SAN FRANCISCO - If you're about to take the plunge into business-to-business integration, hold on tight because B2Bi "happens in a New York minute," according to an expert at the Gartner Application Integration conference.
It's also more encompassing as a business concept than one might imagine.
"B2B integration is ... about more than protocols," said Ross Altman, Gartner research director. "It's about content, it's about process, it's about business semantics, applications. It's about the business process. There's a lot involved."
In B2Bi, there are as many pitfalls as there are approaches. A company with deep vertical integration, for example, may be required to standardize on an enterprise resource planning vendor's entire line to reduce its integration requirements, according to research by Gartner.
In the past year, a number of ERP vendors, such as Oracle and Baan, have begun offering their own integration middleware. They want to become the backbone of a company's collaborative commerce system because it gives them the opportunity to sell more software to the customer in the future, Altman said. But he argued that that's not necessarily a bad thing because such a vendor is going to take the burden of adopting emerging standards, such as ebXML, off of the enterprise.
What works best is a many-to-many solution that lets a business communicate effectively with both its customers and suppliers, said Altman. He also said old technology will remain a key part of the B2B equation for the foreseeable future.
"EDI's (electronic data interchange) going to be around for a long time, but a lot of the new connections will be built on XML - absolutely," said Altman. That means companies must have the ability to communicate in both, he said.
There are clear benefits to seeking tighter application integration with business partners, according to Gartner. The firm has made the prediction that an enterprise that creates a systematic, business-object view of its back-end applications will spend 50% less to support B2B integration than an enterprise that integrates systems on an ad hoc basis.
Among the other assumptions Gartner makes about the future of business service marketplaces and business transformation:
- In the end, business will be transformed.
- Partners will trade at the speed of light.
- Market transparency will be high.
- The ability to collaborate will determine a supplier's value.
- The strongest businesses will thrive.
- Slow technology adoption will be dangerous to your corporate health.
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