When choosing an integration software solution, do your requirements include the ability to make integration results or the outcome of the transactions, available to the customer services team, accounts receivable or the management staff? And when your requirements include business-to-business integration, do you also need to share results with your trading partners? Many times the answer to these questions is no, for a number of reasons including, but not limited to:
- Prior experiences where this functionality was available, but as a costly customization
- No need to expose this information to others
- Not aware this functionality can be a requirement of integration middleware
The first and second reasons are justifiable, but not the third. During the past decade, many integration software solutions added the tools to provide you with the ability to view the results of your integrations; so it should be a requirement. It is usually accomplished by including a dashboard capable of reporting, analysis and graphical representation of the integration software transactional data. Sometimes the dashboard can also provide powerful insight to the inner workings of the integration software such as providing tools allowing you to monitor the operational areas.
In the integration software world, employing a dashboard at the integration level allows you to gain historical, current and predictive views of your transactional data and trading partner activities before it is integrated with your back-end. This can be very important by providing a means for your internal users to gain visibility to integration activities and trends. Since most dashboards are accessible using a web browser, it is easier to provide varying levels of access via security to different classes of users such as senior managers, customer service or accounts receivable.
The benefits of providing access to these additional users can be huge. For example, a dashboard could provide the reporting tools allowing your managers to generate their own reports instead of requesting them from you. If your company does EDI with many of its trading partners, imagine if accounts receivable were able to verify if an invoice was sent and subsequently received via an acknowledgement. Imagine if the customer service department had the ability to look up the status of purchase orders for your trading partners without needing the intervention of the IT department. The self-service a dashboard provides can save a lot of time, which can translate to an increase in revenue and productivity. Now, let’s take it a step further. What if the dashboard had the security to allow you to provide secure access by your trading partners, so they can see their data and only their data? This would allow them to check the status of any of their documents, inbound or outbound, without internal assistance. This capability has the potential to save you even more and increase the level of service provided to your trading partners.
If you are looking to provide this type of visibility to your internal and external users, consider a solution offering a dashboard package with the integration software at no additional cost. The dashboard package should include some usable out of the box reports with drill down, exporting and scheduling capabilities. Nice-to-have features can include some dashboard views providing you with some key performance indicators (KPIs) and at-a-glance views of operational and transactional statuses. These features will enable your internal users to take control and monitor the status of the transactions without the assistance of others. The option to purchase additional functionality, such as an enhanced security model, ad hoc reporting and the ability to create your own dashboard views would be an added bonus. This additional functionality should provide a complete interface that can be exposed to external partners, increasing ROI and improving your level of service to your trading partners.