The Complete Guide to B2B Integration Solutions

Posted by Brooke Lester on Mar 29, 2023 1:45 PM

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Having the right business-to-business integration solution is a necessity in today’s market. It can help businesses streamline their operations, boost their efficiency and improve their competitiveness. By connecting multiple discrete systems, data sources and applications, B2B integration tools can give a business a single, unified system that optimizes all of its processes.

This B2B integration guide gives an overview of integration solutions for businesses across industries, covering topics including integration, challenges companies face when implementing these solutions and best practices for successful implementation.

This following piece highlights the importance of identifying business requirements, communicating with trading partners, developing integration plans and testing and managing integration to ensure continuous proper function.

Why You Need B2B Integration

Businesses benefit enormously from B2B integration. It streamlines their operations, slashes their costs, improves their efficiency and enhances their competitive advantage. Below, we lay out the details of why entities need B2B integration.

  1. Enhanced accuracy: B2B integration removes the need for human intervention in the form of manual data entry, reducing the risk of error and bolstering data accuracy. This is crucial for companies that depend on accurate data to make important decisions.
  2. Faster order processing: B2B integration lets organizations automate their order processing, reducing the time and work required in manual processing. The result is faster order fulfillment and better customer servicing.
  3. Better supply chain management: B2B integration helps businesses automate their supply chain processes and work more efficiently with trading partners and suppliers. As a result, they get better visibility into their operations and more control over the full supply chain, leading to fewer delays, errors and additional costs.
  4. Lower costs: B2B integration reduces the often high spend associated with manual processes, such as data entry, printing and mailing.
  5. Increased competitiveness: B2B integration allows companies to respond faster to customer queries and requests and innovate more quickly. This makes them more competitive in the marketplace, setting them up for long-term success.

Types of B2B Integration

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Though there are several different types of B2B integration, there is frequent overlap among them. This is because the different kinds of integration can always have common underlying components. The classifications are:

Data Integration

Data integration is the automatic exchange of information between applications at two or more entities. It is made possible either through the writing of code so the applications can understand each other, or the conversion of data into standardized formats.

The strategy is critical for organizations that must collaborate in order to do business. For example, a manufacturer may need to exchange inventory data with suppliers to make sure it has the necessary inputs to make its products. Or a retailer may need to exchange sales data with its suppliers so it can be certain it has sufficient stock to meet customer demands.

Data integration can involve various technologies, such as Electronic Data Interchange, Application Programming Interface integration and File Transfer Protocol. These allow businesses to automate their information exchange, improve the accuracy of the data they send and receive and slash the time and work involved.

B2B data integration is also critical for safeguarding data security and compliance. With secure data transfer protocols, it protects businesses’ sensitive data and lets them comply with industry regulations and standards.

System Integration

System integration is the process of connecting discrete systems or subsystems and their hardware to create a single, cohesive system. It combines hardware, software and various network components from different vendors.

System integration is beneficial for businesses looking to make their operations more efficient. For example, a business may want a single view of its customer data. To get it, it may need to integrate its marketing, sales and customer service systems. Having a single, improved view of this information can help the company better understand customer preferences and patterns, improving its ability to serve them.

Like data integration, system integration can involve various technologies, such as APIs and web services. These allow organizations to connect disparate applications and systems and more easily exchange data.

System integration can be complex because it requires expertise in multiple disciplines, including software development and network engineering. It also requires repeated and careful testing to ensure correct functioning of the final system.

Process Integration

In process integration, an organization automates and optimizes its business processes by mapping them onto IT assets. Its goal is to eliminate manually done work, thereby reducing the instance of error and improving efficiency. So, a company that wants to automate the processing and filling of customer orders, for example, might choose to do it by integrating its marketing, sales and customer service systems.

Process integration can entail multiple approaches and technologies, including data integration, workflow automation and API integration. By enabling automation and easier data exchange, it can make for better intra-company communication, breaking down silos between different teams and departments.

Application Integration

Application integration is the connection of different software systems and applications to create a single, seamless workflow. It involves integrating different applications, such as Customer Relationship Management and Supply Chain Management systems, to enable the connected applications to share data and function as one unit.

Companies that use multiple applications to manage their operations will see huge benefits from application integration. Let’s say a business uses one application for accounting, another for sales management and a third for human resources. Integrating all three will give it a single, cross-operations view of all its data.

How Companies Implement B2B Integration Solutions

The type of integration a company needs depends entirely on its processes and demands. Below are some general best practices for implementing integration solutions:

  1. Define needs: The first step to implementing a B2B integration solution is to determine a business’ requirements. This means identifying all the processes that need automation, the data that needs to be exchanged and the applications and systems that need to be integrated.
  2. Identify partners: Entities should identify the suppliers, partners and customers with whom they need to exchange data, then agree with those parties on the data protocols and formats they will use for data exchange.
  3. Choose technology: Businesses should pick the integration technology that best suits their business requirements (for example, an API gateway or a date-integration tool).
  4. Develop a plan: After business requirements, technology and trading partners have been determined, organizations need to draw up an integration plan. This involves mapping data between systems, defining integration workflows and creating data-transformation rules.
  5. Test and deploy: Once a plan has been developed, companies have to test the solution in a controlled environment to make sure it functions as needed.
  6. Monitor and manage: Following solution deployment, companies must monitor and manage the integration set-up. This includes troubleshooting and fixing any problems that may come up.

