The final step in the B2B integration process is for your business partner to receive and process the data you send to them.
Big companies can receive EDI or XML messages via AS2, FTP or MQ. Once received, your business partners can convert the messages into the proprietary format of their own business application. Smaller companies are generally not equipped to accept EDI or XML messages. Instead, the smaller organizations prefer that the data be posted onto a web page or sent via an email. These methods allow the smaller company to easily digest the data and feed it into their own internal systems.
Your larger business partners most likely have sophisticated IT systems that include B2B integration capabilities. Therefore, these larger organizations should be well prepared to connect and exchange using a variety of network protocols (AS2, FTP, MQ) and payload formats (EDI, XML).
Connectivity to these partners should be relatively easy. You do not need to be too concerned with which applications your partners are running. They will handle the details of translating the data into their preferred format and inserting the information into their applications. Once you agree upon an approach with these partners you will simply need to perform some basic testing to ensure everything is working correctly.
You may have many smaller business partners as well. These smaller organizations often lack the budget, resources and expertise necessary to implement B2B integration technologies. They are not equipped to send or receive messages in EDI and XML transmitted over AS2, FTP or MQ. As a result, a different approach is required for these smaller companies.
The most popular way to get data to and from small businesses is via a web portal. Instead of sending the data via AS2, FTP or MQ, the information is captured and posted to a secure website. Your business partner can login to create and send or receive and download electronic messages from you. By using this approach, small companies do not need to purchase and manage B2B integration software.
A number of other approaches are available for sharing information with small companies. Technology exists to convert EDI and XML messages into faxes and emails. A growing number of technologies are able to integrate with small business accounting packages such as QuickBooks, Sage or Peachtree. A button can be added to the accounting package that allows a user to download all of their purchase orders or upload all of their invoices. B2B integration technologies are utilized in the background, but the process is transparent to the user.