Companies Still Having Issues Integrating Supply Chain

Manual processes with customers, partners and suppliers in their value chain are hampering companies' ability to compete.

A new study focusing on enterprise electronic data interchange (EDI) and business-to-business (B2B) document exchange operations found that companies are still using multiple integration solutions.

Nearly 80% of respondents indicated they plan to upgrade their B2B systems within the next year.

The survey, conducted by Forrester Consulting, questioned 300 senior IT managers from North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions on their EDI/B2B use.

Respondents identified the following factors as extremely important drivers for improving how they work with their trading partners: the need to reduce costs (51%) and to exchange electronic documents with business partners (40%), and the need for real-time visibility into business processes (43%).

Companies are challenged to achieve these improvements because of the manual processes still in use with these partners. For example:

-- Approximately two thirds of respondents were exchanging EDI/B2B
documents with 60% or less of their trading community.
-- Roughly 42% of respondents are still exchanging spreadsheets
and other text documents with 40%- 100% of their trading
community.

"Because no company is successful alone, more companies are realizing the manual processes with their customers, partners and suppliers in their value chain are hampering their ability to compete," said Brian Gibb, vice president, Business Integration Product Line, at Sterling Commerce. "By connecting, communicating and collaborating with their full partner roster, not just the top 20%, companies are better able to take advantage of post-recession opportunities."

The survey found at least 64% of respondents had more than 500 trading partners with whom they need to regularly exchange EDI/B2B documents, demonstrating that the average number of trading partners is increasing.
Respondents indicated solving the following difficulties were important or extremely important:

-- Integrating with other applications (66%)
-- Responding to new business requests (63%)
-- Managing partner communities (59%)
-- Supporting smaller, non-EDI capable partners (58%)
-- Effectively supporting process improvement efforts (58%)

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