Tag Archives: Integration Trends and Issues

Networked vs. Hosted Managed Services – What’s Your Religion?

Having just returned from a 2-week vacation, I’ve had plenty of time to think about things that my work schedule normally pushes to the background – music, hobbies, investments (don’t ask), and our surreal national political scene. After listening to some of the bizarre preconceptions and arguments about health care reform and US economic policy (throws shoe at TV), it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that many of our beliefs are so ingrained that they approach the status of “religious” tenets.

As business and IT professionals, we like to think that we operate in a reality-based world, where facts and good sense dominate. But the same factors that muddy public policy decisions – incomplete and inaccurate information, the lack of a contextual model that can assist in predicting outcomes, and inherent biases toward or away from certain solution approaches – are just as influential in the decisions we make, every day.

One example that’s top-of-mind, for me, is the debate over managed services delivery models.  EXTOL and other companies in the B2B integration space have offered managed services for years, but cost-cutting measures and our shrinking economy have pushed managed services to the fore, of late.  We are still seeing greater demand in the market for self-managed B2B integration than for 3rd party managed services, but battered budgets, scarce IT resources, and shifting business priorities make managed services more attractive than ever.

Deciding between self-managed B2B integration and managed services integration usually comes down to financial and budgetary factors (capex vs. operating budgeting, front-loaded vs. ongoing expenses, etc.). While “religion” can come into play here, decisions at this level are usually based on clear-cut business priorities. Continue reading

B2B to Be

For my inaugural post on this blog, I want to revisit one of those “solved problems” that still dogs many of the companies we talk with, namely, how to handle B2B integration requirements that don’t involve standard EDI. Companies still find it difficult to cope with the full range of B2B connections and content types needed to integrate with large and small trading partners, including:

  • Standard EDI (and in some cases, EDI that does not fully conform to standards)
  • “Standard” XML, which ranges from well-developed, horizontal standards like RosettaNet to hundreds of loosely-defined vertical transaction sets
  • EDI-like flat file standards (most of these are older, vertically-focused cases)
  • EDI-based web forms
  • Proprietary, partner-defined flat files
  • Proprietary, partner-defined spreadsheets
  • Proprietary, partner-defined web portals
  • Proprietary, partner-defined documents sent by email or fax

Did I miss any? Probably. But the point is that standard EDI is just one of numerous conventions used for B2B integration.  Of course, standard X12 and EDIFACT EDI are still the mainstay of B2B integration. And there is little evidence to suggest that companies are ready to invest in replacing all of their EDI connections with something “better”.  In fact, EDI adoption is increasing.

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