Pan-European Research Reveals Weak Links in Business Integration

Sterling Commerce has announced the results of research that investigated the benefits to organisations of an end-to-end business integration strategy, and the challenges faced to achieve this.

The survey by Sterling Commerce, carried out amongst 300 senior IT managers in France, Germany and the UK, found that four out of five companies experience problems with their current B2B capabilities and a third of all companies face difficulties when trying to integrate their B2B systems with internal applications. This trend is set to escalate in light of Gartner’s prediction that multi-enterprise B2B traffic is expected to triple between 2008 and 2013.

The challenges highlighted by the research demonstrate how relatively unprepared European businesses are for this predicted growth in B2B integration traffic, which can also fluctuate greatly, depending on market conditions or trading relationships. Alongside this, it is evident that the integration of internal applications is often overlooked and as a consequence those enterprises unable to drive B2B interactions holistically and strategically will be at risk of greater costs to manage the supply chain; attributable to slow, manual and error-prone document exchanges.

The survey also explored the ease with which a company’s IT department is able to make a relatively minor change to its business process – a key capability needed in order to adapt to the dynamic nature of today’s business. It uncovered that over half of the companies interviewed estimated the change would take a minimum of three days. It is therefore essential that businesses have the control and flexibility to change their systems and processes rapidly. Companies with mature B2B integration capabilities can gain this flexibility and will benefit from significant cost savings throughout the supply chain, giving them a competitive advantage and stronger standing for the financial upturn.

Survey findings included variance in the challenges faced, by geography and industry sector, notably:

  • The UK lags behind France and Germany when making relatively minor changes to business processes, with 32% of companies taking more than six days to implement change. The same difficulties are faced by 16% in Germany and 15% in France.
  • Retail is ahead of other vertical sectors when implementing these changes, with 48% managing to achieve this within two days as opposed to manufacturing (43%) and finance (34%).
  • Nearly a third of retail companies admitted that not having an effective means of managing B2B file transfers is a major problem.
  • 36% of manufacturing and 35% of finance companies experience difficulty in on-boarding new partners.

Finally, the survey also highlighted discrepancies according to company size. The biggest issue faced by larger companies of more than 3,000 employees was the ability to set up and on-board new partners quickly (35%), closely followed by the difficulty in integrating B2B systems with internal applications (33%).

A quarter of smaller companies (1,000 – 3,000 employees) stated that their primary issue resided with the integration of B2B systems with internal applications, closely followed by 23% citing that their B2B capabilities were based on old technology that is difficult and time-consuming to support.


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