More B2B Tech Trends to Look For in 2016

As the new year approaches, a number of technology trends that have been building for several years are reaching critical mass. As B2B grows beyond its traditional boundaries, integrating partner data exchange, on-the-ground logistics and the nuts and bolts of paying for things, it is poised to embrace many of these trends more fully.

Mobile payments. Most everyone has long since abandoned writing checks in favor of sliding a card. Now an increasing number of people are making payments by tapping their smartphones on terminals. Apple Pay is pushing the tech forward, and it will make a big jump in the coming year.

Crowd-sourced logistics. Uber and Lyft represent a game change in logistics for both the supply chain and on-the-ground services. More than just a novelty or a fall-back, crowd-sources transport and delivery represent a strategic edge for the smaller supply chain partner looking for a competitive edge. As acceptance of the trend grows, so will its presence on the road.

Drone management platforms. As market acceptance of crowd-sourced transportation increases, so does its uptake of drones as delivery providers. The technology has progressed rapidly and is slashing delivery costs wherever the technology is used. Drone fleets and platforms face a tougher journey to universal acceptance, but big strides will be taken in 2016.

The Internet of Things. As devices go online by the millions every day, the opportunity to leverage them for B2B data collection increases. The healthcare industry stands to benefit a great deal in the coming year as healthcare providers implement wearable monitoring devices for those under care, increasing the efficiency of service delivery and patient analytics.

The Battle for the Internet. All of this progress is welcomed by thousands of companies, but viewed with suspicion by thousands of others. A few missiles fired across the bow of the Internet have already awakened the business community to its status as a steadily-warming hot potato; while a showdown for control of the Internet is not yet imminent, there will certainly be increasing signs of potential conflict as next year unfolds.

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B2B Trends in Healthcare Technology in 2016

Perhaps the most technologically aggressive industry in B2B, apart from the supply chain, is healthcare. The sharing of records and analytics between partners in healthcare delivery isn’t just economical; it saves lives.

Looking forward to 2016, a number of compelling trends are emerging in healthcare B2B technology – changes that other industries could fruitfully emulate.

A recent article from Healthcare Business & Technology showcased several of these trends.

1. Care Management Records. Partner entities involved in the care of individual patients have become adept at sharing information that captures patient events – hospital visits, home care visits, and so on. These encounters (electronic medical records, or EMRs) are very useful, as far as they go; but what happens between patient visits is likewise of great importance in planning and facilitating patient care. Tracking steps that occur between visits will make a huge difference in improving healthcare delivery. Care Management Records will become increasingly important in the coming year.

2. Mobile devices and the Internet of Things. Both the capture of patient event data and the real-time monitoring of patient well-being are growing in importance. Healthcare data capture at patient event points has been steadily improving for the past decade, and will continue to improve in the coming year. Less certain is the fate of wearable computing devices capable of monitoring patient status in real time; given the current sophistication of technology, there is no practical reason why such devices should not be feeding real-time data into B2B information streams – only time will tell how long it will be before this obvious technological benefit will become ubiquitous.

3. User experience. The Affordable Care Act has caused healthcare companies throughout the industry to invest in major enhancements to their consumer interfaces, making access to their systems as friendly as possible. But this friendliness has not extended to those within the enterprise; their online experience is often clunky, non-intuitive, and frustrating. In the coming year, the need to bring more and more providers on board will cause vendors to deploy increasingly friendly and intuitive software, in order to bring more clinicians into the fold.


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What the B2B Community Needs, Technology-wise, in 2016

As another year of technological progress and process evolution in B2B draws to a close, a number of unfinished transitions remain, ripe for attention in the new year.

A number of new standards (AS4) and technologies (MFT) took strides forward during this past year, and the battle for supremacy among cloud service providers raged on. In the milieu, several important milestones were missed, and remain important industry goals, moving forward.

The analytics consortium

The evolution of B2B data transfer has seen many distinct technological phases, from EDI X-12 to the current practice of coordinated analytics. But the reality with regard to infrastructure remains every-company-to-itself, with many bridges existing between partners. While simplified data formatting standards and the leveraging of the Internet have been game-changing, networking between partners for the purpose of data-sharing remains a patchwork undertaking.

A step forward in 2016 would be the emergence of the local consortium – centralized data hubs for shared analytics and process coordination, sponsored by participating partners in the supply chain – with both the expense and the benefits shared by all.

Easier data-sharing among the clouds

The natural choice for such shared data resources is the cloud. But those currently using cloud service providers for analytics have often found that many of the major platforms don’t play very well with others, when it comes to import and export of data, in the volumes necessary for effective analytics. This leads to turf war, with the more powerful supply chain partner imposing his own cloud provider preference on weaker partners (Walmart indulged in strong-arm tactics of this nature in the early industry uptake of RFID).

We can look for progress among the cloud service providers in this area, but it’s unlikely that any progress will be pervasive by the end of the upcoming year.

Shared data transfer standards

One important objective for trading partners in many industries is the advent of shared data transfer standards. The sharing of data between partners – and, in particular, shared access to partner data sources – is now ubiquitous. But the technologies used to achieve this sharing of data remain a hodgepodge. And beyond a technology standard for data transfer, common administrative and security models, agreed upon between partners, are increasingly necessary.

One technology that holds promise is Managed File Transfer (MFT), which improves on its precursor technology ftps by offering the security, administration and rollback features of most database technologies. But industry uptake has been slow, owing to the expense and the hands-on cost of ownership.

On the other hand, both of the imperatives mentioned above – lack of partner data facility in cloud platforms and the need for partner data consortia – can, and should, become drivers in increasing the use of MFT and technologies like it, as 2016 commences.

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Healthcare Analytics Put Data Out Front

The Indiana Partnership for Healthy Communities recently published a review of its Community Health Assessment reports, emphasizing the importance of geoinformatics – data-driven analysis of unmet needs among populations in specified areas – in improving outcomes.

In a discussion with, Sharon Kandris and Karen Comer described the analytical metrics – Social Assets and Vulnerabilities Indicators – being employed to identify areas of interest in community healthcare outcomes.

The metrics have enabled “a large repository of community data about socio-economic conditions of neighborhoods and builds the capacity of organizations to use the data to be more strategic and effective as they plan, implement, and monitor programs and services,” Kandris said.

The review found that shortcomings in analytical data used by hospital represent opportunity for significant improvements, Comer added: “Preliminary findings included that the majority of hospitals are using only county-level data for both their CHA and their health-improvement plans. This suggests the opportunity to empower the CHA and health improvement planning processes with more local data. Also, most did not inventory community resources with geographic service specificity, but rather just included a list of organization or facility names, without address, contact information, or information about the programs and services offered.”

An additional metric, Kandris said, is derived from the aggregation of confidential federal, state and local government sources that generate meaningful indicators about local communities, around socio-economic conditions, health, housing, and public safety.

Comer added that the geographic breakdown of the analytics has generated insights into how hospital responses vary across Indiana, in terms of cooperation with local health departments.

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