30% of companies state that a lack of skilled resources is having a negative impact on their B2B projects.
At a time when head count is carefully controlled, can you afford to dedicate resources to a perceived “non-core” activity? What’s the business cost if you don’t?
B2B e-commerce is one of the most complex areas of IT, especially as you are integrating securely a range of internal and external systems. Any B2B program will involve a wide range of—often very specialist—roles. It is not just in the set-up and implementation phase but there is a constant change management and support burden. This can be true for every new partner you wish to join your trading community, as they are likely to have their own set of B2B document formats and communications protocols.
B2B solutions have been around for some time and new advances in document types, technical standards and communications protocols are appearing all the time. For many organizations, this means maintaining older EDI applications while moving towards newer standards such as AS2 or XML. It is extremely difficult to retain the correct levels of skills in legacy applications while recruiting or re-training to cover skills gaps as new technologies emerge. Specialist B2B skills will command a premium in the marketplace. While an aging workforce with the correct EDI skills may be paid more than market value due to their length of service and even be about to retire. All of which impacts your IT budget.
Areas to Address: Program Set Up
As the following diagram demonstrates, a standard B2B program will involve a very similar process to the creation of most business systems. Only, there are a number of individual areas. First, much more time has to be spent with external sources to understand their needs – at both a business and technical level. In addition, specialist document map and Web form developers are required to translate business requirements into systems that allow for data to travel effectively end-to-end.
Areas to Address: Program Management
On-going management and support is similarly complicated by the necessity to respond to trading partner needs. Unlike most business systems, your B2B solutions are undergoing constant change to accommodate new partners and new technologies. As your business becomes more global, the more complex the process. Beyond technical considerations, your management and support teams must be able to cope with the local languages and trading regulations that apply to the partners and regions with which you wish to trade.
The Role of B2B Managed Services
Research from the Stanford Group shows that many companies begin to investigate B2B Managed Services as they could no longer justify the cost of managing B2B solutions in-house in terms of the direct costs of retaining and training the staff. A B2B Managed Services provider gives you immediate access to all the skills required while removing the concerns over global support and compliance issues. However, it is always essential that you retain key management positions—such as a Program Manager—so you always maintain control of the strategic direction of your B2B investments.
As more and more companies embrace B2B solutions it is becoming more difficult to create competitive advantage through the use of B2B technologies by themselves. It is simply the way that business is conducted today. Instead, competitive advantage is increasingly being found in how organizations re-deploy the IT staff whose time was previously absorbed amending or maintaining internal B2B systems.
Issues to Consider:
- How often do your B2B systems change?
- Are you using the latest B2B technologies?
- Do you have plans to implement B2B technology advances?
- Do you have the correct skills?
- Can you support trading partners wherever they are located?
- Does a lack of B2B skills affect your ability to conduct business?
- What happens when your EDI staff move on or retire?