I’m stepping on my soapbox again so be warned!
I’ve recently encountered a number of well-intentioned (or perhaps not so well-intentioned) companies looking to reduce their internal costs for processing orders and invoices through some sort of “business process automation” system. Being an avid BPA developer I applaud these efforts so long as they bring “value” to everyone in the supply chain. What I see all too often is companies spending thousands and thousands of dollars on web-based initiatives where the main goal is to shift the transaction processing from themselves to their suppliers. From a business perspective, this just isn’t a wise choice and from a technological perspective, it just isn’t necessary. Having your suppliers enter their invoices first on their ERP system and then on your web-based system does not reduce the “transaction cost” it just shifts the labor from yourself to your supplier.
True B2B Integration Doesn’t Just Shift Costs, It Eliminates Them!
The Internet offers developers the unparalleled opportunity to connect disparate systems together without paying EDI “VAN” (Value Added Private Network) charges, telecom “WAN” (wide area network) charges or even leased-line charges. Basically, all the infrastructure costs are essentially free or paid for though corporate web access. All the developer (and business analyst) has to do is “connect-the-dots” using products like Microsoft’s BizTalk Server, Tibco’s iProcess Suite or Software AG’s WebMethods product to eliminate the real transaction costs. It’s never been easier or more affordable to do this and the benefits to the entire supply chain are enormous! Automating the transaction processing so that the document (purchase order or invoice) is “touched” by human hands only during it’s creation doesn’t just shift costs, it eliminates them!
Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments about how “costly” B2B integration can be and how smaller companies really can’t afford to participate but IT JUST ISN’T TRUE! Products like BizTalk Server 2006 make BPA truly affordable for companies of any size. I know of at least one very small company that used this product to integrate QuickBooks (their “ERP” system) to their much larger suppliers and customers. If they can do this without breaking the bank, anyone can!
Developer Call To Action: The next time your senior management talks about automating business processes with customers and suppliers, don’t just develop a BPA system that shifts the costs, work to eliminate them altogether!