This Supply Chain Matters market education commentary is sponsored by OpenText and the OpenText Business Network.

The Supply Chain Matters blog continues its market education series on capabilities related to B2B Business Networks and specifically how advanced technology directed at application to application integration drives added efficiencies across digital ecosystems.

Background

As Supply Chain Matters has pointed out in our prior B2B Supply and Demand Network focused commentaries, many line-of-businesses and supply chain management teams are increasingly feeling the pressure to accelerate movement toward digital-based business transformation and more digitally-enabled processes. The reality, however, can present some added challenges but advanced technology is increasingly addressing these challenges. Supply Chain Technology

In a prior blog published in November 2018, we outlined how hybrid integration enables a more intelligent and connected B2B network. Highlighted was the reality of legacy-based backbone systems that are increasingly augmented by Cloud based systems of focused innovation that connect various supply and customer demand-based processes. A further reality is a disconnect between digital and non-digital business network partners, along with siloed B2B connections and functional processes. The explosion of process integration points uncovers the needs for a new support capability that is described as Hybrid Integration. That equates to integrating the B2B Business Network that are either Cloud to On-Premise or Cloud-to-Cloud, via the use of common Application Programming Interfaces (API’s)

A follow-on January 2019 commentary addressed the critical importance of improving cyber-attack and information securing defenses, and for developing outside-in strategies for augmented identity and information security management. Increasingly, ongoing cyber intrusion incidents point to more outside-in based attacks, namely bad actors probing vulnerability points or falsification opportunities within broader B2B networks, including those that connect multiple suppliers and trading partners. Outside-in may well be the more concerning threat because it allows hackers far broader opportunities to acquire valuable or sensitive information from many organizations, or from back door entry. Outside-in threats are harder to address, but not so today given newer technology and process learning.

We now turn the focus toward needs for augmented data integration and management considerations for either application-to-application, or broader platform-as-a-service integration, compliance or enhanced data visibility needs.

 

Data and Application Integration

Digital transformation implies a literal explosion of added real-time structured and unstructured data and with that, a need for expanded and more robust data and application integration services framework. Ideally, such services should be consistent across a B2B Business Network to ensure more seamless integration for either application to application or Cloud-to-Cloud process support needs.

What to look for are:

  • A consistent messaging layer that can enable more harmonized, seamless integration of disparate applications or systems while avoiding a specific application vendor’s lock-in. What to look for is a data integration platform that can support the widest variety of structured and unstructured B2B or A2A integration scenarios.
  • Easier to use and comprehend data visualization, data governance and data quality tools that can be consistently applied by everyday users.
  • A consistent data security layered service capability that can protect deemed sensitive data while also allowing such data to be analyzed.

For the case of digital transformation, real-time data integration will include added Internet of Things (IoT) enabled processes. There needs to be consideration for the added ability to effectively support the massive heterogeneity that more physical devices or digital twins will add to the overall B2B network. In such processes, secure identity managed access, data integration and management become paramount.

 

An Example of a B2B Network Provider Approach

In November 2018, we alerted readers to an announcement from enterprise information management and B2B Business Network technology provider OpenText intent to acquire Liaison Technologies.

Liaison, founded in 2001 and based in Alpharetta Georgia, addresses the integration and data management technology sector offering a managed services approach for customers. Liaison ALLOY® is a singular platform addressing both integration and data management workflows in B2B, application-to-application, Cloud to Cloud, and data management support needs. Other elements that ALLOY incorporates are Lens®, addressing Cloud-based transaction and business activity monitoring support, and Contivo®, a data mapping and translation tool offering semantic integration technology and a centralized semantic metadata repository.

Since the acquisition closing, the OpenText Business Network product development teams have outlined a broader set of capabilities that will expand the messaging and added business support applications of the OpenText Trading Grid leveraging the various combined A2A, B2B integration and data management capabilities of Alloy, Lens and Contivo. According to OpenText, the provider’s Trading Grid and Alloy platforms will continue to be developed in parallel and overtime a new, next generation platform will be introduced that will combine the best features of both platforms.

This analyst has observed the overall roadmap of capabilities and indeed I feel that this is an area to keenly watch in the coming months. There are a lot of added digital transformation and application capabilities that could well form the basis of a more intelligent B2B Business Network.

 

Bob Ferrari

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