B2B Outsourcing

The B2B Integration Maturity Landscape – Pt 3

B2B Integration Maturity

In partnership with OpenText, SCM World conducted a survey of 115 companies from all over the world. The goal was to guide supply chain, operations and customer service executives on the journey to integrating and automating B2B resources, specifically people, technology and processes. The full report, available here, lays out a path to maturity., while the excerpt below features the section of the report which summarizes the current B2B integration maturity landscape. SCM World’s B2B integration maturity survey yielded 115 responses from companies representing the automotive, consumer packaged goods (CPG), hi-tech, industrial and life sciences industries, among others.  (More on industry results in my next blog post). The percentage of responses by maturity level represents a relatively normal distribution, centered on an overall average maturity of 2.8, as shown in Figure 5 below. If you missed my post on the definitions of the steps – read it here. The largest group of respondents falls in the Analytical (step 3) category on the B2B integration path. Here, demand and supply use cases come together, beginning the multi-tier integration found in progressive steps. The supply chain data available is more than just simple information, and can be analysed more extensively to generate new business insight. Few companies have separated themselves from their peers at the lead along the B2B integration path. 16% of responding companies achieved an overall score greater than 3.4; only 2% scored at or above 4.0. What separates these companies is their Relational (step 4) approach to B2B integration. Here, the focus shifts towards a real-time approach that keeps pace with what is driving the business. Common toolsets and processes are leveraged to drive collaboration upstream and downstream across a growing network of suppliers and customers. Also notable is the move toward partnerships in managing B2B integration operations. CAPABILITY ADVANCEMENT REQUIRES PARTNERSHIPS FOCUSED ON DEVELOPING COMPETENCIES Outsourcing at least part of your B2B integration operations accelerates the expansion of partner networks, enabling collaborative relationships with other leading companies that drive advancement of all elements in parallel. Of the Relational (step 4) companies, 63% of operations are either fully outsourced (25%) or utilise a hybrid of external and internal resources (38%), leaving less than 38% to be run solely with internal staff. The most consistently present qualities across all of the leaders on the path show that: B2B integration is justified by real-time collaboration with trading partners Cross-functional B2B expertise is more evident within IT and/or the line of business Supply chain data is collected and organised via a collaborative network reaching to at least direct customers and suppliers Fully integrated processes exist with customers and/or suppliers More than 70% of all B2B transactions are processed digitally Previous posts in this series worth a read: Don’t Be Immature – Impact Your Business With B2B Integration Maturity 5 Stages of B2B Integration Maturity – Pt 1 Does B2B Integration Have Tangible Business Benefits? – Pt 2

Read More

OpenText and SAP team up to provide global B2B Managed Services

For twenty years, OpenText has been a close partner of SAP. In fact, we won an SAP Pinnacle Award the last 8 years in a row. This year, OpenText was recognized as a SAP Pinnacle Awards 2015 Winner “Solution Extension Partner of the Year” in category Value Creation. So with a successful partnership like that – what do you do to improve it? Extend it SAP and OpenText have announced an extension to this already successful partnership to include OpenText B2B Managed Services. OpenText B2B Managed Services is a comprehensive B2B outsourcing solution that provides companies with the people, processes and technologies necessary to maintain complex B2B e-commerce programs. B2B Managed Services operates on the OpenText Trading Grid, part of the OpenText Cloud, a fully hosted integration platform and includes mapping, trading partner on-boarding, data quality and connectivity services. With B2B outsourcing from OpenText, companies can build and grow B2B networks without making additional investment in hardware, software or human resources. OpenText extends the SAP Business Network with its reach to the more than 600,000 trading partners currently connected to the OpenText Trading Grid. Supporting SAP with OpenText B2B Managed Services is nothing new. OpenText has worked with many companies around the world to manage their SAP and B2B integration projects. Whether it is helping companies integrate to multiple global instances of an SAP platform or providing integration to a newly installed instance of SAP, OpenText has a wealth of experience with managing such projects. Read the press release here.

Read More

Join Santa Claus on his Journey to the Digital First World!

