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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’

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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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