Solve That Last Mile

Ulf Persson, Director, Product and Solutions Marketing, Axway

Take the typical ERP problem. Then, consider the mid-market vendors selling, for example, transportation and warehouse management systems.

The way they offer these systems today, due to the trend, they are offering their ERP as a hosted solution, an on-premise solution, or a combination of the two—kind of a “hybrid” offer. In each of these scenarios, for these vendors to sell the bigger value, and to address the question, “How do I manage my transport management and logistics end-to-end?”, they need a piece of an “application” that can help them manage their trading partners and suppliers. That’s a typical problem that I see out there.

Today, application providers, enterprise resource planning providers, and CRM providers need the last mile so they can provide an end-to-end solution to offer their IP, their business know-how, to solve a certain business problem, but also have the ability to integrate that solution with trading partners, suppliers, or internal-type applications that they may run into when they deploy their applications.

ERP providers today—you have big players and smaller players. Maybe they are required to implement some kind of production planning system, so they come in and they realize that there are many other legacy applications, and they all need to be integrated—financial systems, order management applications, general ledger, accounts payable, and others.

A challenge here is answering the following questions: “How do they do that? What does it mean? Why is it important? How does the combination of traditional ERP implementation and some kind of integration technology—B2B, MFT—work together to solve that last mile of the problem, and to actually provide an end-to-end solution to a customer, internally and  externally?”

One answer, some may say, is to build point-to-point integrations from their systems, from the ERP, to these applications. But, long term, that will probably never work; it will be very difficult to support and maintain, as well as very expensive. Plus, you wouldn’t get the right level of business visibility. So that’s another area where integration software—and, if it’s of an external nature, B2B integration software—is used to help glue things together and provide a real answer to that question.

One more scenario.

Say you have a large enterprise, a global business—supply chain, healthcare—and they have, over the years, been using one of the larger ERPs—SAP or Oracle or something similar—and then, all of a sudden, there is a change in the version, which may affect some of the older APIs that they’ve used to build connectivity with trading partners, internal applications, or other types of systems. Introducing that upgrade would mean that they would need to change the interfaces.

Never fear: B2B software with MFT capabilities will govern that process, and instead of changing all of these point-to-point interfaces over and over again because they’re doing an upgrade of the main ERP, the integration technology alone will solve the problem in one fell swoop.