Descartes Acquisition of Compudata Creates European Best-of-Breed in B2B, Heralds Industry Trend

Descartes’ recent acquisition of supply chain integrator Compudata underscores the efficiencies that B2B integration have brought to European business, and the effectiveness that consolidation of services offers in the rapidly-evolving global marketplace.

Descartes’ industry position as a global leader in B2B logistics was an effective match with Compudata’s excellence in e-invoicing and experience in international trade.

“Compudata has set the standard…for superior B2B supply chain integration services,” said Compudata CEO Patrick Maeder, while Descartes “is establishing itself as the global network for communities collaborating on logistics and supply chain processes,” according to Descartes CEO Edward Ryan. The union brought 500 Compudata customers over to Descartes’ Global Logistics Network (most in Switzerland), including many retailers and suppliers.

Within the supply chain industry, Descartes’ expansion efforts are an example of a supply chain operating network, bringing data exchange, logistics, supply chain management and financials under one roof, with the addition of recent innovations such as enhanced analytics and the leveraging of social networking.

Descartes has also acquired Impatex Freight Software Limited, a British customs filing and freight forwarding service provider, as part of its expansion.

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The Rise of APIs for B2B Integration

APIs are everywhere. Companies are exposing APIs to generate new revenue streams. By exposing applications and data to the outside world via APIs, companies can monetize their existing IT infrastructure. That means they can generate additional revenue without significant investment.

Netflix has over 100,000 DVD titles that it exposes through APIs for integration with over 200 devices, including several type of mobile devices. By delivering data through APIs, Netflix not only created a new revenue stream but also became a leader in this category. Stripe is a new start up which processes payments and exposes its services via an API suite. APIs are at the front, right and center of business model transformations happening today.

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The Value-Added Network is All But Gone from the B2B Supply Chain Toolkit

Since Wal-Mart moved away from value-added networks for B2B document exchange in 2003, the death of traditional VANs has been inevitable. Predictions of the extinction of the VAN have appeared steadily ever since.

The remaining players have been gobbled up in a flurry of acquisitions in recent years: Inovis, for instance, was purchased by GXS, which was in turn purchased by Open Text. A few are surviving through adaptation, such as Covisint, which caters largely to the healthcare industry and is high-teching into non-traditional territory (the cloud, identity management as a service).

The VAN has died slowly because traditional EDI has died slowly. That slow death has derived from the lack of a clear successor technology. XML has long been touted as the natural heir for B2B data exchange and systems integration, and with the rapid proliferation of web services, it is now ubiquitous.

The advent of AS4, the web service-friendly successor to AS2 (EDI’s Internet-based innovation), closes the gap for EDI-dependent B2B partners seeking to shed the expense and trouble of VAN data transport, by simplifying web service-based data exchange implementations and enhancing endpoint availability robustness.

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B2B Integration Is Evolving Rapidly

B2B Integration technology and methodology are undergoing rapid evolution, according to Information Week.

A number of developments in information technology are driving this evolution. In a white paper predicting the state of B2B integration over the next five years, several of these developments are cited, including the embrace of big data by trading partners; supply chain “straight-through” processing; mobile computing and real-time business processes; and a need to integrate more deeply with purchasing and field support.

Specifically, the advent of smart phones and tablets, cloud technology, social media analytics and ubiquitous CRM, and real-time connectivity across domains are developments driving B2B integration to move forward more quickly.

These changes create an evolutionary pressure on supply chain partners to grow their IT systems at a faster pace. The paper predicted three big operational shifts over the next five years:

Operational excellence. A shift from point-to-point integration between partners to real workflow, with an emphasis on reusable elements, along with commitment to high availability and integration beyond transactional data are the operational future.

Customer excellence. More rapid response to customer needs, enabled by newer messaging technologies (web services), improved business visibility and collaboration in troubleshooting customer support issues define this shift.

Support of innovation. To make this evolution a reality, a shift toward perpetual innovation and new ways of implementing processes is essential. Included in this shift are openness to social trading networks, true multi-enterprise processes, and investment in business service subscriptions to augment multi-enterprise applications.

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