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Article: Integration Approach of B2B partners for Large Business Transformation Projects

Summary: Article describes the key points to consider while finalizing the EDI partner (B2B Partners) integration strategy in a Global ERP transformation program .It emphasizes key challenges in an ERP implementation across multiple partner systems to maintain Business Process Continuity across the ERP system and the legacy Broker system in Horticulture industry

Author: Naveena Advani

Created on: 17th June, 2013

Author Bio: Naveen is Lead Consultant at Infosys and has over 9 years of professional work experience in SAP sales and Distribution. He has vast experience on various implementations and Rollouts for chemical, auto ancillary industry. His expertise is in processes in the Market to Sales, Order to Cash, Procure to Pay and Integrated Planning. Naveen is engineering graduate and post graduate in Management. He is alumni of Indian Institute of Technology – Roorkee. Naveen would like to thank his team members Sunny Suren, Vijay Vittal for their contribution towards this article

Business Scenario:

The company is the one of Major Breeder of horticulture Products like Young Plants and un-rooted cuttings. The end Customers are connected to breeder via Brokers/Agents (EDI partners).  The Brokers/Agents (EDI Partners) are connected to Breeder via B2B (Business to Business) for the Order fulfillment, Availability, Invoice related information exchange.  It is very important to have a smooth transition from a legacy based system to new platforms based on ECC.  Business operations should continue without requiring brokers to do any upgrade in technology or change in ways of working it becomes imperative to have the Smooth Business continuity strategy which should address the issues in the Operational Framework.

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Operational Frame work,

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Operational Framework

Operational Framework primarily focus on managing the below Key challenges

Technical Integration between Breeder and Brokers

Idoc based solution used to connect the Brokers for Order entry and Invoice Processing. Agro Chemical industry relies on availability information in planning the activities at nurseries or green houses. It is very critical to provide the Availability (ATP) information electronically. This can be achieved by using proxy based integration. Proxy based technology provides greater flexibility in defining the message structure. PI/XI middleware is great integration for SAP Proxy based communication.

Program Management:

EDI partner integration for a Transformation should be established as a distinct track as it would involve engaging additional stakeholders who would be continuing on legacy system based processes.  It is very important to identify the potential impacts by involving the key stake holders of EDI partners during the Blueprint workshops, Business Impact workshops. Transformations projects can run for several years it is imperative to involve the Brokers continuously during complete the course of implementation.

Performance of the interface.

Interfaces are the most critical piece in EDI partner Integration and below mentioned activities are very necessary in ensuring the stability and sustainability of the interface.

  • Evaluate the Volume of Transaction load/Idoc on the interface. Including the Middleware load
  • Adequate Work processes need to be allocated to manage the additional interface load. In case of Proxies, provide the dedicated queue.
  • The interface should be designed to manage the peak load (month end/yearend) even though the frequency is less but business criticality is extremely high.
  • Volume Or Stress testing of the interface should be done during test phases like IST and UAT.
  • Continuous monitoring of the interface after go-live to ensure adequate response time that could affect ability of customer service to confirm orders

  

Data Integration

  • Master Data maintenance

When a transformation Projects are implemented the data design undergoes a Harmonization, this harmonization of data integrating with EDI partner data requires complete and accurate data mapping of materials, customers and other data. Master data maintenance process need to be adapted to include data maintenance across company and EDI partners.

  • Data Validation

The interfaces are heavily dependent on the integrity of data and would result in severe operational disruptions and productivity loss if master data is not maintained correctly. An automated Data validation tool to maintain and validate data is most desired approach. It is very important to ensure the correct data integrity during the Cutover from a Legacy system.

The data across the systems should be sync and updated. This can be achieved by Strong MDM (Master Data Management) governance, single source of Data reference and a focused data approach right from Data request to completion of Data Creation workflow

Subsystem/Vendor Integration

In the industry the vendors who supply the Products including the Product labels require most updated information. As lead times to Pack, ship products is usually a day, hence the process on Cutoff process, Substitution process places a very important role.  All the ship to address, packing label information, Export related information and Planning information must be communicated immediately incase of any changes to Subsystem/Vendors, responsible for Executing the Logistics.

Design Principles for new SAP System.

While engaging business users, Users of EDI partner, Partner IT support staff it has to be clearly communicated to them that the continuity solution in some cases a temporary/Interim solutions.  The interim solutions and requirements should be kept as simple as possible and only highly complex and high volume processes should be integrated across all EDI partners. Process improvements are strictly to be kept out of scope if the design destabilizes the solution. On a continuous improvement basis the legacy approaches would be de commissioned to keep the design simple on Data, System and Processes.

Aggateway provides industry standard templates for information exchange. Standard Chemical industry template can also be used in these integrations.

Reporting Consolidation

Top management reports and operational reports need to be consolidated. Reporting tool (ex, EDWH) are of powerful tools in consolidating the reporting needs. As Proxy based interfaces are used it require a good Operational report to be developed to monitor the interfaces. New reports would be needed to ensure smooth information flow.

Transformation Management

Transformation Impacts must be addressed with the EDI partners as well. In many projects the change Management is handled only within the Organization with users/employees of the company, but the Projects which integrate the EDI partners it is very important to address the Transformational issues throughout the course of implementation both from Inside and Outside perspective. It is very important to strategize the stabilization phase in conjunction with EDI partners.

  

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For more information, visit the Enterprise Resource Planning homepage.

Glossary

Young Plant: Young plants is a starter plant, created from a cutting which creates a clone of Parent Plant.

Un Rooted Cutting: This is tip cutting of a plant and this is perishable in 3-4 days. Few genetics perish for weeks provided in a special temperature conditions.

Broker/Agent: Is a Agency based model customer who fulfills the Order fulfillment of Grower/Green houses. He is key in connecting the Breeders/Growers.

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