When OpenText acquired GXS in January 2014, little did the company know that they would also be acquiring a customer widely regarded as having one of the most secretive businesses in the world. Over the years, many companies have decided to outsource the management of their B2B environment and in 2008, GXS signed a Managed Services contract with its most high profile customer, Santa Claus Enterprises in the North Pole. Over the years I have kept in close contact with this particular customer as they have been a shining example of how to deploy the full portfolio of B2B solutions from OpenText. Each year, just before Santa’s busiest period, I have provided a summary of the enhancements to their B2B environment. The evolution of Santa’s B2B environment is documented via the blogs below, feel free to take a look through as they will also provide some interesting insights into what it takes to deliver millions of Christmas presents on just one night of the year. 2013 – Santa deploys the Internet of Things across his North Pole Operations 2012 – Santa begins to evaluate the information flowing across SantaNet and implements a Big Data strategy 2011 – OpenText Active Community 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 Heroes award 2010 – Santa evaluates how cloud computing and mobile devices could improve North Pole operations 2009 – Santa completes deployment of OpenText Managed Services and begins to embrace social media tools 2008 – OpenText Managed Services chosen to support Santa’s new B2B hub, OpenText Intelligent Web Forms deployed to create SantaNet Santa’s little helpers, namely his army of elves, were asked by Santa to review the portfolio of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) solutions from OpenText to see where further benefits could be made by automating manual business processes and digitising the remainder of his business operations. Many companies are embarking on a digital journey to improve the way in which different departments manage and get access to their corporate information. In fact ‘Digital Transformation’ projects are high on the agenda of many CIOs around the world at the moment and OpenText is in a unique position to provide a one stop shop to transform companies into a digital business. In August I received an email from Sonja Lundström, Santa’s trusted advisor and executive assistant, inviting me to go up to the North Pole to provide a digital business briefing for Santa and his executive board. Santa’s board members comprise of senior executives from some of the world’s leading toy manufacturers including Mattel, Hasbro and Lego. As with previous trips up to the North Pole, I was asked to check in at the Elf Air desk at a secret terminal at Schipol Airport just outside Amsterdam. This year I had the privilege of travelling on one of Santa’s new Airbus A380’s, a converted passenger plane that allows Santa, when required, to expedite the shipment of thousands of parcels to any one of his Present Distribution Hubs located in strategic locations around the world. The plane I travelled on, call sign ELF020, was one of a fleet of ten aircraft that Santa had chartered for the 2014 holiday season. 16 hours after leaving the UK I was checking into the North Pole Ice Hotel, a stone’s throw from the entrance to Santa’s primary toy manufacturing and distribution facility. I decided to get an early night as I knew the following day would be quite busy! The next day I walked across to Santa’s factory and I was whisked up to the executive briefing centre where I was introduced to Santa’s board members. Five minutes later and the main man himself walked through the frosted glass doors to the board room. Following introductions, Santa’s Chief Elf Information Officer provided an update on their current IT and B2B related projects. I have documented many of these projects quite extensively in the earlier articles which I listed at the beginning of this blog. Needless to say I was very impressed by the ROI that Santa had obtained by deploying OpenText Managed Services. Santa’s core B2B platform, the Present Delivery Network (shown above), processes billions of transactions each year and over the last five years, Santa had seen a 40% growth in new present orders through SantaNet, a web form based toy ordering environment that our company setup in 2008. The growth in new orders had come from the so called omni-channel effect with children placing toy orders through PCs, mobiles and tablet based devices. In addition to deploying a world leading B2B platform, Santa’s team rolled out their ‘Internet of Santa’s Things’ infrastructure, a high profile initiative to provide improved visibility across Santa’s Present Delivery Network. The Internet of Things has become one of the most talked about disruptive digital technologies of 2014, and Santa had no concerns about deploying his IoST environment and he certainly proved to be a digital trail blazer in this particular area. In addition, Santa had embraced a number of other disruptive technologies during 2014. Last year I discussed how Santa’s elves were using Google Glass in their warehouses to improve their toy pick rates. In addition to Glass, Santa had tested some other high profile disruptive technologies. A few years ago Santa invited Steve Jobs to his factory and following lengthy discussions Santa Claus Enterprises became a leading member of Apple’s beta test program. As soon as the early iWatch wearable devices were revealed to the world’s media in 2014, Apple despatched a shipment of iWatches for every elf in the factory. These came pre-loaded with a number of festive mobile apps to help improve the day to day efficiency of Santa’s team of elves. 3D printing was rolled out across Santa’s production department, not just for manufacturing proof of concept toy designs but to build scale models of new sleigh designs that would then be refined in Santa’s onsite wind tunnel. Sleigh research budgets have increased significantly over the years and 3D printing was helping to develop the most aerodynamically refined sleigh in the world. The final area of digital disruption that Santa embraced in 2014 was advanced robotics. Santa had heard that Foxconn, a leading contract manufacturer to Apple, was deploying up to a million ‘Foxbots’ across their manufacturing operations. Santa decided that he wanted to deploy ‘Elfbots’ to bring similar efficiencies to his own production operations. Santa is now working with Andy Rubin, head of Google’s newly formed robotics division, to define a development plan for his network of 2,000 Elfbots. Santa has done a great job of ensuring that he can seamlessly connect with the little children around the world. So in many ways Santa’s operations were already significantly digitally enabled but now that GXS had been acquired by OpenText there was scope for the deployment of further digital information tools. After all, many of the new disruptive technologies such as connected IoST devices were producing high volumes of unstructured data that would need to be archived, analysed and acted upon as required. After the CEIO had provided his updates it was time for me to take to the floor. I provided Santa and the board with a high level introduction to OpenText and they were very impressed with the joint customer base and the opportunities available to embrace new Enterprise Information Management solutions. Even though Santa had consolidated many back end business systems, such as his Elf Resources Platform (ERP), there were still many different information silos located within the various departments of his operations. Just finding the right information at the right time proved to be a challenge on occasions. To gain further efficiencies across Santa’s operations it would be important to ensure that all departments could feed off of a centralised digital information hub. This hub would be accessible any time, any place or anywhere, useful considering the global nature and complexity of Santa’s operations. OpenText solutions are divided across five key ‘pillars’, shown by way of the chart below, Santa’s B2B solutions are under the Information Exchange pillar. Before I had even explained each of the five solution pillars, Santa could immediately