B2B

Ten New Ways Business Network Supercharges Your B2B Integration Strategy

OpenText’s Business Network has evolved considerably since I first joined the company back in March 2006. Our core B2B integration platform Trading Grid was introduced in 2004 and around this time the company started to place a much stronger emphasis on helping companies manage their B2B environments through an outsourced, B2B Managed Services approach.

GXS was acquired by OpenText in January 2014 and since then we have been able to leverage other products within our Enterprise Information Management (EIM)  portfolio and apply across our range of B2B integration solutions.

Since joining OpenText’s product release schedule three years ago we have introduced more new functionality to our Business Network than at any time since I joined the company. This is great news for our global customers covering the automotive, high tech, retail, CPG and inancial services sectors.

In April 2016 we aligned with OpenText’s other solution divisions to launch Release 16, the most complete set of product enhancements, covering all product lines, ever to be launched by OpenText.

I wanted to use this blog to highlight some of the key B2B integration investments that we have made over the past eight months. As a reminder, Business Network is made up of two groups of solutions – structured, which covers the traditional B2B integration solutions and unstructured – which covers our secure information management solutions. My colleague Amy Perry covers the unstructured part of our network offerings and you can find more information on these via her blog,

We have continued to invest heavily in our Business Network, expanding capabilities and improving how our customers leverage the various solutions and services that we offer today. Over the last few years many companies have been developing their corporate strategies around cloud, mobile and big data and we have embraced these and many other technologies across the various B2B integration solutions that we offer today. Release 16 offered a number of significant enhancements to our Business Network:

  • Trading Grid Analytics, which uses embedded analytics across our B2B transaction flows to obtain, deep, rich and meaningful insights into what is going on across a supply chain operation.
  • Logistics Track & Trace, offering improved end to end visibility of shipments as they move across the supply chain and embedded analytics to provide deep and rich intelligence of logistics carrier performance
  • Enhanced Procure-to-Pay solutions which offer numerous enhancements to our suite of software as service-based Active Applications
  • Enhanced trading partner digitization capabilities to enable the 100% enablement of even the smallest supplier with Fax2EDI and Email2EDI solution availability
  • Mobility, providing mobile apps for transaction visibility and deductions management capabilities

Since Release 16 we haven’t been sitting around!, we have been adding more and more capabilities to Business Network. I have undertaken many briefings with lead analyst firms, the same firms that covered our B2B integration activity at GXS, and they have been really encouraged by the level of investment that we have been placing into our Business Network and the plans in place for our future product roadmap.

So let me now highlight the top ten features and capabilities that we have introduced in the last few months.

