Category Archives: Executive Perspective

Take Control of Your Supply Chain Foundation

Last year, I attended a thought-provoking supply chain conference hosted by an industry analyst organization. The agenda was packed with interesting supply chain topics – cost-to-serve strategies, supply network optimization, S&OP integration, demand shaping tactics, etc. However, the event gave almost no attention to the foundation upon which advanced supply chain planning and execution strategies rest: supply chain integration.

Puzzling. Automated processing of supply chain transactions based on electronic data interchange standards and technologies makes it possible for even small and mid-sized businesses to process thousands of orders each day, accurately, at low cost, and with complete auditability. Without such automation, many companies, especially those with close-to-cost business models, would be unable to operate profitably. Yet supply chain integration is something we take for granted.

Understanding the Value of Automation

Supply Chain InsightsAccording to a 2014 Supply Chain Insights benchmark study of businesses with annual revenues of $250m or more, the majority of order-to-cash and procure-to-pay processes are not fully automated. Only “34% of [sales] orders are moving through the systems hands-free” (p. 7), and “36% of purchase orders are handled through EDI [electronic data interchange] without manual intervention” (p. 8). Another 39% of sales orders and 34% of purchase orders were found to be partially automated, still requiring some manual processing steps. Continue reading

The Real Impact Data Transformation Has on Your Business

We all know that companies need data integration in order to drive their business. However with each new integration, companies are seeing an increase in the number of data formats required to support the business. When IT cannot support a data format, it risks becoming a roadblock to multiple business processes. The key to unlocking these roadblocks is through data transformation.

The benefits of data transformation extend throughout the entire business – from complying to new customer data requirements, to connecting internal disparate systems that need to share data in order to drive business operations. Many companies that utilize data transformation are manually building and customizing them with each new trading partner request, or new application implementation. With so many custom-coded processes built over time, the risk of errors increase due to poor maintenance, changing requirements, or lack of visibility. If even one data transformation process fails, it could cause a ripple-effect that slows down other business processes. As a result, Programmers will have to take time to troubleshoot the problem, then most likely add more customization to fix it.


We’ve identified some key benefits data transformation has on your business, then reviewed possible risks associated with custom-coding. Now let’s take a look at how the EXTOL Business Integrator (EBI) handles data transformation without the risk.

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Modernizing EDI: The Difference Between Classic EDI and Modern EDI

Today’s EDI is very different from what it was 10 or 15 years ago. When many companies made their last EDI technology investments, they were not facing the challenges they face today as they fill a supplier or intermediary role in the B2B value chain. They must support new shared processes, transactions, document types, and communication methods, all while meeting more stringent service levels.

Partner-driven and IT-driven integration changes are also propelling a wave of modernization. “Classic EDI” translators are being replaced by “Modern EDI” integration solutions, due to radical changes in internal business processes, on-premise and cloud (SaaS) applications, and new platforms.

Classic EDI refers to the exchange of standard electronic document types, with syntax and semantics defined by standards organizations, principally X12 and EDIFACT. Like Classic EDI, Modern EDI also embraces standard EDI document interchanges, but in addition, supports the interchange of non-standard, proprietary documents, mostly based on flat file, XML, and spreadsheet syntaxes.

But the differences between Classic and Modern EDI go beyond support for new document types:

Classic EDI Versus Modern EDI

Classic EDI Versus Modern EDI

Modern EDI reflects the increased diversity of partner, application, and service interfaces present in business environments today. That diversity imposes new requirements on EDI systems, including support for connections that combine applications, services, and data resources in powerful end-to-end business processes. Continue reading

The Dollar Value of Integration – Part 2: Revenue Growth

You probably have seen Revenue Growth illustrated on a graph, with time moving to the right, and a line that rises up and to the right as revenue is earned.

In the previous blog post, we addressed how onboarding a company faster decreases the amount of time from the point of a contract being signed, to the point your company begins to recognize revenue.

Now that you can onboard new business more quickly using an integration platform, what does that really do for your company long-term?

Imagine being able to onboard all the business that your sales team could sign without fear of disappointing the customer. Wouldn’t that be an enviable position to be in? Being able to onboard new business faster means that your company can grow more quickly than in the past.

But there are other areas within your company that integration can accelerate Revenue Growth. We have talked about processing new business through rapid onboarding, but let’s think outside the box.

How can we make our trading partnerships stronger with our suppliers and customers? What if we could offer more transparency to our trading partners about the status of their orders and shipments? That is probably valuable to them, especially if we can offer those services in a way that they can easily access and consume the data.

By allowing our trading partners better access to our systems, we become an extension of their business systems. If we do this properly and offer value to them, we build even stronger business relationships, which should translate into more business volume – Which means Revenue Growth.

Watch the Integration Power$ Business 3-part mini-series at: www.extol.com/bethehero

The Dollar Value of Integration – Part 1: Time to Revenue

As you know, Time to Revenue is the period of time from the signing of a contract until the business arrangement starts to produce revenue.  Depending on the complexity of the contract, it could be days, weeks, months or longer.

When we talk about Integration between external suppliers and both our internal and external customers, months and quarters are simply too long.

Consider that your salesman just landed that new big account, but it requires electronic data exchange.  With a single integration platform handling all EDI transactions, your customer’s purchase orders will flow into your system in days.  What this means is that your company is producing revenue from the new customer in a matter of days.  Any CFO would be delighted with this news.

Now, let’s take this example a little further.  We are receiving POs just days after signing the contract, but we only recognize the value AFTER we can ship and invoice the customer.  Again, your integration platform comes to the rescue by creating data flows that identify when shipments and invoices are created in your back-end system and convert them into a format that the customer can already accept. 

In this example, we did not burden or disrupt the way your customer does business.  What really happened is that you just made it easier for companies to do more business with YOU.

If you can quickly onboard new customers, you not only recognize revenue, but your company will gain a reputation of being easy to do business with and you will help to build very strong customer loyalty.  It may even be the competitive advantage that allows you to become your customer’s Vendor of Choice.

Integration is a competitive advantage that positions your company to say “Yes” to your customers and partners.  When you can confidently say “Yes” to data integration requests, you are positioned to grow your revenue streams deeper and wider.

Watch the Integration Power$ Business 3-part mini-series at: www.extol.com/bethehero