see that there was a significant opportunity to increase the footprint of OpenText solutions across his business. Santa said that he would like OpenText to become his trusted guide during his journey into the digital first world. But first he wanted me to highlight how OpenText could manage different types of information from the key stages of a toy’s lifecycle. I created the chart below to help illustrate some of the key process stages across Santa’s manufacturing operations. I have also overlaid, where appropriate the five key solution pillars as they apply to each stage of the lifecycle of a toy (which in reality could represent any manufactured product). Now I could go into detail around how OpenText can help manage information across each of these twelve process steps, but for the purposes of this article, let me just expand on five of these. Toy Design & Engineering – At this phase of a toy’s lifecycle, any information associated with the design of a toy will need to be centrally managed and archived in an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution. Typical files managed at this stage include 3D CADCAM models, 3D printer files, 2D drawings, production related information and high quality rendered images and 3D animations. A Digital Asset Management solution from OpenText would allow Santa’s marketing elves and outside PR agencies to review and download high quality rendered images and videos for use in promotional materials. Information Exchange (IX), solutions such as Managed File Transfer, allows Santa’s design elves to send large file size design information anywhere across the external enterprise, including contract manufacturers. Procurement / Supplier Onboarding – This is part of the toy’s lifecycle that GXS, now Information Exchange, has been supporting over the past few years, from on-boarding suppliers and ensuring they can exchange B2B transactions electronically to providing back end integration to Santa’s ERP platform. In addition, it is important for a procurement team to work collaboratively with their suppliers and all proposal, contract and contact information will need to be centrally managed. The procurement elves may need to undertake some form of Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) assessments across their trading partner community. The area of GRC is becoming an increasingly important area for many companies and new regulations such as conflict minerals compliance needs to be adhered to and managed in an effective way. Just as an aside, Santa takes Corporate Social Responsibility really seriously, so much so that he would like to setup an Elf Information Management System (EIMS) to help with the day to day management of his elves and ensure the quality of their welfare whilst working in the toy factory. Plant Maintenance and Asset Management – Santa has an army of elves conducting proactive maintenance on shop floor related manufacturing and assembly equipment. Given the tight production schedule that Santa has each year, his elves ideally need quick access to maintenance and machine test procedures, 2D maintenance drawings and equipment test and compliance certificates. Even ensuring that Santa’s elves adhere to the latest Elf and Safety procedures has become a challenge over the years. The elves already have access to ruggedized tablet devices for use on the shop floor. Using Appworks, OpenText’s mobile app development platform, Santa’s elves would be able to get remote access to any information archived in the central content management system. In addition, the elves need to follow a standard process for maintaining each piece of equipment and OpenText’s Business Process Management (BPM) solution would be able to more effectively manage all the process steps involved with maintaining Santa’s production equipment. Can you imagine what would happen on the 24th December each year if the toy production lines are halted due to a malfunctioning assembly robot? Online Customer Experience – The SantaNet portal had worked well over the years and allowed the little children of the world to login to a portal and submit their present wish lists! At this stage of the toy’s lifecycle, various web related assets will need to be created and managed, eg product brochures, toy promotion videos and animations will need to be accessed by different elves across the extended enterprise and outside video production agencies. OpenText Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions are ideal for this purpose. Given the connected nature of today’s children, Santa would be able to setup a best in class ‘Young Person Experience Management’ offering that would leverage OpenText’s Web Experience Management offering. In addition, all other internal websites used by his elves could be upgraded with the latest portal technologies offered by OpenText. Recalls and Warranty Repair – The final stage of a toy’s lifecycle relates to the potential recall or repair of toys. Unfortunately not every toy delivered via the chimney makes it safely down to the fireplace and breakages can occur. Santa established a toy repair and recall centre ten years ago however many of the processes used to recover broken toys from the world’s children are quite lengthy and prone to delays due to the amount of manual paperwork that needs to be processed. In addition to repairs, sometimes toys have to be recalled, perhaps due to poor quality workmanship by Santa’s elves. Whether repairing broken toys or recalling faulty toys, Santa’s elves could significantly improve operational efficiencies by deploying OpenText’s Business Process Management (BPM) solution. BPM will ensure that every toy that needs to be repaired or recalled follows a strict series of process steps. This ensures that a consistent and repeatable repair/recall process can be established and this helps to improve Child Satisfaction Levels, a key metric used by Santa to keep the world’s children happy with their toys. In addition to providing an overview of these five solution areas, I explained to Santa that OpenText was looking at how the different pillar solutions could be integrated together. I also showed a new fast moving video which helps to describe the OpenText Cloud. To wrap up my presentation to Santa and the board I also discussed new development areas and highlighted a recent announcement concerning OpenText’s intention to acquire the business intelligence company, Actuate. Last year when I visited Santa Claus Enterprises HQ, I was shown the latest beta version of SantaPad, a Big Data analytics engine for processing toy consumption trends across the little boys and girls of the world. Actuate could potentially provide the business intelligence platform to significantly improve the big data analytics capabilities across Santa’s operations. Santa was so excited by this news that he requested a briefing of Actuate’s capabilities, as and when it was convenient for OpenText to do so. We had just gone over our two hour presentation slot with Santa and I decided to summarise how OpenText helps businesses move to a 100% digital business. Firstly OpenText can help to Simplify Santa’s back end platforms to manage enterprise wide business information, irrespective of which application the information was originally created in. Secondly, OpenText can help to Transform information from literally any format to another and ensure that digital information can be exchanged both internally across the elf community and externally across third party contract manufacturers and logistics providers. Thirdly, OpenText can help to Accelerate the adoption of digital technologies, which would allow faster business decisions to be made. Santa’s operations would ultimately become more responsive to changing consumer demand and increased competition from new emerging toy markets. This brought our meeting to a close and I had a number of actions to follow up on with my colleagues back at OpenText! In closing, Santa wished OpenText and our global customers Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year and he said he was looking forward to working closely with OpenText during 2015 and beyond. So it just leaves me to say season’s greetings and best of luck for 2015!  

