EDI has been successfully adopted as the means to automate the exchange of business data, but this data can, of course, contain errors, such as incorrect order numbers, bad zip/postal codes, bad dates, etc. Also, some of your business partners may not be following your process rules, such as the timeframe within which an Advance Ship Notice must be sent. You need a system that can identify and fix these problems.
Best-in-class companies solve the bad-data and process violation problem with “B2B operational intelligence,” which monitors EDI transactions as they flow through the trading network before they enter your back-office systems. B2B operational intelligence acts as a firewall that protects your internal systems, identifying bad data and then rejecting or quarantining it in-transit. It also provides visibility into potential problems, mechanisms to contain them, and alerting capabilities to notify those who can resolve the problems fastest.
This in-transit processing performs all the value-matching and rule validations on each EDI transaction. Documents with missing or incorrect values are automatically set aside to be evaluated prior to processing by internal systems. This ability to react immediately to business anomalies prevents major issues resulting from bad data, and it helps make your company truly agile.
If you don’t have a B2B operational intelligence solution, I’d say this should be top of your shopping list in 2014 because, as Gartner noted in a recent webinar, it “delivers the most direct integration ROI to the business” This is because it enables you to improve your business processes, and thus reduces your costs and/or improves revenues.
B2B Operational Intelligence vs. Business Intelligence
A lot of people ask me about this, so here is my take on it. Some business managers believe that their bad-data risk is mitigated by their ERP and/or translator. While it is true that ERP systems are designed to catch certain data problems, they can only act on errors once they have entered the system. Clearly, too late! Also, many ERP systems and translators do not have the rigorous monitoring capabilities needed to eliminate data errors that are introduced from external sources, including business partners.
So, how is B2B operational intelligence different from Business Intelligence (BI) tools. The core difference is when the “intelligence” is available. Business intelligence solutions find problems after they occur, while B2B operational intelligence solutions detect problems and provide actionable information before internal processing begins, enabling proactive resolution of issues. B2B operational intelligence acts as the front line, enabling your internal systems to operate more efficiently.
Elements of an Effective B2B Operational Intelligence Solution
If, as a result of reading this far, you have a B2B operational solution on your shopping list, here is my checklist of the key elements a solution should provide:
- Seamless operation with supply chain processes
- Integration support for any structured data, including EDI, XML, CSV, or flat files
- Flexible business rules configuration that is powerful enough to handle even the most complex, company-specific rules and vendor compliance scenarios
- Scalable architecture that performs at the speed of your business
- An easy-to-use interface that requires minimal training for line-of-business managers, enabling self-service and reducing the number of requests to IT
- Role-specific visibility for your employees and business partners into operations and critical real-time events with actionable information, enabling timely decision-making
- Scorecard capability that provides visibility into supplier performance and which, when coupled with easily accessible detailed performance data, enables productive performance improvement discussions with suppliers
- Ability to create issue resolution workflows and alerts tailored to your specific business processes
B2B operational intelligence is a key factor in any successful B2B program..” Click here to watch a recent Gartner webinar, “Roadmap for Improving Your Integration Strategy, the 7 Things You Must Know (and Do) About Integration”, to learn more about B2B operational intelligence and other key factors in your EDI program.