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Several years ago, I received a phone call from a frantic CIO. He had been in his role at a mid-sized retailer for a short time, and was at the tail end of a significant Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System implementation. It was a major project, which had been underway for many months, and they were just about ready to launch.
One of the process changes to help increase sales was to move from a five-day-a-week store operation to seven days a week. This required them to increase their visibility on inbound shipments from their warehouse. The additional visibility and receiving automation was created to allow them to meet sales goals with little to no disruption.
How to Fully Optimize Your ERP Investment
However, while they had focused on every detail internally, mapping out all the process improvements and changes, they had not considered the connections outside the enterprise. These B2B integration connections with suppliers are critical, as they provide the necessary data to automate the process.
In this case, the CIO realized the mistake before it was too late. We jumped in to work with his ERP systems provider to quickly integrate hundreds of their suppliers.
"You’d be surprised how often we see B2B integration addressed too late in the process"
Deploying a new ERP system or upgrading an existing one is one of the most expensive and time-intensive tasks an organization can take on. Yet often, the focus is on internal processes and improvements, and companies and their ERP solutions providers fail to consider early on how the changes they are making will impact connections outside the enterprise.
Failure to Consider B2Bi Holds Significant Consequences
Failure to consider the B2B integration as part of any internal automation change can have significant consequences, not only in terms of delays and unexpected expenses, but it can also create customer service issues. In another example, the CIO of a supplier reached out to us with a very real problem. The company had just received new contracts with several large retailers. For the mid-sized supplier, these were make-or-break opportunities.
At the same time, internally, the team was focused on implementing an ERP software solution to help streamline business processes, and ultimately achieve cost savings. They were focused on a very tight deadline for the ERP implementation, working to get it installed in 30 days. It was a complex project, requiring them to be able to cleanly process data from two backend systems. However, they had neglected to consider the 10 existing trading partners, plus the new retailers until very late in the process.
At this point, the CIO was under significant pressure to make up for lost time. Imagine the shipment and billing problems the new system may have caused had they not integrated the existing customers. The damage could be far greater than a delay or increased costs. Luckily, he realized the missed trading partners in time, and we were able to help him move forward with minimal delays to the ERP project.
B2Bi Connections Provide the Data to Automate Processes
Automation projects have the power to improve efficiencies both internally and outside the enterprise. However, to get the full value of the implementation, it is important to consider the B2B connections early in the planning process. This often includes ensuring that the team includes your EDI vendor, along with your ERP solutions provider, and internal IT team.
It may seem simple. However, you would be surprised how often we see B2B integration addressed too late in the process. It is important to address it proactively, and not as an afterthought.