In this digital age, every company wants to become a digital enterprise so that it can connect with customers across different channels and offer them new products. But long before companies were even thinking of connecting with customers digitally, they were connecting with each other digitally.
B2B Integration was the 1st Digitization enabler which brought efficiency to B2B transactions between companies and their partners. Companies discovered the benefits of connecting digitally with suppliers and other partners several decades ago. Just to put things in perspective:
- The first forms of EDI emerged almost 30 years ago when there were smartphones or for that matter even cellphones.
- EDI is even a few years older than email (SMTP). The ANSI X12 emerged earlier than SMTP although the newer mechanisms such as AS2 are more recent.
Despite of the fact that EDI has been around for decades, it still remains one of the most important digitization enabler. In fact, it is more important than ever for several reasons:
1. Increasing reliance on external partners has led to several fold increase in number of partners companies have to deal with. Although it varies by industry, but generally speaking a Fortune 1000 company can have anywhere between 100- 100,000 partners. These trading partners can be suppliers, shippers, 3PLs, wholesalers, agents, banks and even customers. Digitization is the only way to handle the large number of partners.
2. Partners can make or break business. Companies now realize that internal efficiencies are no longer optional. To effectively compete, they need a solid B2B supply chain backbone to deliver the products efficiently otherwise they will not be around for too long. Digitization is key to companies survival.
3. World has become much more agile. Customer behavior and expectations have changed requiring companies to be more agile as a result. Companies are now forced to innovate faster and bring new products to market. Partners are involved in designing, developing, shipping, marketing and even selling the products. Agility requires more partners and better integration with them. Digitization is the only way to compete effectively in the market.
Invest in IT to reap benefits of digitization. McKinsey's Paul Willmott points out that 'Digital winners are also creating the right scale of investment in their IT infrastructure'.
Opportunities of digitization are enormous. If you are embarking on digital initiative, make sure B2B Integration is part of it. The oldest digitization enabler is still relevant and can make a huge difference in ultimate success of the initiative.