Read More

Simplifying the Conflict Minerals Reporting Process

Earlier this year many North American based companies were filing their conflict minerals reports for the first time. The Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Law was introduced to help understand the source of conflict minerals across global supply chains, primarily in the high tech, automotive and CPG manufacturing sectors. This is an area that I have blogged about before, click here & here, however this blog will provide an update on how this year’s reporting process went. I will also be covering this subject in more detail during one of my presentation sessions at our Enterprise World conference next month. This new law was introduced by the US Senate and applies to any North American based company filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC. Companies have to provide evidence that their supply chains are not using conflict minerals. Even though it was just North American based companies that had to report to the SEC, suppliers located in other countries would have to provide evidence to their respective customers in North America of where potential conflict minerals were sourced from. Conflict minerals, namely Tin, Tungsten, Tantalum and Gold (collectively known as the 3TG minerals) are mined all over the world however this new regulation specifically relates to the sourcing of 3TG minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Africa. Many mines in this region are owned by militia groups and the proceeds from the sale of 3TG minerals are used to fund their military operations. 3TG minerals are used in a range of every day products: The new law aims to check the source of these minerals before they enter the smelter process. In December 2010 the International Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) produced a document describing a five stage process which provides due diligence guidance for sourcing minerals from conflict affected and high risk areas around the world. Stage two of this framework specifically relates to the assessment and reporting process for identifying the source of conflict minerals. To assist with the reporting process, the Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) was established to help companies implement a process for assessing their supply chain and to find out where 3TG minerals were sourced from. CFSI devised a SEC approved reporting Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that companies could use for assessing their supply chains. All of the major industry analysts have produced reports offering their own analysis on the sourcing of conflict minerals, however Deloitte succinctly summarised the issues as follows, “The complexity of today’s supply chains combined with the lack of visibility into sourcing practices will be one of the key challenges of ensuring that Dodd-Frank can be adhered to”. So how did companies do during the first reporting period and what were the challenges that they faced during the assessment process? Initial estimates of the number of companies that would be impacted by this new ruling were 6000, however a study conducted by Ernst and Young in June 2014, just after the 2014 reporting process had been completed, showed that the actual number of companies that completed a standard disclosure form to the SEC was just over 1300 and of these just 1000 completed a conflict minerals report as they had reason to believe that 3TG minerals had been sourced from the DRC. The Ernst and Young report went on to say that: Average number of suppliers surveyed was 2500, but ranged from just 5 to over 40,000 suppliers 49% of respondents came from the technology, industrial and CPG sectors 43% of respondents showed sourcing of some portion of minerals from the DRC 52% of companies did not disclose supplier response rates, of those that did respond only 15% of companies had supplier response rate greater than 90% Only 27% were able to provide a list of smelters and refiners After reviewing some of the conflict minerals disclosures on the SEC website it became clear that many companies had struggled to engage with their entire supply chain and in fact there were some remarkably similar issues faced by reporting companies, namely: Ensuring that supplier contact information was up to date to allow reporting template to be sent to them Some companies received no response from their direct and sub-tier materials suppliers, partly due to the complexity of their respective supply chains Information provided by suppliers was often incomplete or inaccurate Suppliers had to be chased up for report submissions to meet SEC’s May 31st deadline Part of the problem related to acquiring information from suppliers is the reporting tool itself, even though it is relatively easy to complete, the main challenge is the distribution of the spreadsheet to a supplier community and then tracking all responses. If a company for example has more than ten thousand trading partners located all over the world then this problem becomes even more complex. OpenText™ Active Community is a cloud based community management platform that is used to manage day to day interactions with a supply chain community. Using a centrally managed archive of supplier contact information combined with comprehensive email management and reporting tools, Active Community can help remove the complexities of managing the distribution of information to a trading partner community. OpenText has re-created the CFSI reporting template within Active Community’s survey module. This means that companies can simply send an email to all their suppliers with a link to a reporting web form and all responses can be tracked and reported on. Using Active Community for the conflict minerals reporting process offers a number of key benefits: Provides an effective cloud based platform for distributing and tracking responses to conflict minerals based assessments Offers a simple and efficient reporting environment to encourage 100% participation from trading partners Ensures trading partner information is accurately maintained within a centralized environment Allows a company to meet an important corporate social responsibility objective and allow a conflict minerals report to be filed on time Even though the reporting process is only mandated by law in North America at the moment, other regions around the world are closely monitoring the US reporting process. The European Union passed a ruling earlier this year that it would allow companies located in member countries to self-certify their supply chains for conflict minerals. The EU ruling currently applies to importers of raw materials and does not include manufacturers and companies importing finished goods. The US and EU rules are intended to introduce more transparency into global supply chains, companies will therefore be ethically compelled to find out what is in their supply chains. Moving forwards it is expected that conflict minerals sourcing will become a core part of a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, which of course has board level support in most companies. OpenText has developed a number of resources to explain how we can help companies simplify their reporting process, these resources include an executive briefing document, a short webinar providing more details on the conflict minerals ruling and how Active Community can help and finally a twenty minute demonstration of the CFSI template within Active Community and how it can be used to quickly survey a supplier community. If you would like to see a short introductory video which introduces the conflict minerals ruling then please see the video below. To access our conflict minerals resources, please CLICK HERE. If you would like to learn more about our Conflict Minerals solution or any other solution that OpenText offers then why not register to attend our Enterprise World event in November? I will be presenting a number of manufacturing focused presentations at this event and you will be able to hear case study presentations from Panasonic and Michelin on how they are using B2B solutions from OpenText. Click on the link below for more information. The post Simplifying the Conflict Minerals Reporting Process appeared first on All About B2B.

