Business To Business (B2B) WebSites

B2B e-commerce strategy will very likely revolve around Web technology and communication. The Web is what forms the foundation of B2B e-commerce, and facilitates the new level of cooperation that exists between business partners. Your strategy is likely to involve a very close level of integration between you and your business partners; integration that will allow multiple business partners to create a sort of "business Web," where you may be able to get into each others' networks and access each others' databases. You're creating a whole new value chain, where information from one partner may drive a process for another partner; and direct access to that information is what makes it happen quickly and automatically.

A B2B Web site is really the center of your business operation. Think of it as a central office, where everyone meets to do business. Think of it as a huge central repository, where all the business information anybody will ever need can be accessed. I think of it like my wife's handbag, which is the center of our household operations. There's the equivalent of a Manufacturing Division in there (her granny's recipe for chicken 'n dumplings), Creative Department (makeup), and Operations (three months worth of to-do lists). If I need a receipt from office supplies I bought last January, chances are she's got it in there.

The main components of a real B2B site are:

* Information

-- The Web site can act as a central clearing house for all sorts of information that your partners, resellers, customers, branch offices and remote workers may need to access from time to time. Besides information about your products that you may display on your Web site in static form, you may also use the Web site as a place to present dynamic information-- information that constantly changes. This is where the next category, integration, comes in.

* Integration

-- If you have information on your network that you want to distribute to various partners, you could send it to the copy shop and mail it to them. And when something changes, you can mail them an update. Or, you could integrate the entire database of information with your Web site, so that when your partner wants to look up some information, they just have to go to your Web site, enter in the information they need, and a simple lookup application will travel across the Internet into your internal network, verify that they have permission to receive that information, retrieve the data from your database, and then send it back across the Internet and create a custom Web page to display it to that individual.

* Applications

-- The Web is being used more for application delivery, especially in a B2B environment. It's likely that you'll have business partners that you'll want to give certain applications to. These applications may be product configurators, database applications for looking up information, or other small applications designed to make doing business with you a little easier.

* Connectivity

-- Of course, the Web is a tool that connects everyone in the "business web." Virtual private networks and extranets are quickly replacing older means of communication, such as telephone, fax, and mail.

Information is what drives commerce, and if you're going to do business you have to make information readily accessible. There's a delicate balancing act that you must undertake, which on one hand protects your proprietary information with various safeguards such as authorization, authentication, encryption and access controls; but on the other hand, you don't want to make that information so difficult to get to that your partners will give up in frustration and go somewhere else.

But how do you get the information from all the little silos of information, and all the various databases that exist within your internal network, out to your partners in other parts of the world? That data has to get from your databases out to the Internet for that to happen, and that usually means that an application has to exist on your Web server, which allows your partner to request information. That request is made through a software application, which communicates to the Web server, and then passes the request back through to your internal network, where the information is retrieved, sent back out to the Web server, across the Internet and out to the partner. Most common database management systems, such as Filemaker Pro, Access, and Paradox have web-enabling functions built in, which allow you to transform your data into HTML content and publish it to the Web. A more dynamic approach is to use a Web catalog products like Selectica's ACE Product Suite can automate the process of taking a request over a Web site, checking an Oracle database on the back end for information, and then returning it to the browser on the other side.

Another category of product called configurators go even further, connecting your database with manufacturing and inventory systems, letting you fine-tune your manufacturing process to produce only those products that have been sold ("just-in-time" manufacturing), and to modify the manufacturing process based on each customer request.

By Ken Kinlock at

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What would happen if a mid-size company replaced its ERP system from one brand to another? What are the effects on the EDI system?

Yes it does happen, and integration never seems to be a “natural” where EDI and ERP fit together like they had the same mother! SAP IDOC comes the closest unless you find the right “mid-ware”.

Would all the EDI coding be lost? Would manual systems have to be used until the EDI gets re-integrated from scratch? Neither ERP or EDI could be replaced piece by piece. If the data exchange layer between your EDI system and ERP system is well defined, you may not have any effect; but, if the EDI system is well documented including mapping specs, it should ease the pain of ERP system changes.

Enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) are management information systems (MISs) that integrate and automate many of the business practices associated with the operations or production and distribution aspects of a company engaged in manufacturing products or services. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning Software and is a integrated computer based system used to manage a company’s resources effectively. It ensures smooth information amongst various departments in an enterprise or a company and manages work flows. Some of the most common ERP's are: SAP; Baan; JD Edwards (now acquired by Oracle); Siebel; Peoplesoft (now acquired by Oracle); and Microsoft Dynamics. ERP systems are generally classified by their perceived area of excellence (their primary focus): production, logistics or finance. All can and must integrate with EDI.

Replacing your ERP system is a HUGE change for a company and requires a very large migration project. Any ERP consultants should include the communication with mid-ware / EDI in the migration project time lines. During implementation, you should end up with a few pilot / test partners for your new EDI mappings (from your new ERP *test* database). So, batches of trading partners should be moved over to the new (test) system, get tested and can go live when all “show green”. It's not unusual for such a migration process to take weeks or even months, which falls well within the scope of an ERP migration project.

If you have mid-ware that you map into and from before feeding or extracting the data to/from your ERP system then your programming will change but not your maps. One example is EMANIO: EMANIO EDI to ERP Integration Solutions helps organizations successfully integrate their EDI data into their ERP systems by providing a powerful, flexible data integration and EDI platform that provides out of the box solutions to accelerate the integration process. With EMANIO’s powerful data integration capabilities, EMANIO clients can quickly enable a truly integrated system that allows for the fastest possible order-to-cash cycle, allowing organizations to receive, process, invoice and collect on orders in record time. EMANIO provides a powerful, flexible data integration and EDI platform that provides out of the box solutions to accelerate the integration process.

See the full article on EDI and ERP

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Supply Chain Management Control Towers

Control towers are used in many industries for different purposes: airports and railroads use them for traffic control; power plants have control rooms to monitor operations; and third party logistics providers use them to track transportation activities. These are places where operations run well. Why not a


in order to monitor and assure your supply? Talk to us, we build them!

So just what is an SCM Control Tower? What are the functions of a Supply Chain Control Tower? Who staffs your Supply Chain Management Control Tower?

If you use an EDI VAN for your business, this message is for you. Move past the ancient VAN technology. JWH EDI Services Electronic Commerce Messaging System will bring your EDI operation into the 21st Century. The power of our global EDI network is available on your server, your cloud platform or your application. AND you cannot beat our prices.
You can connect and communicate with all your customers and trading partners through the JWH EDI Services Electronic Commerce Messaging System - Connect with trading partners around the world on a single Network-as-a-Service platform, get real-time transaction visibility and eliminate those manual network processes. It is a pay as you need model. We track all interchanges from the moment they enter the system, along every step across the network, and through the delivery confirmation.

How can we help you? Contact us: Ken Kinlock at

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Required Attire for a Remote Workforce

Ever wonder how your telecommuting colleagues really live? Turns out, many of them actually do work in their pajamas. They also tend to love their work-life balance – to the point where they’d take a pay cut to maintain the status quo. This is a “must read” for both remote workers and for their office-bound managers.

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The World Wide Web is the future and it is our VISION to create a PERFECT INTERNET for all.

Nowadays, you have to click and scroll and waste a lot of time to find what you are really looking for. The big search engines, communities and email services collect your data to serve you with tons of unwanted advertising and to sell your data. Your mailbox is full of spam and spyware/malware is always around the corner.

In our VISION, we create a HOME for a GLOBAL FAMILY of users, where your DATA is SAFE and where you find all the USEFUL SERVICES that you need at your fingertips.

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Sign up for your Perfect Internet Home Page today! The Forum for Supply Chain Integration

ec-bp was established in 2005 as the advocate for lowering the barriers to the adoption of EDI, and our email newsletter has been published every month since that time. Our focus has expanded beyond EDI to encompas the full gamut of supply chain practices and technologies. In addition, our readership has grown to become the largest of any similarly focused publication, and has expanded to include more than 90,000 professionals involved in nearly every aspect of the supply chain.

