom benefits at only a fraction of the investment that would be required in-house.

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