Read More

How do you Manage a B2B Environment Following Divestiture?

There has been one story dominating the media in the UK over the past few months, Scotland’s attempt to seek independence from the United Kingdom. Despite losing the referendum to go their own way, Scotland will gain extra powers from the UK government to help offer a better standard of living for their population and improve growth prospects for the country. The interesting thing here is what would have happened if Scotland had broken away from the UK. Everything from running the public services and utilities infrastructures, through to managing revenue generation initiatives such as setting tax levels through to the technology infrastructure to support the running of the country in an independent capacity. Not to mention the currency, border control and defence spending issues as well. Even though the independence vote was lost, there are synergies here with companies that are going through a similar situation, namely going through some form of divestiture from their parent organisation. There have been countless divestitures in recent years as companies look to cut costs and at the same time raise valuable funds to grow their business or diversify into new markets. The chart below from Deloitte highlights some of the reasons why companies divest operations. Whenever a company goes through a divestiture process, one of the most important things to ensure is that the business can continue operating with minimum disruption. This is not easy, especially when IT infrastructures have to be untangled between the two organisations. The divestiture process is incredibly complex and it will affect all areas of a business, including the external supply chain. Unravelling a B2B infrastructure from a parent company can appear at first to be a monumental task, not only having to establish the technical components of the new B2B infrastructure but also ensuring that external trading partners can be effectively managed during the transition process. For this reason many companies will establish transition teams to oversee all aspects of a divestiture process. At the end of the day the newly divested business must continue to make money from day one and so the role of the transition team, especially relating to managing the new B2B infrastructure is critical. Now there are a number of options open to the transition team with respect to the B2B infrastructure. Taking the right course of action or direction for the divested operation’s B2B strategy is a critical decision, if you go in the wrong direction it could restrict future growth opportunities for the business. So which path do you take? Firstly, a divested operation could continue to use their existing B2B platform which for many companies would probably be the easiest option for them to follow. However there are complexities with extracting the B2B platform from the parent company and then continuing to manage trading partner relationships etc. Secondly they could decide to introduce a brand new platform themselves or adopt the B2B platform from the new owner. Either of these options will mean severe disruption to the divested operation’s business processes and trading partner relationships. Finally they could decide to outsource the management of their entire B2B platform to a trusted partner. Following a divestiture, especially if the company is acquired by a private equity firm, the company will need to be focused on their core competencies. This will be manufacturing goods and bringing revenue into the business, not having to worry about how they manage their B2B infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Therefore out of the three possible options, outsourcing is the best possible route for managing a B2B infrastructure and any accompanying trading partner relationships. After all what does a private equity firm know about running a B2B infrastructure? This is where OpenText™ Managed Services can help. Whichever route the divested operation decides to take, they will have a relatively short period of time to transition to the new B2B platform. Typically, a parent company would give the divested operation anywhere between 6 to 18 months to become totally self-sufficient in how they manage their B2B infrastructure. Establishing a B2B infrastructure in a divested operation is intrinsically linked to the overall IT infrastructure that will also need to be established in the divested business. Networks and routers have to be setup, internet connections have to established, PC’s and Laptops have to be configured, email systems have to be setup for each user. In addition, ERP systems have to be rolled out, CRM systems have to be setup within the sales and marketing departments and IT systems have to be deployed in new warehouses and logistics facilities. Now I haven’t even discussed what needs to be done from a B2B perspective yet, but already you can see that the IT infrastructure alone, which will help to support the B2B platform, is incredibly complex. As for the B2B infrastructure, the divested operation will need to develop or possibly migrate document maps to the new platform, this could typically range from 100 to a 1000 maps. Not all of these maps would need to be created from scratch, in one example I have heard about recently, one third of the maps for a divested operation were brought across from the parent company, one third were transferred, but required a few customisations and the remainder needed to be created from scratch. Mapping is a complex and time consuming process, would your company be able to undertake this internally?, would your B2B team have the skills to do this or would those skills remain with the parent company? Another common area of concern is how to integrate to an ERP platform. A manufacturing company, especially one with manufacturing plants all over the world will have to somehow re-integrate its B2B platform to the ERP platform. The longer this process is delayed, the more chance there is for duplicate data being entered into purchasing systems, which then leads to a lot of manual rework and rekeying of data to ensure the view of the information in the ERP platform is similar to the view in the B2B environment. Being able to integrate these two platforms as quickly as possible, to ensure one seamless, real time view of information is essential. Again, would your company be able to undertake this integration activity yourself or would you have to seek help from an outside provider? The other area of importance from a B2B transition point of view is managing the external community of trading partners. During the transition phase, the company still needs to be able to order and take delivery of goods from suppliers, they will still need to get their manufactured goods distributed around the world and more importantly each trading partner will need to be kept up to date with what is happening during the transition to the new B2B environment at the divested operation. OpenText™ Managed Services has helped over 800 companies outsource the management of their B2B infrastructure. With many years’ experience of supporting some of the biggest companies in the world, OpenText is well positioned to help divested operations maintain continuity with their B2B platform and their trading partner community. There are five key areas where Managed Services has been deployed to help divested operations manage their B2B infrastructures. Document Mapping – This is by far the most popular outsourcing request that we have seen, potentially hundreds of document maps will need to be transferred to the divested operation. Companies could decide to move the maps as is, move and modify or write completely new maps. Either way, the divested operation is unlikely to have in-house skills to create their own maps. In fact mapping skills are likely to remain within in the parent company. OpenText has a dedicated mapping centre of excellence to create document maps of any type and skills to map to ERP systems or to any specific industry standards. ERP Integration – As with document mapping, a divested operation may lose access to valuable ERP implementation personnel following a divestiture. OpenText has been working with many companies to help integrate their B2B platform to ERP related business processes. This ensures that externally sourced information can flow seamlessly into the ERP system. OpenText™ Managed Services has been integrated with a range of different ERP platforms, including SAP where we have experience of creating a range of IDOC document types to support key business processes. Trading Partner Management – Trading partners will need to be managed during and after a divestiture has taken place. The newly divested operation will have to maintain these relationships so that supply chains are not interrupted and the supply of goods can continue as normal. OpenText offers, a number of trading partner management offerings, in local language around the world. This includes training the trading partners in how to use all aspects of a new B2B service, testing connectivity and document exchange capabilities and finally offering a number of performance dashboards so that the trading partner community can be effectively monitored. Global B2B Support – Loss of support from a parent organisation means that global B2B support services will have to be provided to maintain global trading capabilities. OpenText offers a truly global 24/7 ‘follow the sun’ support service. End users are able to speak with multi-lingual support representatives who will be fully trained in the specific capabilities of the divested operation’s business processes Technology / Legacy Platform Upgrade – Divestitures provide the ideal opportunity to upgrade or introduce new B2B technologies. In the past, the parent company may not have allowed certain technologies or processes to be introduced simply because they did not have the skills to implement or support them. OpenText supports both legacy and the latest internet communication protocols, thus ensuring that trading partners can be connected irrespective of which communication protocol they may prefer to use. OpenText also offers a number of web based B2B solutions that allow any trading partner, no matter what their technical capability, to trade electronically with the divested operation. For more information on how OpenText™ Managed Services can help your business please click here or alternatively take a look at the SlideShare presentation below. In a future blog I will discuss how companies are using periods of restructuring to undertake digital transformation projects.

