Business-to-Business and Application-to-Application Integration are not new concepts. Many enterprises from all around the world have been using them extensively, lately. If you wonder what is B2B integration, you should know that such projects have been up and running since the late ‘60s. Simply put, B2B integration involves the integration, automation and optimisation of several key business processes that go beyond the physical premises of a company or organization. Application-to-Application Integration is based on the emergence of certain technological advancements and developments, more specifically software products like software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing. While the two are very similar, they are fundamentally different in certain areas. But for more information on each type of integration, keep reading below.
B2B Integration – What Is It?
B2B integration is a process that allows businesses to electronically exchange information, data and important documents in the context of interlinked systems. The exchange of data and information can take place between businesses, their suppliers, various key-institutions with which they should remain in contact, governmental bodies, customers and other internal systems.
All the data used in B2B integration comes from a source application. There are multiple types of source applications out there, from enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, accounting packages or even state-of-the-art CRM systems.
In case the source application is an ERP application, the data is typically mapped, identified or translated to a standard that is specific to a certain industry (the one in which the enterprise using it activates) and contains virtually any sort of information that is held in the ERP application, from purchase orders, sales data, invoices and sales forecasts, without being limited to this.
When inquired, the files containing different types of information are sent to the recipient as a message or a standard protocol. These usually come protected by different security protocols and have an increased performance and reliability. These are the same for the industry as a whole, but they are also dictated by a trading partner of each company.
B2B integration has become over the years a standard across all industries, mainly because B2B integration makes it easier for companies to keep in touch and manage their business relationships and communities, exchange information in a facile manner and trade in a safe and secure way. Plus, the entire process is automated and removes the necessity to manually process the documents usually necessary in business processes.
In this context, companies can process order information faster and more accurately, in real time. Considering the fact that nowadays, thanks to B2B integration, businesses are able to process order information faster and better, they become more responsive to their customer’s needs and requirements. In the end, this allows businesses to increase sales, customer retention rates and improve their customer relations capabilities.
Based on the same principle, companies in various industries can gain a better insight on their suppliers’ shipment status, they become able to automate all warehousing and distribution needs and demands and beautifully optimise stock and inventory. Ultimately, B2B integration is only due to increase companies’ working capabilities and lowering operational costs.
A2A Integration – What Is It?
Application-to-Application Integration software or simply put, application integration software is a product that allows customers to rapidly complete integrations that are specific to various applications and that don’t involve any sort of coding. The process involves, however, some configuration.
Most frequently than not, reliable vendors will offer a wide array of pre-configured templates that make the entire process significantly easier. In this context, businesses have the opportunity to complete various projects of a high importance for their activity in a matter of days. Otherwise, these tasks associated with various projects would take months to complete. There are some key features you should consider when searching for a reliable A2A integration tool or software.
- Data interfaces. Reliable A2A integration systems allow an easy connection between various types of users and IT staff. User-ready templates and interfaces allow businesses to create simple connections between apps of different kinds. Naturally, these connections are based on pre-configured connectors put at user’s command by the IT staff. Simply put, these templates allow a simple and fast connection between applications, mainly with the web’s help. What makes these data interfaces so great? Simply the fact that they allow self-service integration for businesses, decreasing the way in which they are dependant on their IT departments.
- Web Services and APIs. User-ready A2A integration templates are also great because they offer comprehensive support for Web Services. This makes utilization easier and more approachable by all users.
- Data Mapping Features. Templates that come ready for use allow usually come with a graphical tool that makes it easier for the user to configure data transformation, mapping, validation and cleaning. This boost any businesses’ capability to complete otherwise complex processes without writing a single line of code. These types of systems allow users to apply transformation rules regardless of the formats of both targets and sources. State-of-the-art templates for A2A Integration feature a library of pre-created functions that can be reused in the future. Plus, the whole process can be easily verified on-the-go, to assure the necessary accuracy levels.
- Process Design Features. When users need to create process flows, they can easily approach this tool and take advantage of the process design tool.
A2A integration tools come with numerous benefits and advantages for a wide range of businesses, but mainly their IT departments as these decrease the volume of work and effort put into integration and configuration.
- They boost the IT efficiency of a business because they increase a business’ self-service capabilities. Besides, they allow the IT staff to offer business users higher self-care capabilities when it comes to integration and configuration. This way, IT teams and departments have all the necessary time to focus on the strategic side of their tasks.
- A2A integration tools and templates boost productivity. Because the entire process is automated, this reduces the manual steps and necessary time when it comes to processing data and information.
- This reduces errors that may occur in the process, thus leads to lower operational costs.
- The products developed by using A2A integration will reach the market faster. In this case, connections can be created in a matter of hours rather than weeks and integration projects will be achieved faster and more accurately.
- Being a product that doesn’t require any coding, the process of creating new connections is immensely simplified.
- Developing new products becomes incredibly rapid and efficient as these systems allow unmatched flexibility. They can be used as needed and, on-premise or even in the cloud.
- These templates, if created by reliable developers, come with pre-built connectors (SaaS, CRM and ERP, database capabilities, messaging systems and customer support features).
- Management and monitoring capabilities are also simplified in the case of web-based management systems. These systems include alerts and notifications, error alerts and connectivity concern warnings. Besides, they allow real-time monitoring capabilities.
- Similar systems are easy to maintain up and running, as opposed to traditional developer tools.
B2B and A2A integration tools and systems continue to be a valuable asset of businesses across all industries. Offering businesses improved operational capabilities, these tools and systems are due to increase their profitability, reliability and customer retention rates.