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SAP has spent many years developing business software applications and standardized business processes for use within the four walls of an SAP shop. At Sapphire this year, SAP CEO Léo Apotheker spoke about businesses without boundaries. The context being that enterprises must understand the importance of connecting and communicating business information electronically with their external business networks. Today, companies require seamless business processes both inside and outside the four walls of their business.

In today’s world of multi-enterprise supply chains, 3PL (third party logistics providers) and discrete manufacturing environments companies can no longer be satisfied with business processes that stop inside the four walls. These business processes are extended outside the four walls through various EDI and B2B messages that can be sent in real-time to their relevant business network partners. The visibility provided by real-time data exchanges ensures that management can make decisions based upon accurate and timely information and analytics.

So often the ability to communicate and extend business processes to your business network partners is inhibited by old and out-dated EDI/B2B strategies. EDI and B2B data exchanges are even more important today than ever before. New and different strategies must be adopted to ensure that quick and cost effective methodologies are implemented that enable large numbers of new business network partners to be quickly added or changed as markets and products change. Traditional, costly, multi-year on-boarding EDI projects never worked well and are not the answer today.

SAP users need to understand how SAP Netweaver PI, Global Data Types and the Enterprise Service Repository strategies will impact the traditional EDI environments and processes going forward. A number of recent press releases and interviews with SAP executives have revealed that the term business network transformation has significance behind it. SAP seems to be aggressively developing solutions internally and through partnerships and investments to transform the way EDI has traditionally been managed and implemented.  The purpose is to make EDI/B2B implementations a simple, fast and cost effective process that follows rational methodologies and standardized processes from an SAP centric view.

It takes a company with the size and influence of SAP to be able to make the radical changes in the EDI/B2B industry that have long been recognized as needed by veterans of traditional EDI campaigns. It will be an interesting ride and I believe it will make businesses and IT departments reconsider how they implement EDI/B2B going forward.

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