Read More

Say Hello to the Digital Business! – is it a Case of Going Back to the Future?

At the beginning of each year I tend to spend a lot of time reviewing key technology trends identified by various IT press and industry analysts. These are the technology trends that will impact consumers and businesses for the next twelve months. One of the key trends at the moment is the ‘digital business’ and I don’t know about you but I feel a bit of deja vu occurring here, let me explain why. I have been fortunate to have been around long enough to have seen a lot of technology related trends come and go over the years. My first recollection of the term ‘digital’ was actually in the mid-seventies when my grandfather paid what seemed a small fortune for a Sinclair Oxford digital calculator. He wanted a way to simplify the book keeping of his business. In fact the word digital seemed to spread like wildfire in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The first recollection I have of going digital myself was when I was given a Binatone games console in the late 1970s, I was the talk of the road that I lived in at the time. The ability to control two paddles on the screen and watch a white square being hit from left to right had my friends enthralled! ‘Pong’ may have been a very simple game to play but these early consoles kicked off the computer games industry, or should this have been called the ‘digital games industry?’ My own digital journey really began to gain momentum when I was at secondary school where the peer pressure from fellow pupils to buy new digital gadgets was immense. For example trading in my Timex watch for a cool looking digital watch with the obligatory red LED display or getting rid of trigonometry conversion tables and getting my first scientific digital calculator, or trading in my record player for my first compact disc player (and the many battling digital formats that came with it at the time). It was also around the mid-eighties that I saw a stainless steel bodied DeLorean car making its film debut, a very modern car that at the time represented a very modern era to be growing up in. It was during my latter years at secondary school that a new piece of technology was introduced, the computer. I joined the computer club at school, we wheeled out a Research Machines 380Z computer, (our only computer in the entire school!), on a trolley every week to test our computer programs that we had spent the previous week writing down on a piece of paper. I got my first home computer in 1983, a Commodore Vic-20, and I remember spending hours entering code from computer games magazines to save the £5 or so that it would have cost to buy the games on tape!. Anyway it was this two year flirtation with the Vic-20 that set me on the path for a ‘digital career’. I went off to University and studied Computer Aided Engineering, yes the digital term was being consigned to the bin and everyone had decided that ‘computers’ were the way forward. In the early 1980s it was almost as if companies were rolling out ‘computer aided’ strategies, Computer Aided Design to develop products, Computer Aided Process Planning and then Computer Aided Manufacturing to manufacture the products from the 3D representation of the product that had been created. I spent many years honing my technical drawing skills on paper, buying my own Rotring drawing board only for that to be consigned to the dustbin as Computer Aided Design packages started to become more popular. In fact for many manufacturing companies, it was the design office that emerged as the department with the most computers, often expensive computers, to automate the design process and hence get products out of the door more quickly. I then went on to join the leading CAD vendor at the time, Computervision. Since then I have remained working for various technology vendors, and so it seems strange that we seem to be entering a new digital period where companies are just starting to realise the benefits of going digital. But hang on a second, many of today’s CIOs are from my generation, they have grown up with digital technology in their personal lives and yet for some reason translating their digital personal life into a digital business life seems to be taking quite a while. This is mainly due to the fact that most companies have complex business processes to adhere to and government mandates ensure that paper based documents must be retained for regulatory compliance purposes and hence it is taking time to digitise every single business process. During my career at GXS, and now OpenText, I have been amazed at how many companies still have manual paper based processes in place, whether it is raising shipping documentation or sending invoices that need a whole army of people in the loop before a supplier can be paid. But wait, what’s this pulling into the IT strategy station, yes it is the Digital Express train, it’s time for every CIO to get on board or head back to the IT dark ages. Yes, the term that represented the 1980s is back, and it is meaner and tougher than ever, digital. Needless to say that digital in the 1980s was focused around the consumer. Today