What is B2B integration?
Table of Contents
The modern enterprise is required to communicate and connect to customers, business partners, suppliers, and service vendors. In this world of connectivity and collaboration, businesses must have processes in place to quickly and easily share information between their partners, vendors, and suppliers to create a great product for their customers. However, each business may have slightly different processes and may handle information in different ways. How a business operates determines what resources they share, and how they share them. When the supply chain and product quality are on the line, removing as many roadblocks to communication as possible is a must. B2B integration allows businesses to communicate and collaborate through automated processes that break down potential barriers.
B2B partnerships are incredibly important for businesses to run efficiently and bring their customers and users the best products. The products we use every day require a complex system of supply chains and business partnerships whether it’s the app on your phone, or the phone itself. The raw materials are mined by one company, refined by another, and assembled somewhere else before being sent to stores like Best Buy, or the Apple store for us to purchase. Even with digital software a company like King develops Candy Crush Saga and must partner with Apple to certify the app for sale on the App Store. Businesses work together constantly to ensure the products we receive are high quality. Partnerships of this magnitude are only possible with B2B integration. To understand just how useful a B2B integration can be, we will explore what B2B integration is, what a B2B integration platform is, the types of B2B integrations, and the benefits businesses can see when implementing one of these systems.
What is B2B integration?
A B2B integration is a process that links applications of two or more businesses together. It allows for the automation of processes and communication between each of the organizations and aims to streamline their cross-partner business processes.
B2B partnerships and integrations are typically seen in large supply chains. These supply chains are huge interconnected networks of businesses, people, and systems that help create and deliver products to consumers. A supply chain of any size needs to be carefully planned and surveilled to ensure there aren’t any stoppages along the chain. If the organizations along the supply chain are incapable of quick, accurate communication and data sharing, big problems can arise without any of them realizing. For customers to get the products they want and need, multiple businesses must share data and work together.
What is a B2B integration platform?
A B2B integration platform is a third-party platform that facilitates the connections between two or more businesses and their applications. The third-party platform gathers information from each of the partners and their source applications, converts all the data into a standardized format for easy reading between organizations, and sends the data to each partner through the proper channels.
A B2B integration platform can be implemented in two ways. First, through on-premises integrations. An on-premises integration is built and maintained in-house by the business or businesses using the integrations. An on-premises integration requires further collaboration by each partner and can be difficult to build. It is likely each partner uses different data formats, forms, and names among other things. This means if a business partner accesses a form from another partner and believes it is missing a field they need to conduct business. If they add this new field it can make the edited form incompatible with the systems of the partner the form originated from. For on-premises B2B integrations to work each partner must collaborate and determine how data will be standardized, then create a process for data to be transferred properly. This is time-consuming and requires numerous IT man-hours to properly build and tweak to avoid issues. However, even after the integration is built it must be maintained and updated consistently. This essentially means each on-premises integration requires full-time attention to ensure it continues running properly.
The second way a B2B integration can be created and maintained is by a third-party hosted cloud service. The most common version of this is an integration platform as a service (iPaaS), like Celigo. Whereas an on-premises integration requires constant hands-on maintenance and updates, an iPaaS is prebuilt, and maintained by a third party. An iPaaS features hundreds of prebuilt integrations, as well as templates for over 100,000 more. While an on-premises integration requires extensive collaboration between IT teams to determine how data will be transferred, the prebuilt integrations in an iPaaS have solved these issues. All that’s required is for each IT department to activate one of the many prebuilt integrations or use a template. Once the prebuilt B2B integration is active the iPaaS handles everything else automatically. This includes data collection, analysis, data transformation, and data transfer. Additionally, hands-on maintenance and updates aren’t required which means your IT teams save more time after the integrations are activated. The iPaaS maintains and updates each integration to ensure applications stay connected as they update and grow.
Types of B2B integrations
A B2B integration will fall into one of two categories: data-level integrations and people-level integrations. These are the two main types of B2B integrations available to help businesses streamline their processes.
The first type of B2B integration is data-level integration. This type of B2B integration is effectively a system through which applications communicate with each other and share relevant data. The most common example of this is accounting applications between two businesses. For example, if Business A buys a product from Business B, Business B’s accounting applications automatically populate a billing invoice and send it to Business A’s applications which then automatically takes care of payment.
Data-level integrations can be complex as different businesses use different applications. The B2B integration system needs to be able to gather data, analyze it, and then transform it into a readable format for the other business applications. This process happens automatically and largely is used to help remove the human element that can cause errors and to automate as many processes as possible.
The second type of B2B integration is people-level integration. This type of B2B integration aims to make human collaboration in each organization as easy as possible. Applications are still involved in this level of B2B integration, however, the difference is how people interact with those applications and the information they gather. Additionally, people-level B2B integrations still aim to automate as many processes as possible, but it does so to make them easier for the people involved.
This type of B2B integration is best used in instances where cross-team collaboration is needed. This often includes relationship management, as well as customer dispute resolution. At the core, the goal is to ease communication between teams to ensure the different organizations’ business processes work together to meet the same objectives. Without this level of B2B integration, even businesses that work together would be siloed and have major issues as they work towards the same goals.
Benefits of B2B integration
As we’ve touched on throughout, businesses will see numerous benefits by investing in a B2B integration solution. Automation and streamlining are key benefits, however, there are many benefits that are incredibly important for a business’s success.
Improved efficiency & cost reduction
It simply cannot be understated just how much a B2B integration will improve the efficiency of businesses and their processes. At both levels of B2B integration, we see information being shared more quickly, processes being automated between applications and people, and an overall more streamlined process. A Forrester study from 2022 found that businesses using an iPaaS reduced development times by 75%, reduced data errors by 50%, and reduced error resolution time by 90%. This type of efficiency is even more important when work is being done between two organizations. Without this level of integration and collaboration, the products and services the organizations are working on will face delays, or fail to meet expectations.
