The Most Common B2B Integration Challenges

February 21, 2018

We continue our series of blogs related to b2b integrations and in this blog we are going down the road of exploring some of the most common B2B integration challenges. 

Previously, we talked about API lifecycle management, what you need to look for in a modern integration platform, why hybrid integrations are a critical part of your data integration strategy, and why as part of your strategy you should consider adapting to an iPaaS.

We briefly touched on the topic of data integration challenges, however, it’s worth a post of its own to help you identify some of the key points you need to focus on. 

1. Isolation

Internal and external isolation of technology infrastructures, systems, and applications is perhaps the most burning problem in the business-to-business world in terms of data and system integration.

Eliminate Isolation

 

To eliminate isolation, enterprises need solutions that can connect any systems – modern and legacy ones, too -, so they can leverage their long-term IT infrastructure investments.


An integration platform can help to make more sense of existing systems. Enabling connectivity across any systems will modernize your current solutions, thus changing the systems won’t have to be a priority. 

Co-existing Information Systems

The ultimate goal of system integrations in B2B is to create co-existing information systems. This will provide the impression that all stakeholders are using one single system and they can all see one single truth. 

Intra-organizational and business process network cooperation

Combining information systems and breaking the isolation is not an easy task, especially when you need to deal with hybrid integrations. However, intra-organizational and external cooperation will give your operations a boost.

2. Data sharing

Once you have connected all selected systems, you will be able to share data with your ecosystem – both internally or externally. The importance of data sharing cannot be overlooked.

The lack of connectivity is the main obstacle to data sharing that you can overcome and create data integration flows across multiple systems while ensuring that only relevant information is shared. 

Improved efficiency

Sharing data in real-time will improve your operational efficiency as you can eliminate manual processes and allocate your time for other tasks.

Business Intelligence

By sharing data with your network and receiving data from them in real-time will enable you to acquire more relevant data on aspects of your business that matter the most.

Data Analytics

You have more data available than ever before, but it’s also important that the data is timely and all relevant stakeholders have easy access to it.

Data analytics is essential for acquiring new insights into your processes and operations that will allow you to mine the data better for forecasting, planning, and improved decision-making. 

3. Data quality

Previously, issues with the data quality would require an enormous amount of manual work to fix the errors. Data must be accurate, complete, timely, and most importantly consistent. All members of the value chain will be able to utilize the available data better if it is free from errors. As a result, business processes will be more effective.

Data quality can be improved through connecting systems and applications. While enabling data flows across multiple data sources, the integration solution can verify the data against business rules and automatically forward it back to the sender for corrections.

Data quality is a common issue with EDIFACT messages

Let’s say a logistics provider receives EDI 312 (arrival notice in ocean logistics) or EDI 315 (status details in ocean logistics) message from a shipping line. However, some of the mandatory fields that are important to the logistics provider are missing. In this case, we can check the messages against the Bill of Lading in this case and forward it back to request an immediate correction.

The air cargo industry struggles with data quality

We have written a lot about electronic air waybill validation. Over 70% of the air waybill messages include false or missing data. Improving the quality of the data is not only time-consuming and expensive, but it may also delay shipments.

Automating the data validation and enrichment processes can save time, money, and improve the reputation of the airlines that are able to deliver the cargo in time.

4. Big data

Volume, velocity, and variety. These are the most important terms related to big data – and these are all factors you need to consider when you are planning on integrating big data from different sources.

Volume

The amount of data that businesses are generating is growing and the value of it cannot be overlooked. The data provides an immense amount of insights that can benefit any business in terms of improving processes, operational efficiency, or based on the new insights coming up with innovative ideas.

Velocity

Yesterday’s data is worthless. The data must be available to all relevant parties in real-time to make the most out of it.

Variety

This point strongly relates to the next one: there are countless of different data formats which makes it more difficult to work with the available data. Translating data formats is crucial to help data scientists to work with the available information.

b2b data integration challenges

5. Heterogeneous data

Heterogeneous data makes data integration to be complex. Enterprises are using a variety of formats, such as EDIFACT, JSON, XML just to mention a few. In certain industries, companies have even developed their own proprietary formats.

These formats all have unique attributes, structure, and schema.

Transform heterogeneous data to homogeneous

When you integrate data from multiple sources, you want to ensure that the data you receive is all homogeneous, meaning it all has the same format that your systems can understand and read. You can change the data format as part of the data mapping process once you are connecting systems.

6. Perception of data

What are the three words that come to your mind when you think about data integration?

For many, integration sounds like an expensive business. 

Nevertheless, the lack of connectivity and all the labor that needs to be done manually will be expensive and time-consuming, too.

Connecting to all your network and sharing business-critical information with them in real-time are vital for your operations. For sure, you need to be able to keep your gross margins low and have a return on your investment once you purchase integration solutions. Today, data integration projects can be executed a lot faster than before that consequently influence the price tag, too. The risk is minimal, especially if you go about the changes slowly, instead of rushing into it. 

7. Security

Naturally, you may wonder whether integrating with your b2b network in the cloud is secure enough.

When you are setting up complex integrations across many systems and applications in the cloud, there are a few key points that you want to consider.

1. Who can access the data that you are sharing?

2. Why do they need to be able to access the data?

3. What exact data can they see?

Before you would commit to buying any integration services, you need to do a security assessment to ensure that the vendor you want to work with can comply with all your requirements. Oftentimes, you have organizational security policies, but you may also need to consider governmental ones.

The solution will require constant monitoring and governance to ensure that your data has the highest security.

8. Evolving data integration needs

Through the years, we have seen in practice how customers data and system integration needs are evolving.

We see them starting out small – sometimes with a smaller project, sometimes with bigger ones that affect specific parts of the business.

Those starting out with small often see how the integration is working in practice and they decide to go for more.

In case of projects, the needs are changing as the business itself is evolving. As your ecosystem is growing it will result in changes in your integration solutions. This has to happen seamlessly without causing any issues in the solution and as quickly as possible.

iPaaS helps to overcome your data integration challenges

There is certainly a lot more to the challenges than this post reflects on. Nevertheless, this post should give you a good understanding of some of the biggest obstacles of businesses in terms of integrations.

The good news is that overcoming these challenges is totally possible with a modern cloud-based integration platform.

Connectivity, data sharing, data governance, and process orchestration some of the most popular use cases of an iPaaS solution. The coolest thing about it is, how it makes data integration more available for any organization: long gone the days when your integration strategy came hand-in-hand with a massive budget and you no longer need to think that the transformation would take 8-10 months to go to production.

If you liked this post and you want to read about iPaaS in more depth, check out one of our blogs from the archive.

Are you looking for a solution to connect quickly with your B2B partners? Find out how APIs can set you off for a quick start: 

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Still wondering if you need an iPaaS?

If you like what you’ve found, reach out and we will be happy to guide you. Meanwhile, we thought this document might be useful for you.
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