Don’t become extinct: A guide to modernizing your IT B2B architecture

Talk about enterprises, talk about IT service giants, talk about small and medium-sized businesses — everyone is either on-board the ship called digital transformation, or you could be on your last legs and not even realize it yet.

With even vendors and service providers heavily adopting the latest technologies of business process enablement, the case for modernized B2B IT components becomes strong.

Modernization of an enterprise’s B2B platforms can bring in significant cost reductions, unmatched customer support, and never-before-seen levels of automation and process improvements in supply chains and logistics. Empowered B2B IT translates into empowered mechanisms of collaboration with business partners. How do you get there as an enterprise? Here are some vital components of B2B IT modernization strategy.

Modernize Enterprise B2B Architecture

Focus on a single scalable B2B gateway

A hard reality of every enterprise’s B2B information systems processes is that:

  • A lot of different departments (with very little communication among themselves) operate these systems.
  • If you don’t use a system, chances are you don’t even know of its existence.
  • Coordination of processes and information flow across applications is a major challenge.

No wonder, multipoint B2B solutions are bound to create a lot of chaos. This makes it critical for a B2B upgrade strategy to focus on a single and scalable B2B integration gateway. Such a gateway allows implementation of all file-based data transfers, electronic data interchanges, and document based business use cases based on a unified set of policies and protocols. Scalability is a critical success factor for such a platform, so that it allows for quick and inexpensive integration with other applications.

Partner management and vendor on-boarding

B2B Architecture

It’s surprising how many enterprises invest heavily in B2B IT technologies and processes, only to let them operate in silos, and create additional bottlenecks for conventional vendors and business partners. The solution is to endorse processes, technologies, and mechanisms that contribute toward ensuring:

  • Quick, simple, and secure on-boarding of vendors to reduce time to value.
  • Automation capabilities that empower vendors.
  • Self-service capabilities that help vendors manage their way without involving your IT resources.
  • Strong documentation of process flows and best practices to pave the way for easy on-boarding of new vendors.

The ability to store data on public, local, or private cloud (secured by a firewall), and the ability to leverage different cloud models helps enterprises implement a single B2B integration platform that makes it easy and empowering for business partners to use your B2B platform.

Plan for high-availability and have a disaster recovery plan

A B2B platform is not only about connecting with your vendors and channel partners, but also about connecting with institutional customers. Imagine the ravages of downtime and outages in your B2B platform! Availability is a major performance indicator of an IT implementation in the era of digital transformation.

Your modern B2B platform should isolate customer-facing activities from the core processing so that they can continue placing orders, raising service requests, submitting information on stock shortages, giving feedback, etc., unabated.

You have to be able to continue to function. You do not want any hiccups in this regard. This will only aid your competitors. If someone wants to buy something that you are selling, you do not want your system impeding that purchase from occurring. That is a violation of a key rule in business: Do not make it difficult for anyone to do business with you.

Like any system, your B2B architecture must be backed with a continuity plan, such as real-time datacenter backups across multiple sites. To support global operations spanning multiple B2B applications, accesses across different time zones, and dozens of varied business partners, you need scalability and performance, with always-on foundation.

Adapt the process to specific business partner’s IT systems

A situation you don’t want to find yourself in after investing in modernization of IT B2B architecture systems is to see business partners involved in menial and manual activities such as data format transformations to make systems work, manual activities that bypass automated processes, unknowingly causing leakage of data and storage of data in unstructured format and raising IT service desk tickets to get past warnings and errors in the system.

This makes “adaptability” a foundational pillar of the modern IT B2B architecture system. The capabilities you’d do well to include are:

  • Compatibility with a whole range of file formats, with backward compatibility to legacy file formats.
  • Options to reconfigure operational settings for specific interfaces.
  • Seamless data archiving and accessibility mechanisms.
  • Hands off of the information flowing in and out with thorough acknowledgement via receipts being disseminated and received.
  • Support for data standards and code page formats adopted across industries.

Extending analytics to include B2B processes

Conventionally, enterprise analytics focuses on capturing and analyzing data from customer-facing processes. With a ramped up IT B2B architecture ecosystem, the power of analytics becomes a fabulous and judicious match for all business partner-facing processes, such as supply chain management, logistics, inventory management, and channel partner management.

B2B integration platform

With increased adoption of IT systems and practices across platforms such as mobility, mobile applications, IoT, and social media, the volume of structured and unstructured data generated within and flowing across B2B applications is massive, and worth feeding to your enterprise’s analytics engine.

The kind of deep visibility of your business partners facing processes, across on-premises and cloud environments, can be a source of massive advantage for enterprises.

Hybrid cloud compatibility

Conventionally, industries such as governance, health care, defense, and banking have been attuned to the use of private cloud services, considering the theoretical security vulnerabilities of public cloud services.

However, because the public cloud has ramped up security in the past years (we have seen “Blackhat,” there are Sadaks out there!), it’s a fair bet that your enterprise B2B architecture IT will span across a hybrid cloud ecosystem, with public as well as private cloud systems. This means that your IT B2B architecture modernization drive should include APIs that allow for easy integration with all kinds of cloud applications.

Key thoughts

Continuing with outdated and siloed B2B applications will not be “all right” in a couple of years, when the pace and extent of digital transformation becomes manifold and ever so clear. This makes “today” the ideal time for IT leaders to begin the drive toward modernizing their IT B2B architecture.

By leveraging automation capabilities, advanced analytics, hybrid cloud models, and ensuring security and uptime, enterprises can proceed on an all-inclusive digital transformation journey. You do not want to be caught flat-footed on this one!

Photo credit: Pixabay

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