however, (with help from other technological marvels such as the internet, mobile devices, the cloud, social networks and the very latest set of buzz words, the Internet of Things), it is about the ‘digital business’. So yes the time is right for the digital business, a place where information, irrespective of its source, can be digitised, archived, accessed, viewed, any time, any place and anywhere. From digital mock-ups, digital manufacturing through to digital procurement, digital is now going main stream, but this time it is business versus consumer driven. In a time where companies are exploring new markets, having a scalable and flexible IT infrastructure to allow a digital business to spread seamlessly around the world is a standard requirement, not an option. Over the coming months I will be posting more blogs around every aspect of the digital manufacturing business, from digital design to the digital shop floor, from digital testing and compliance through to digital service and support, the time is right for every company to develop their own digital business strategy to put them on the path for growth and success. So here we are, going digital again, seems strange that back in the late 1970s my grandfather had the vision to automate his book keeping via a digital calculator and here we are forty years later and we are talking about the introduction of the digital business, however this time it is here for good as I will reveal in future blog entries. So what was your very first memory of going digital? either in your personal or business life? In closing, today’s generation Z will become tomorrow’s digital natives, and to see what they think of a piece of ‘pre-digital’ technology that was a mainstay in companies across the world for decades, take a look at this short video

Read More

Does the Migration to ISO 20022 Give You a Unique Chance to Review Your Current Integration Solutions?

Historically the usage of ISO 15022 and ISO 20022 formats has been driven by financial institutions and therefore used for their business transactions. As it comes to Corporate-to-Bank transactions, corporates are demanding bank-agnostic standard formats for all business transactions. This helps to automate financial processes within their ERP systems. Financial institutions are being forced by both corporate demand and market regulation (SEPA in EMEA) to adopt these formats. This is an opportunity to also standardize within the bank’s firewall to maximize benefit and indeed drive the potential for additional value-added services within the richer data set offered by the new ISO formats. Cases other than ISO 20022 have forced the adoption of new formats. EMIR (European Market Infrastructure Regulation) has compelled many players in the derivatives space to connect to CCPs. So while some businesses may be using ISO 20022, others are still far away from easily adopting it for all business lines. Regulations will continue to drive more standardization, automation and therefore more flexibility. What have we learned from standards migrations? Migration to a new standard costs time and money. It doesn’t matter if the migration is mandatory or simply to reduce the number of formats we are using. We face a lot of additional, recurring and costly migration initiatives which should not be seen as a core competency in the Financial Services world. Even worse, not only does migration or adoption of a new format, protocol or market practice cause additional work and cost, it also has a negative impact on project management and dependencies. Why? Because it takes away resources from other projects which may not be mandatory, but are key to your efficiency.  This situation creates the unique chance to review your current B2B integration needs and to assess the advantages of using B2B experts to perform all of the day-to-day activities such as mapping, connectivity, onboarding, testing, monitoring and end-user support on your behalf.  Your in-house staff is freed to focus on activities that deliver unique value and competitive advantage to your company, without being distracted by maintaining technologies that are complex, but not distinctive. And what if only some of your clients want to migrate, but not all? You then need to manage old formats as well as new ones. How Can You Mitigate These Issues and Still Move Towards Standards that Customers and Markets Demand? Whether you are a large, medium or small player in the market, you need maximum flexibility to do business with your counterparties. To do that, you must consider how you will enable all of these requirements: •Easy onboarding of new clients •Adequate time to decide exactly which formats you need to adopt currently and in the future •Ability to focus on your clients’ needs •Faster time to revenue •Acceleration of new product launches •Increased control over project performance This may be a good opportunity to explore a solution that meets all of your organization’s business integration requirements. A managed services approach could help you manage complex format translation, allow you to focus on your core business, and eliminate challenges around current and future migrations.

