The benefits of automating the exchange of business transaction documents between B2B trading partners (customers, suppliers, and service providers), including time and clerical cost savings, as well as increased accuracy, are well known. This automation is typically accomplished utilizing some type of standardized data formatting, such as traditional EDI or, in some cases, industry specific XML documents. Initial implementations frequently involve trading partners with high transaction volumes, and/or those of significant strategic importance.
The next stage of partner integration involves implementing those trading partners with lower transaction volumes, but who also have the capability to exchange transaction data utilizing standardized data formatting. After this, automating transactions with your remaining trading partners involves a greater challenge, since they are frequently smaller businesses who cannot justify the required investment in softwareand/or do not have the level of IT sophistication required to implement and integrate B2B data exchange with their internal applications.
There are a number of alternatives which a larger organization can utilize with their smaller and less IT capable trading partners that will provide many of the benefits of automated B2B transactions to both parties. These include:
- Implementing web-based software that trading partners can use to send or receive transactions. For example, this software could present purchase orders to a small vendor from the same system used to send orders to EDI capable vendors. The small vendor would log into the website to receive the orders, which could be printed or downloaded in a spreadsheet. When the order is ready to be shipped, the small vendor could log back into the website and add the shipping and billing information to the original order. The larger organization would receive all the benefits of automated transactions, and the small vendor would also receive the same benefits except for the clerical cost savings.
- The same scenario described above could be providedas a service by an EDI VAN (traditional EDI VANs are now considered ‘in the cloud’), or some other third party service provider.
- Documents could be exchanged as spreadsheets attached to emails sent between trading partners. There is B2B integration software available that can create and process spreadsheet data in addition to standardized data exchange formats.
- Software (both on-premise and available as a service) is available that can reformat data in standardized data exchange formats to an easily readable document and fax it to a smaller vendor. Some systems also have the capability of receiving faxed documents and transforming the information into standardized formats, although the accuracy achieved with this method is not always acceptable.
With the technology available today, automating the integration of business documents with small B2B partners is practical and affordable.