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Exploring the Stages of A Successful B2B Integration

Posted by Brooke Lester on Aug 10, 2017 8:42 AM

Exploring the Stages of A Successful B2B IntegrationB2B integration maturity is not something you achieve overnight. There are stages that you pass through that bring you closer to your goal.

For companies that want to improve their levels of B2B maturity, the idea of progressing through stages might seem rather daunting. Fortunately, the number of phases to achieve B2B integration maturity is not endless; researchers have identified five of them. Read on to learn about what these stages are and why it is important to see a clear progression of your integration efforts.

Stage 1: Transactional

The first stage of B2B integration maturity is known as the transactional stage. The reason it is called “transactional” is because business processes are treated as transactions. There is no inherent value to them aside from their completion. 

How can you tell if you are in the transactional stage? Your processes are manual and reactive. Information is siloed for internal and external processes. It is not just that Marketing does not collaborate with Finance, it is also that you do not share information with supply chain partners, either. 

If you believe your firm is still in the transactional stage, do not worry. You do not have to stay there forever. There are steps you can take to advance further along the B2B integration maturity spectrum.

Stage 2: Informative

The second stage of B2B integration maturity is known as the informative stage.

At this stage, processes are not entirely manual. Supply chain partners share some information digitally. However, informative B2B integration maturity is marked by a limited amount of digital information changing hands. There are further steps you must take to achieve higher levels of B2B integration maturity. 

Stage 3: Analytical

The third stage of B2B integration maturity is known as the analytical stage. 

During the analytical stage, businesses begin to aggregate and analyze all of the data generated by the digital supply chain. By analyzing this data, firms can gain deeper insights; they may discover new market opportunities or ways to save money. 

While the analytical stage is more advanced, companies have room to move forward along the B2B integration maturity continuum. The analytical stage is still quite manual and reactive; instead of relying upon technology that will automatically process a transaction, companies at this stage may still complete it by hand. 

B2B Integration

Stage 4: Relational

The fourth stage of B2B integration maturity is known as the relational stage. 

In this phase, companies have built a network that connects the majority of their supply chain partners. The network is multi-tiered, to accommodate as many partners (and their levels of B2B integration maturity) as possible. 

Companies in the fourth stage of B2B integration maturity make integration decisions that will affect the rest of their supply chain partners positively; they want to share information with them so it is easier to do business. Furthermore, firms in the fourth stage have automated their processes, and these processes take place in real time. They have also implemented automated data collection, predictive analytics, and a networked compliance management system. 

Stage 5: Generative

The fifth and final stage of B2B integration maturity is known as the generative stage. When companies reach this stage, they are actually generating money as a result of end-to-end integration throughout the supply chain. 

This stage is the most difficult to achieve, but that does not mean that it is impossible. It requires a commitment to three things: 

  1. Shifting your mindset to one that encourages internal and external data sharing
  2. Automating processes for maximizing efficiency
  3. Utilizing technology that enables the rapid, automated transmission of data

How Can You Benefit from Knowing Where You Are on the B2B Integration Maturity Spectrum?

You might be reading this and thinking, “It is nice to know that there are five stages of B2B integration maturity, but how is this actually going to help my business?”

Look at B2B integration maturity as a roadmap. Every stage you pass brings you closer to your ultimate destination, the highest stage of B2B integration maturity. When you know where you are, you know what steps to take to bring you closer to your goal. 

Moreover, the further along the B2B integration maturity spectrum you progress, the more benefits you reap. A 2016 survey shows that even at the earliest stages of B2B integration maturity, two-thirds of companies have 61 days of sales outstanding, and a third were able to expedite at least 10 percent of orders. 

Do not let the journey to the highest stages of B2B integration maturity intimidate you from taking the first steps. Even initial measures take you further along the spectrum. To learn more, contact us.

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