When processes are made more efficient, this naturally saves money. There can be a great loss of time and capital when two organizations don’t work together. Slow data transfer, inaccurate information, and inefficient processes can bog down even the best projects. As we’ve seen, B2B integration attacks these roadblocks head-on.
Scalability and flexibility
Scalability and flexibility are hard to account for in a single organization and become even more difficult when you introduce a second or third organization. As each attempts to scale up, the others need to make changes to accommodate them even if they aren’t scaling up in the same way. B2B integrations allow this scalability to happen quickly and allow for each partner to be as flexible as possible.
Scalability and flexibility are achieved most easily from iPaaS solutions like Celigo. As each organization grows or changes, new integrations may be required. New members will be added to existing teams, entirely new teams may be built, or new departments may need access to information from departments in other organizations. All of these examples can cause serious growing pains. However, iPaaS solutions, like Celigo, have integrations built for over 200 applications and feature a template to integrate over 100,000 other applications. This means that as the needs of the partners change and grow, Celigo’s iPaaS solution grows too.
One of the final benefits often seen from a B2B integration is a centralized source of data for both organizations. Of course, this doesn’t mean all data from each organization is stored here, just all information gathered by the B2B integration platform that is relevant to the applications it is connected to. Having a single centralized repository where data can be double-checked throughout the process by any department is key to making future decisions. The data shows what is working and what isn’t and allows this intelligence to be quickly acted upon to best form a path forward for the organizations.
Common challenges of B2B integration
While a B2B integration will create many benefits for the businesses that use them, there is the potential for some challenges when implementing one of these solutions. However, more often than not, these challenges are caused by choosing the wrong solution for their needs.
The most common challenges faced by those who choose the wrong B2B integration solutions are a lack of personalization, scalability, and flexibility. This may seem counterintuitive considering scalability and flexibility are key benefits, but, it’s true. Boston Consulting Group found only 30% of integration projects truly succeed. They determined there were six factors in determining if an integration process was successful. They are:
- An Integrated Strategy with Clear Transformation Goals.
- Leadership Commitment from CEO Through Middle Management.
- Deploying High-Caliber Talent.
- An Agile Governance Mindset That Drives Broader Adoption.
- Effective Monitoring of Progress Toward Defined Outcomes.
- Business-Led Modular Technology and Data Platform.
Each of these six factors must be considered and met for an integration project to succeed. If any of the six factors is not met or ignored the challenge of completing the integration becomes increasingly low. For example, if there are no clear goals associated with the integration project, the point of the project becomes muddled and teams are unsure what they’re working towards.
Second, leadership commitment is key to the overall success of the project, especially in instances of B2B integration. Each leader from the top executive to team leaders, must be aligned and committed to the project. If there are weak links among this chain in either business the integration can unravel and be unsuccessful.
Third, deploying high-caliber talent. Having experienced, knowledgeable team members heading the project is key to its success. Human error or misunderstanding can create unnecessary roadblocks that prevent goals from being reached.
Fourth, an agile problem-solving mindset can help address any roadblocks or issues quickly and without panic. The goal is to solve problems efficiently without losing sight of the broader objectives.
Fifth, effective monitoring is key to ensuring implementation of integrations is working. While a specific end goal is important, it is equally important to create well-thought-out deadlines and outcomes to monitor the progress toward the final objective.
Finally, a business-led modular technology and data platform. The platform implemented should fit the business needs and promote security, seamless integration, scalable performance, and rapid-change deployment. Without these tenants, the program will get hung up on simple roadblocks and stall the project.
Each of these six factors must be met to increase the likelihood of a successful integration project. The best way to meet them is with the use of an iPaaS. An iPaaS is a modular technology and data platform with flexibility and scalability that allows for easy monitoring to ensure solutions are effective as each organization works towards its goals. Additionally, because it doesn’t require extensive hands-on maintenance from IT it is simple for anyone to use and implement throughout an organization no matter their IT skill.
An additional challenge frequently levied at B2B integrations is the amount of collaboration that is required for them to work properly. B2B integration requires a constant stream of collaboration between every organization involved. This is especially true if the organizations are building these integrations themselves. Luckily, there is a way to mitigate this challenge. An iPaaS solution will handle building out the integrations, as long as each organization signs up for the platform.
One of the final challenges often brought up is security. It’s possible there is potentially sensitive data being transferred between several organizations. With certain solutions, this is a legitimate concern as the security measures need to be built into the integration and then upkept. However, iPaaS can again mitigate these issues. iPaaS solutions like Celigo take security very seriously and take steps to ensure any organization utilizing an iPaaS feels secure. Additionally, automated data collection means only those who need the data can access it. It isn’t sent to everyone, only to relevant departments and individuals.
While a B2B integration is not without its challenges, at the end of the day, choosing the right solution can help prevent nearly any concern that may arise. Options like Celigo with hundreds of prebuilt integrations and templates for over 100,000 more allow for easy scalability, incredible flexibility, and near-endless customization which means it will always be able to fit the needs of each organization. As an affordable and reliable option, Celigo reduces the barriers to collaboration typically required to get each business on board. Finally, any security worries can be addressed by understanding Celigo’s commitment to security.
A B2B integration is an incredible tool that can help multiple organizations collaborate towards a common goal. It promotes scalability, reduces costs, and provides a centralized repository of information. Through data-level or people-level integrations, each organization will discover a new level of efficiency previously thought impossible. If you’re curious how Celigo’s enterprise iPaaS system can transform your B2B integrations contact us today to schedule a personalized demo!
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