As the economy restarts in the era of Covid-19, your organization is likely still feeling some level of pain the pandemic brought to our collective doorsteps.
The question now is, would it be OK to use that pain to the re-open the dialogue about overdue investments in your B2B integration architecture? Considering how critical the systems in this area are to real time supply chain management, you may never have a better opportunity than right now.
Accentuate the Negative
Getting back to business can’t mean business as usual in a post-pandemic world. The pandemic has been a wakeup call for businesses that were slow to adopt modern integration tools to augment and extend the capabilities of EDI and ERP systems, 20th Century technologies that were built for efficiency at scale, not for real time visibility and agility.
At the risk of preaching to the choir, your company will need both to take advantage of the shift to B2B e-commerce. According to research firm Digital Commerce 360, online sales that took place last year on B2B ecommerce sites, log-in portals and marketplaces increased 18.2% to 1.3 trillion from 1.1 trillion in 2018.
In 2019, B2b ecommerce sales grew nine times faster than all other U.S. manufacturing and distributor channels. Expect that growth to continue in 2020, driven by increased expectations of customers for the convenience of a seamless, automated buying process. However, that trend could present as more risk than opportunity for companies with digitally out-of-date supply chain tools.
Customers Are Driving Digital Transformation
Even before the pandemic, IT leaders involved in strategic planning for their companies were warning management that forcing customers to use manual ordering and related processes would limit their competitiveness. That’s because those customers were quickly coming to see digital commerce as a more efficient and effective way to research and purchase corporate goods and services.
If you were among those in the B2B integration architecture side of the business pointing out red flags, you know as these customers return to their offices in a business climate dampened by a pandemic-triggered downturn, they will be seeking suppliers and trading partners that offer tools that make their jobs easier.
Painful as it was— and for many organizations, continues to be— Covid-19 is your opportunity to help your company deliver a seamless omnichannel buying experience for customers. It’s also the perfect opportunity to help stakeholders and decision makers that investing in B2B integration tools to support customer buying preferences can ensure that the company survives the impacts of the pandemic and thrives once the recovery begins.
Lastly, even if your competitors are currently ahead of you when it comes to their digital maturity, acting now— while Covid-19 continues to keep whole industries off-balance— can let you match or surpass what others are doing. Even better, it’s possible to do so without breaking the bank.
Make what’s working work better
As you cite pandemic-related backlogs and losses in making your case for digital transformation, expect to meet a belt-tightening agenda common to recessionary cycles. To counter spending restrictions that could further limit your competitive position, you’ll want to assure stakeholders that business can and must go on as you evolve your B2B integration tools and your ecommerce capacity.
In fact, assuming no legacy or expired support issues, it’s often possible to build an API layer on top of your existing EDI and integration architecture. For example, one Remedi client was able to transition from relying on bricks and mortar retail distribution to selling on Amazon, eBay, and Wal-Mart.
Having an agile and scalable integration platform provided business processes, web services, and protocols that allowed our client to pivot to online marketplaces in a matter of a few weeks. As a result, instead of watching helplessly on sidelines, they enjoyed modest growth even as similar companies saw steep declines. The first step to delivering the experience your customers want is to identify the gaps that set company on its back foot.
It’s Never Too Late To Be The Business You Want To Be
Tools like our integration architecture documentation template can help you paint a picture for line of business leaders and decision makers of where you are now, so you can map a journey to where you want to go.
Even if you’re lagging compared to others in your space, there’s no reason why IT can’t be the strongest advocate in your organization for modernizing your integration suite not just to survive, but as a strategic weapon for competitive advantage. If necessity is the mother of invention, then a crisis like Covid-19 is the father of creativity.
Make the most of it.