Businesses that exchange data with other businesses, otherwise known as B2B partnerships, often find it hard to onboard, maintain and manage communication with exchange trading partners. If you already know all about the challenges companies face when they exchange data, you can skip right to Informatica's DX overview here. Otherwise, let’s examine the main challenges:
- Onboarding- This phase is all about the alignment of expectations between the two organizations, and the common goal they are trying to reach.
It is typically the business and data analysts of both organizations who communicate back and forth in order to match necessary data fields between their respective information representations. Imagine two people that speak different languages trying to match each word in each language to the other one.
During the onboarding process, it is also common to address communication frequency (when) and channel (how) questions. Once the organizations agree on how to exchange the information, they typically start exchanging sample messages to help flush out any mismatches in the mapping of their respective data representation, or data quality problems, which are very common in B2B exchanges.
- Maintaining- Ongoing maintenance is a necessary evil when dealing with exchanges across multiple organizations. Whether relying on a proprietary representation or industry standard, the data model and needs in every organization are constantly changing, which forces one or both exchange entities to adjust accordingly.
In an ideal world, every time a change is implemented, businesses will inform and rollout the change to all their exchange partners. In reality, businesses make changes and their exchange partners know of the change only once something breaks. Sometimes changes are not even up to the business. Any business that exchanges industry standard messages such as SWIFT, EDI-X12, HIPAA, EDIFACT, and others are subject to changes that are enforced by the organization that manages the standard.
- Managing- When your business is dependent on the exchange of information with your trading partners (whether for orders, shipping or other information), it is critical to know EXACTLY where things stand, reply to inquiries accordingly and timely, and be able to trace any and every transaction. That is perhaps the most dangerous and most complex part of B2B data exchange, and it is often where many organizations fail when they implement data exchange platforms.
In most proper data exchanges, every inquiry or request has a reply, whether a simple ACK, NACK, or formal response. In such systems, there should also be a reconciliation of events related to the transaction executed so operators can track back and audit all related activities.
There are many data exchange platforms out there. Depending on your needs, the main players are Informatica, Axway, GXS and IBM Sterling. Eccella has quite a bit of experience in end-to-end integration solutions utilizing different platforms and technologies. We've found particular success with Informatica's B2B Data Exchange offerings. We like it for its architecture, high performance, self-service capabilities, industry standards and unstructured data support as well as its huge set of possible integrations points.