Our industry saw the emergence of Integration Brokerages as a solution for companies, typically suppliers, who did not want to build and maintain their own 1:1 EDI integrations using an on-premises B2B middleware software or iPaaS. You can find a list of many of these integration brokerages on G2. However, while some of these integration brokerages have good references and what looks like established networks, they have major challenges and gaps in their service offerings that are often overlooked by suppliers when making their technology decision.
Gartner defines integration brokerages (IB) as a category of discrete IT outsourcing for integration projects, such as those involving cloud services integration and supply chain integration. IB is one of three primary cloud services brokerage (CSB) roles and combines cloud-based B2B integration infrastructures with people and processes to help companies for initial implementation and ongoing project management for a wide range of cloud and B2B integration projects.
The primary issue with integration brokerages is that they are backed by people and process that do the heavy lifting behind the scenes, as mentioned by Gartner, but lack a core technology product. A typical integration brokerage uses humans to build 1:1 mappings between enterprises and their trading partners, e.g. retailers. While this may not seem so bad because companies don’t have to do the work themselves, there are some significant downsides (e.g. long onboarding times, long issue resolution times) to this delivery model that companies have increasingly come to realize.
Here are some of the core challenges faced by suppliers when using an integration brokerage for their EDI integrations with trading partners:
An integration brokerage offers a “service” that is backed by humans doing manual mapping and support. The challenge with solving integration problems with humans is that we have competing priorities and don’t have all the context but we need to do the actual work. If you’re asking an integration brokerage to build and support your EDI environment, you’re asking them to provide that deliverable in a manual way.
A great example of this is when you get an error in a live integration with a trading partner. The integration brokerage probably notifies you over email within 24 hours of the error. Once you get that notification you need to take action.
However, issue resolution becomes a real big problem when you need to understand the source data, the target, and how the data was changed. We constantly hear that because of this complexity, issue resolution with integration brokerages can typically take a few days and sometimes even weeks. The typical support process looks like the following:
Relying on someone else to make these fixes can take days. The handshake and problem solving time adds up.
The challenge with onboarding through an integration brokerage is that they actually sit between the supplier and the retailer. This creates a level of complexity where the integration brokerage tests your data and tries their best to solve your problems. It’s really awkward because you don’t have visibility into the retailers requirement and you are relying on your team at the integration brokerage to tell you what to do.
Moreover, if a problem does come up in testing, the retailer will typically reach out to the integration brokerage who will then reach out to you. This creates a long feedback and resolution process. The iterations to send new files requires the same back and forth and the handshake between you and your retail partner seems soft.
Integration brokerages don’t allow or lack the technical capability to enable their customers to resolve issues, onboard trading partners, or have one place to see all the lifecycle details of an EDI transaction. This creates frustrating situations where the supplier’s users have no visibility, understanding, and control to fix issues.
This is a big limitation in the integration brokerage “black-box” delivery model and companies need to rely on people and process to resolve the issues and that takes time.
Orderful’s Cloud EDI Platform is a unique business network approach to EDI. Our core product features not only address these common limitations with integration brokerages but also provides many additional business and technology benefits. Orderful is a pre-connected network of some of the world’s largest buyers, sellers and carriers. Each new customer (and their trading ecosystem) we onboard increases the size of our network. Our platform enables companies to connect once to our API and quickly trade data with anyone in their supply chain. The benefits compared to integration brokerage can be found in our core network and product features.
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