B2B Integration Examples

Companies in all industries can benefit from using B2B integration tools. Here, we share some use cases.

  1. Electronic Data Interchange integration: A retailer may use EDI, a standardized electronic communication system between two or more computers, to send its suppliers invoices, shipping notices and purchase orders.
  2. Supply chain integration: A manufacturer might use supply-chain integration–which automates and optimizes the flow of services and goods between trading partners–to combine its production system with its suppliers' inventory systems. This will help ensure that it has the necessary input to make its products.
  3. Logistics integration: A trucking company might integrate its transportation-management system with its customers’ inventory-management systems to get real-time shipment tracking.
  4. Customer relationship management integration: In CRM integration, an organization integrates its customer data across its various systems and applications. So a company could integrate its CRM and marketing-automation systems to create targeted marketing campaigns that use customer information.
  5. Payment integration: Payment integration is when trading partners combine payment systems. For example, an e-commerce firm might integrate its payment system with its suppliers' payment systems to create automated processing of payments.
  6. Human resources integration: A manufacturer might choose to integrate its HR system with its staffing agency's system to automate temporary-employee recruiting and hiring.

B2B Integration Challenges

Implementing B2B integration can be a complicated and demanding process, especially when the technology used is deficient. Below are some common challenges companies come across when integrating.

  1. Complexity: B2B integration usually means connecting multiple applications, systems and data sources, which can make ensuring the correct function of the full system both time-consuming and tedious.
  2. Cost: B2B integration solutions can be expensive and require significant investment in resources, technology and personnel. Organizations should have a clear business case and return on investment for their B2B integration projects.
  3. Compliance and security: B2B integration will see a company exchanging sensitive information between trading partners, and this can raise security and compliance concerns. Organizations should ensure their exchange processes are secure and meet industry regulations and standards.
  4. Onboarding: Bringing on new trading partners can be difficult and take many employee hours. Companies have to be sure their trading partners understand the integration process and can meet the technical requirements of data exchange.
  5. Compatibility: Disparate systems and applications likely use different formats, standards and protocols, posing a problem for seamless data exchange. Businesses should be sure their systems are compatible with those of their trading partners.
  6. Support and maintenance: Integration requires ongoing maintenance and support, so businesses must have the needed expertise and resources to keep up and troubleshoot any implemented B2B integration solutions.

Benefits By Sector

Businesses in every industry can gain an advantage by integrating their B2B processes. Below we go into some of the specific benefits by field.

  • IT: Cloud and SaaS firms have to integrate with large numbers of customers and be able to handle huge volumes of data. A B2B integration platform can do all the difficult work for them so they never miss another service level agreement.
  • Logistics: Logistics firms that do high-volume business need integration to ensure accurate, on-time deliveries. They also need to be able to integrate with warehouse management systems, and B2B integration makes this possible.
  • Health care: A modern, top-of-the-line B2B integration can securely connect health-care systems, labs, physicians’ offices, insurers and more  by replacing a value-added network and automate insurance eligibility and enrollment forms, as well as claims and payment processes.
  • Manufacturing: For companies that deal heavily in engineering documents, such as manufacturing firms, a solution that allows them to ingest those files directly into SAP is invaluable. That’s one of the many capabilities of B2B integration, as is the easy exchange of customer and supplier information via SFTP connections and the use of AS2 to communicate securely with the manufacturers’ banks.
  • Retail: With B2B integration, a business can automate conversion of documents in the ANSI X12 EDI format to an XML format that’s easily understood by an ERP application. This lets the company reduce both the instance of chargebacks and time spent.
  • Finance: While connecting many banks and brokerages, B2B integration can also offer high-level security and auditing capabilities, in addition to real-time visibility needed for best-in-class banking solutions.

Choosing a B2B Integration Solution

There are many choices when it comes to B2B integration solutions. How can a business find the one that’s right for it? Here are some key areas to look at when choosing.

  • Deployment model: There are three main deployment models, and it’s important for a company to determine which will work best for it. These models are on-site, cloud and hybrid. An on-site solution is installed and managed on the company’s own servers, either in-house or remote. A cloud model means the integration is done as a service, off-site (though it can be fully managed). A hybrid approach combines on-site and cloud.
  • Security: With today’s unfortunate prevalence of data breaches, securing information is more important than ever. No matter the sector, businesses want solutions with inherent security capabilities. A sound integration solution will offer virtual private networks, HTTPS, secure file transfers, advanced authentication methods and more.
  • Cost: One of the main considerations when choosing an integration solution is the price tag. In addition to up-front layout, companies should take into consideration the cost of maintenance, IT support and troubleshooting, and upgrades of their chosen system. And they shouldn’t forget staff training, which can be pricey.
  • Flexibility: Because each organization has its own integration requirements, a company will want to weigh the flexibility of any solution they’re considering. Can it be customized? Can the company control the information passed between systems, or how incoming information is interpreted?


B2B integration is crucial for any business wanting to streamline its operations, increase efficiency across its operations and gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. Though there are challenges on the road to integration, with the right solution in place an organization can achieve these goals and more, setting it up for continued success.

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