  1. Enhanced Trading Grid Analytics – Leveraging additional capabilities from OpenText™ Analytics, Trading Grid Analytics (TGA) now has additional capabilities to analyze transaction based information from a broader set of enterprise systems. We can now leverage a process called ‘data blending’ to accept transactions from third party B2B platforms and information from other enterprise systems such as ERP, TMS and WMS. Data blending consolidates all of this information into a single information flow and helps to provide a complete 360 degree view of information flowing across your end to end supply chain. In addition we can offer custom metrics, which allows companies to define any type of business report through an engagement with our Professional Services team. We have expanded support in our analytics platform (or better known as a data lake) for other document formats such as VDA, Tradacoms and RosettaNet. Finally we have also extended the support of TGA to include our customers on our Trading Grid Messaging Service (TGMS) platform, this will considerably increase the volume of transactions being processed by our analytics platform on a daily basis.
  2. Extended Web Services Capabilities – This is a really interesting area as there is a lot of noise in the market at the moment about the growing traction of APIs. However with more APIs comes more end points to manage, it is similar in a way to what happened in 2000 with the introduction of market exchanges and XML document formats. XML was seen to be the replacement for EDI but guess what, 17 years later and EDI is pretty much entrenched across most industry sectors. APIs require a certain amount of technical skills to configure. You may have to worry about multiple connections. As part of this set of enhancements, we have introduced some new web services based integration capabilities. So, for example, rather than you establishing a direct connection through an API to say SAP Ariba, we can now undertake the same integration through our Trading Grid environment. Thus preserving the one-to-many connections that we offer to many companies around the world. So you connect to our network and we take care of connecting to your trading partners or integrating to internal business systems.
  3. IS027001 Certification – With many companies taking their first steps into the cloud, working with a trusted partner that can offer a secure cloud-based environment is important for business success. OpenText™ B2B Managed Services platform, personnel, data center infrastructure now meets the requirements of the international security management certification. An important certification to ensure that your business information is managed correctly as it passes across our global Business Network infrastructure.
  4. HIPAA Compliance – allows OpenText to exchange healthcare related transactions, for example between healthcare providers and doctors surgeries, across our Business Network, thus helping to increase the overall volume of transactions moving across our network on an annual basis.
  5. Extended Mobile Support with Active Orders – We have been able to leverage many different solutions across the broader Enterprise Information Management portfolio of solutions that OpenText offers. For example Appworks, a mobile app development platform that we leveraged last year to develop our Active Documents mobile app. We have now extended the mobile support of our Active Applications (SaaS based B2B integration solutions) to include Active Orders Mobile. Active Orders provides end-to-end visibility of the lifecycle of purchase order based transactions and the extension of this application to a mobile device allows users to track the status of any purchase order at any time in any place.
  6. Drummond AS4 Communications Certification – the AS4 communications protocol has been around for a few years now, I remember blogging about this in 2010 after I first heard about this new communications protocol after attending a Cisco conference. Thanks to Walmart in North America, AS2 was broadly adopted across the retail sector, AS3 seemed to come and go with no real traction and then AS4 arrived kicking and screaming to support business expansion into the cloud. AS4 was developed especially to support web-based services for cloud based infrastructures and we now offer support for this protocol via our B2B Managed Services platform. AS4 was clearly ahead of its time and it is really only in the past 2 years that certain industries have started to adopt AS4. For example AS4 has been adopted by ENTSOG, the European Network of Transmission Systems for Gas providers. OpenText has been certified by Drummond for AS4, and also supports the ENTSOG AS4 profile. Other industry bodies such as IATA in the transport sector are also looking at AS4 and you can be assured that OpenText plans to support these new AS4 profiles as they are released.
  7. Business Document Viewer – allows EDI-based transactions to be read in a more human readable form. This enables non-EDI or business-related users to view any type of B2B document, in a more recognized and easier to digest format.
  8. Extended Self-Enablement Capabilities – This will allow companies to have a bit more control of their B2B Managed Services environment in terms of managing trading partners. In addition a new trading partner discovery admin tool helps to accelerate the onboarding of trading partners to a hub by quickly searching our network for any existing connectivity information and then using this information to speed up the deployment of a new B2B platform. This tool significantly helps our Professional Services team to deploy your B2B platform in a much shorter time period.
  9. Electronic Invoicing Enhancements– Our Active Invoice with Compliance (AIC) solution now helps companies to process invoices electronically across more than fifty countries. This includes Brazil and Mexico where the governments mandate the use of electronic invoicing as a condition of doing business in their respective countries. We have now extended the capabilities of AIC to support B2G (Business-to-Government) requirements, in countries such as France and Japan for example. We have also introduced an automatic provisioning capability across our electronic invoicing solution that effectively allows new trading partners to be registered with our invoicing platform as soon as an invoice is processed, ie taking the details within the invoice to auto-provision a new trading partner on the platform. This not only speeds up the provisioning of new trading partners to the platform but it improves the overall quality of the invoice information being exchanged. Auto-provisioning helps to significantly reduce the time to deploy a B2B platform and this capability will be applied to other solutions within our suite of B2B solutions. My colleague Greg Horton recently blogged on this new capability.
  10. Acquisition of the North American Automotive Network Exchange (ANX) ANX has been serving the connectivity requirements of the North American automotive industry for many years now, however as the automotive industry has globalized it has put pressure on B2B networks to provide more global support. Other regional automotive B2B networks such as ENX in Europe and JNX in Japan have serviced their respective automotive industries for many years, but OpenText™ Business Network spans the globe and can offer truly global connectivity. The acquisition of ANX not only extends our support of the automotive industry, but it also brings extensive knowledge of the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) sector, a suite of tools used to design and manufacture components used in everything from cars to planes. For example OpenText will continue to resell PLM solutions from Dassault and Siemens. Finally ANX also brings extensive experience of the healthcare sector as ANX provides connectivity and transaction based services to many different healthcare providers. This nicely compliments our new support of HIPAA for example.

OpenText Business Network

So as you can see we have been very busy since the launch of Release 16 and it doesn’t stop there. We will be introducing even more enhancements over the coming months and I will expand on those new capabilities in a future blog. However in the meantime if you are in Europe during the second half of March then you may like to register to attend one of our Innovation Tour stops.

OpenText Innovation Tour

 

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