Today’s supply chain is more than simple transport of EDI documents. The complexity of maintaining compliance with trading partners, managing the ever increasing amount of data, and analyzing that data to drive constant improvement in processes and service take supply chain professionals far beyond the basics of mapping EDI documents.

Stabilizing the Supply Chain

A comment to us from a large supply chain “hub”: “The GXS mess shows how fragile everything is in the supply chain. Stakeholders (suppliers, manufacturers, distributors) do not control their own destiny if they are using an EDI Provider”.

There is an imbalance of power: end users should have control over the supply chain. Is it time for them to move to their own inside system which they control? What can stakeholders do? They don't want to support everything (re-invent the Internet or something counter-productive like that). Yes, they have an alternative to run everything over an AS2 setup. They just don't want outsourcers making the rules.

Read more:

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Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCO)

Last Week I attended a Supply Chain Management show/conference and did not leave the comfort of my home. It seemed just like the real thing. But I had no long flight, no unfamiliar hotel, et al. It was the Chief Supply Chain Officers’ (CSCO) Summit, an online virtual event, presented by SCM World.

It was designed for executives responsible for designing and executing supply chain, procurement, operations and information systems and technology strategy for global manufacturers and retailers. Attendees could network, learn and share best practice around the critical factors driving the strategic supply chain agenda across multiple industry sectors, without leaving the office.

I found all of the usual features of a physical conference at the CSCO Summit, including keynote presentations, exhibition hall and networking opportunities without the costs, time and travel associated with attending a traditional ‘Live’ event.

OnLine Store Business Process: E-Commerce & EDI

On-Line Stores have changed a lot and are growing. Consumers love the convenience. In 2011, US consumers spent $194 billion shopping via OnLine stores according to the US Department of Commerce. According to Forrester Research that number will grow to $279 billion by 2015.

Proactive Notification

Proactive Notification in Supply Chain Management gives us important and instant information on "breaks" in the supply chain. It could be the EDI system unable to process documents, it could be a parts shortage, or it could be a missed transportation appointment. It is more than a simple notification, it allows us to be proactive by fixing the problem or communicating with other "first responders".

Let's define what we are talking about with Proactive Notification. Let's start by looking at Forrester's definition: "Proactive customer communications reduce costs for incoming calls by sending outbound messages of interest to customers to the device of their choice. Unlike automated robot messages that intrude rather than inform, proactive notification messages identify areas of importance or interest to customers, such as account changes, alerts, or time-sensitive offers. Customers receive voice messages, text/SMS, or email messages and can respond to companies over the same device if needed.
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Supply Chain Management Tools for Small Businesses

We see all kinds of supply chain tools available for medium to large businesses, but are small businesses being ignored? Without buying a huge ERP system that includes supply chain tools, what is available at realistic prices?

Let's take a look at QuickBooks because it is the closest thing to a “household word” for small business software as I can think of. For the first time ever, Intuit has added a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) feature to the latest version of its QuickBooks accounting software for SMBs. QuickBooks 2013 features Lead Centre, described by Intuit Canada as a “mini CRM tool” incorporated into the software's calendar. It helps users track sales leads, import existing leads and add associated tasks. When a lead does become an actual customer, their contact information can be moved into the Customer Center with just one click.

Also aimed at small businesses is a new Advanced Inventory feature. It allows SMBs to track their inventory across multiple locations, serial numbers or lot numbers and even to specific locations within a warehouse. It's available as an add-on to QuickBooks 13.0, which is designed specifically for growing businesses.

QuickBooks is even getting into “social”. They have a “Live Community” that makes it easy to find answers when and where you need them. Connect with experts and other customers like you to get your questions answered.
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Traditional Versus “WEB” EDI

Many companies have developed or purchased systems that use the WEB and provide an alternative to “traditional” EDI. Are they really easier for a small company? What is lost? What is gained?
A “simple” definition of “traditional” EDI is that both business partners have their own EDI application (could be in-house or Cloud-based) which converts business documents to/from EDI documents and TRANSPORTS them through AS2, a VAN, or an ECCP (Electronic Commerce Communications Provider).
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