Read More

What’s the Difference Between Van Morrison and a Value Added Network?


Well put simply one is still doing the same thing they were doing more than forty five years ago and the other has evolved into something very different, but which is which? When I was a child, my parents were constantly playing Van Morrison music in the background whilst I was trying to build intricate engineering models with my Meccano set! In fact the late sixties were quite busy with Van Morrison launching what was to be a very successful solo career, the first EDI messages started to be exchanged and I was born around this time as well. When I joined GXS back in early 2006 I was introduced to the world of hub and spoke communities and Value Added Networks but this was at a time when the company was busy repositioning itself into something very different. After I joined GXS I started to hear terms such as the company being ‘more than just a VAN’ and as soon as I heard the VAN acronym I had flashbacks to when my parents were playing Van Morrison records, may be it was because the name ‘Van’ had been so engrained in my mind from a very early age! Anyway time moves on, GXS has evolved and under new ownership of OpenText™, the world’s largest provider of Enterprise Information Management solutions, Trading Grid™, as our B2B network is called, is going to evolve still further and will strengthen the link between the internal and external enterprise. Moving EDI messages from one mail box to another is still part of our business, however the key growth area is our Managed Services offering and this is perfectly timed with the global interest in moving to cloud based services as a way to develop leaner, more scalable IT infrastructures. OpenText™ Trading Grid™ is essentially a network, something that our company has offered for many years and it helps to connect companies together to allow them to undertake business with each other. Trading Grid™ provides the single entry point into an enterprise and allows you to connect to many different external trading partners. So using this analogy Trading Grid™ is a business or B2B Network, not just any B2B network but one that is processing more than 16billion transactions each year. Once connected to Trading Grid™, companies can potentially connect with over 600,000 other businesses that are also making use of this network today. The former GXS company now sits under a business unit called Information Exchange and this business unit includes services such as Secure Messaging and Rightfax solutions to name but a few. The most staggering number shown below is the amount of commerce being transacted across Trading Grid over a one year period. So in the same way that Van Morrison’s music was initially released on records, you can now download a complete digital set of his music from Apple’s iTunes, in the world of EDI, the Trading Grid™ network has evolved into offering cloud based B2B integration services. This is significant progression in my mind! In my last blog post I discussed how companies can get more out of a B2B Network and during my keynote presentation at EDIFICE I cited several examples of different consumer and business networks. The so called ‘Network Effect’ is transforming how both people and companies communicate with each other. From personal networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, through to consumer networks or eco-systems which offer multiple services from with an environment such as iTunes or Google. Finally there are business networks such as industry specific ones such as Exostar and then B2B networks such as OpenText™ Trading Grid™. People have become use to connecting to a network and then using different services that reside on these particular networks. In the case of Trading Grid™, these additional services could be processing invoices across each of the 28 countries that make up the European Union, connecting to global banks via our SWIFT Bureau service, tracking the lifecycle of business transactions, through to managing the day to day collaboration between potentially thousands of trading partners and then providing direct integration with back office business systems such as SAP and SAGE. Three years ago I saw the above image posted on the internet which highlighted all the interactions between different users on Facebook over a fixed period of time. As you can see, all the Facebook interactions neatly define a map of the world. Given that I look after the industry marketing for the manufacturing vertical at OpenText™, I was curious to see the type of network that could be formed by companies connected to Trading Grid™. For the purposes of the graphic below, I have removed the names of the companies but it quickly became apparent that if an automotive supplier is connected to Trading Grid™ then they would be able to undertake B2B with virtually any of their trading partners located anywhere in the world. I won’t bore you with the details on all the individual B2B solutions used by these companies but once I created the above diagram, using a very small subset of our overall automotive customer base, there were some interesting observations. North American companies were very keen to try move towards using cloud based services (represented by the Managed Service, MS icon), European companies were keen on using their own home grown B2B platforms combined with our messaging platform, Trading Grid Messaging Service (TGMS) and the Japanese companies were moving away from behind the firewall B2B solutions to cloud based services. The Japanese observation was probably as a result of the recent natural disasters that have impacted the country and their desire to spread their production risk around the world. In fact the automotive industry is truly global in nature and when OEMs move into a new country such as Mexico, their key suppliers are expected to move quickly into the country with them. Only a cloud based B2B infrastructure can provide this level of flexibility and scalability. As I highlighted in an earlier blog relating to the Internet of Things (IoT), the B2B network as we know it today is going to evolve still further. For example information from billions of connected devices across the supply chain will provide an end to end view of shipments that we have never experienced before. So just when today’s CIOs have started to embrace Cloud, Mobile, Big Data and Social Networks, along comes the IoT, considered by many as one of the most disruptive technologies of our times. Needless to say OpenText™ will embrace these disruptive technologies as part of our 2020 Digital Agenda and we will help guide CIOs through this period of significant ‘Digital Disruption’. So if you would like to learn why our B2B network is significantly more than just a VAN, then please visit our website for more information on Trading Grid™ and our future 2020 Digital Agenda. So just in case you haven’t worked out by now, after 45 years Van Morrison is still producing music and it is the EDI VAN that has evolved into a cloud based B2B Network. In closing it is interesting that Van Morrison’s latest album is called ‘Born to Sing’, a bit like Trading Grid, ‘Born to do B2B’

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

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 !  

Read More

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.

Read More