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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:
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1. Enabling 100% Trading Partner Connectivity – In order to get a good return on the investment in your B2B network you need to make sure you can electronically enable 100% of your trading partner community. Many companies struggle to on board their smallest suppliers who are quite often located in emerging markets where ICT and B2B skills are limited. OpenText has a range of B2B enablement tools that can help a business to exchange electronic business information, irrespective of the size or location of the supplier. From sending PDF based business documents via secure messaging/MFT, implementing Fax to EDI based solutions, through to Microsoft Excel based tools and web forms, there are many tools available today to help a company onboard their smallest suppliers.

2. Simplify Expansion into New Markets – Many companies today are introducing lean and more flexible supply chains to allow them to be more responsive to constantly changing market and customer demands. Many companies struggle to establish a presence in a new market, either because they do not have a local presence in the market or they do not know how to connect a remote operation, in terms of a plant and its domestic suppliers, to a centralised B2B platform. The benefit of a cloud based platform such as OpenText™ Trading Grid™ is that you can scale up or scale down your B2B activities as required by the needs of the business. With over 600,000 companies conducting business across Trading Grid today and a B2B network which stretches into every major manufacturing and financial hub around the world, Trading Grid significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to establish a ‘B2B Presence’ in a remote market. Even if you currently work across multiple network providers in different countries around the world, consolidating onto one cloud based provider can certainly help to improve the bottom line for your business.

3. Overcoming Regional Complexity Issues – Many businesses today are required to adhere to various regional compliance regulations. For example the area of e-Invoicing compliance is an incredibly complex area that companies have to embrace. For example some countries such as Mexico and Brazil mandate electronic invoicing whilst each of the 27 countries in the European Union have country specific rules for dealing with VAT compliance, archiving and applying digital signatures. OpenText GXS has implemented B2B projects all over the world and hence we have the experience to shield your business from the complexity of dealing with a myriad of regional specific B2B standards and e-Invoicing related regulations.

4. Improving Accuracy of Externally Sourced Information – If you spend $50,000 on a luxury car with a high performance engine, you wouldn’t pour low grade oil into the engine now would you? The same applies to a B2B platform, where information entering the platform can come from many internal and external sources. In fact in one study conducted a few years ago we found that over a third of information entering ERP comes from outside the enterprise. Now what happens if poor quality information enters your B2B platform, gets processed and then enters your ERP environment? All it takes is for an external supplier to enter the incorrect part number or quantity on a shipping document for example and this information will slowly propagate its way through your business. What if you could implement business rules to check the quality of information entering your business according to specific rules templates? Applying business rules and hence improving the quality of B2B information will help to improve operational efficiency, in terms of reducing manual rework, in relation to how information flows across your extended enterprise.

5. Increasing Resilience to Supply Chain Disruptions – Global supply chains have been severely disrupted by many natural disasters in recent years. Companies have been trying to build increased resilience to supply chain disruptions and having access to a single, global B2B platform can help minimise supply chain disruption. Utilising a cloud based platform allows companies to access their B2B related information anywhere in the world, irrespective of where disruption may be occurring. For example many Japanese companies are starting to embrace cloud based B2B platforms as it helps to introduce flexibility into their B2B strategies and also minimises any disruption to their supply chain and production operations. Having every trading partner connected to a single, global B2B network allows you to quickly identify points of weakness across your supply chain during a period of disruption and to take remedial action as required.

6. Adhering to Regulatory Compliance Initiatives – Businesses today have to embrace a variety of industry specific regulatory initiatives. In addition, many companies have established their own compliance initiatives and they expect their trading partners to adhere to these regulations. In many cases suppliers are being asked to adhere to these compliance initiatives as a condition of doing business with them. In the automotive industry suppliers have to undertake an annual quality assessment known as Materials Management Operations Guideline Logistics Evaluation (MMOG/LE) and in the high tech industry companies with headquarters in North America now have to demonstrate that they do not source conflict minerals across their global supply chain. Many compliance related initiatives in place today require some form of assessment to be conducted across a supply chain and the two examples I highlighted above use spreadsheets as the basis of the assessment process. However for this assessment to be effective, companies require up to date contacts for each and every supplier across their supply chain and they need to make sure these assessments are conducted in a timely manner. OpenText GXS can provide a platform that can centralise the management of supplier related contact information, which in turn helps to significantly improve day to day communications and collaboration with a trading partner community.

7. Conducting Transaction Based Trading Partner Analytics – One of the benefits of operating the world’s largest B2B networks is that it can potentially provide a significant source of data to analyse trading partner related trends. As we know, Big Data analytics is becoming an increasingly important area for companies to embrace, but quite often they do not have the internal skills or knowledge to process the information or transactions flowing across their supply chain. OpenText Trading Grid processes over 16 billion B2B transactions each year and this can potentially provide a rich source of information for companies to leverage and allow real time decisions to be made in relation to the management of their supply chain operations.

8. Initiating Process Based Transaction Flows – Many companies have implemented numerous business processes to manage different aspects of their operations. From managing production lines through to inventory replenishment, having a strong process centric approach to running a business is key to winning a competitive advantage in the market and increasing customer satisfaction levels. B2B related transactions have sometimes had a loosely coupled relationship with business processes but many supply chain processes are becoming so complicated today, especially supporting global manufacturing operations for example, that coupling business processes more tightly with B2B transaction flows makes increasingly more sense. For example, managing transactions relating to a reverse logistics process used in the consumer electronics sector. OpenText has significant experience in the Business Process Management space and when eventually combined with OpenText Trading Grid this could potentially offer a different way for supply chain directors and logistics managers to look after their trading partner communities. It is still early days in the OpenText and GXS integration process but this could be a big growth area in the future.

9. Achieving Pervasive Visibility of all Transactions – Achieving true end to end visibility has been high on the agenda of nearly every Supply Chain professional around the world. The introduction of powerful smart phones and tablets has only increased the desire to get access to B2B related transactional information, any time, any place or anywhere. It is already possible to introspect transactions as they flow across OpenText Trading Grid, but the next logical phase would be to make these transactions actionable in some way via a remote device. OpenText has an interesting suite of mobile development tools called Appworks which will help to considerably accelerate the development of B2B related apps which connect into the Trading Grid platform.

10. Integrating to ‘Internet of Things’ Devices – The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to completely transform the way in which companies manage their supply chains in the future. With billions of intelligent devices expected to be connected to the Internet over the next decade, companies will have access to significantly more information from their global supply chains. From IoT connected storage bins, forklift trucks, containers, warehouses, lorries and in fact anything that is part of a supply chain has the potential to send information back to a centralised IoT hub via a simple internet connection. In the same way that we talk today about integrating B2B platforms to ERP systems, tomorrow we will be doing the same level of integration to IoT related hubs. This is a subject that I have discussed extensively via an earlier blog of mine.

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Mark Morley

As Director, Strategic Product Marketing for Business Network, Mark leads the product marketing efforts for B2B Managed Services, drives industry and regional alignment with overall Business Network product strategy and looks at how new disruptive technologies will impact future supply chains. Mark also has over 23 years industry experience across the discrete manufacturing sector.

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