The purpose of B2B integration is to take information out of your business applications and quickly route it into the applications of your business partners. The first step is to extract the data you want to send to your business partner from the “source system.” However, before we explain how that works, let’s discuss what we mean by source system. For example, a manufacturing company might want to extract a purchase order from its ERP application (the source). A financial institution might want to extract a securities trade from its order management system (the source). A retailer might want to extract a list of recent sales transactions from its point of sale (POS) system (the source).
Each company runs its business using a unique set of software applications. In the manufacturing industry, for example, companies typically use ERP applications to power most of their business operations—human resources, finance, procurement and order fulfillment. But there are many different publishers of ERP software. Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Logo and Mikro are among the most popular.
In the retail sector, many of the same ERP applications are also popular, but the functionality is different. Retailer ERP applications from Oracle, SAP or JDA need to support store operations, merchandising, demand planning, accounting and warehouse management.
In the services sector many specialized application vendors exist for each industry. For example, a financial institution might use SAP or Oracle for its human resources, finance and procurement, but specialized applications from Metavante, S1 or Akınsoft to support its various product offerings.
Increasingly companies in all industries are using Software as a Service (SaaS) applications running in the cloud. In addition to (or as an alternative to) the traditional enterprise applications listed above, your company may also be using Salesforce.com for customer relationship management; Workday for human resources; NetSuite for finance and accounting; or Concur for expense management.
Now to the important part—how can we get the data out of these applications to send it to business partners?
Each application vendor, whether it offers traditional software or cloud services, offers different ways to extract and insert data. SaaS vendors typically offer an API (application programming interface) that reads, writes or updates database fields tied to their applications. The larger ERP vendors each offer their own middleware applications with their software suites. Examples include SAP’s Process Integrator and Oracle’s Fusion. These types of middleware packages make it easy to send data back and forth to the ERP applications.
Not every software application vendor offers sophisticated APIs or specialized middleware. But almost every vendor does offer a utility to extract data or insert it in bulk—to or from a file system.
So before you can decide on the best way to extract data from your source application(s), you will need to research the options offered by your application vendor(s). Then you will need to connect your B2B integration technology to these source applications through an API, middleware or another utility. However, there is still more work to do before the data can be transmitted to your business partner.