B2B System Integration: 8 Reasons Why It's Important

By
Sarah Leung
July 7, 2016

One of the biggest challenges facing B2B businesses today is system integration. In a recent survey of 500 B2B marketers, 54% of those surveyed said that B2B system integration was a significant challenge. Other findings of the survey include:

  • 44% believed poor data quality was a marketing hurdle.
  • 34% said lack of resources was an issue.
  • About two-thirds said that the spreadsheet is currently their most used data analytics tool.

This survey indicates that about half of B2B marketers currently do not have access to the high quality data necessary to deliver better results. Why is B2B marketing data typically so poor? One common issue is lack of integration between various B2B system resources. Lack of integration between B2B systems results in lack of visibility across different business processes, whether it’s marketing, sales, eCommerce, or inventory management.

Why B2B System Integration Matters

There are several reasons why integration matters for B2B systems. Some of the challenges caused by lack of integration between B2B systems include: 1)    Lack of insight into customer data. As B2B manufacturers and distributors increasingly prioritize eCommerce, customers expect more visibility into various aspects of their orders. For instance, they expect any volume or customer-specific discounts to be automatically applied to their orders, and they expect to be able to see their past payment and order history. Yet, due to lack of integration between eCommerce and other backend systems, this often doesn’t happen. 2)    Compromised decision-making. Customer expectations aside, lack of integration impacts the ability to accurately forecast sales and inventory levels, track logistics performance, or even determine whether payments are arriving on time. Without this information, managers and executives have difficulty gauging the true pulse of how a company is operating. It is very difficult to take any corrective action once the impact of data quality issues has already occurred. 3)    Reduced ROI for B2B systems. Regardless of which specific B2B systems you’re running, lack of integration reduces the value they provide. Integration between applications improves their ability to deliver on their initial promise and helps you take full advantage of their functionality. 4)    Reduced visibility into your upstream supply chain. Your own customer satisfaction along with much of your ability to serve your customers depends on your upstream supply chain partners’ performance. Without integration between your B2B systems and your upstream partners, you’ll be challenged to forecast inventory, manage manufacturing cycles, and meet rising customer expectations. 5)    Difficulty identifying cost-cutting opportunities. Remember when we told you that two-thirds of B2B companies cited spreadsheets as their main data analytics tools? If your company needs to create a spreadsheet to pull together data from different systems, that’s costing you time and money. It also means much of your data remains “siloed,” impeding your ability to analyze information accurately and find ways to lower costs. With integrated B2B systems, increased visibility across multiple applications and platforms helps to identify cost-cutting opportunities. 6)    Increased sales costs. When systems are not integrated, the same information often has to be entered manually into multiple applications. This is a costly way to do business. Integrating systems means sales and customer service teams can focus on higher value activities such as cross-selling, upselling, and increasing order values with your best customers, rather than entering and re-entering data. 7)    More points of failure. Every time information from an order is manually entered, the likelihood of mistakes grows. If manual intervention is required to move order data off of paper into a sales order system, and then into finance, inventory or logistics, that’s as many as five opportunities to make mistakes or lose important data. Every time one of these mistakes happens, your customer satisfaction plummets, even as your costs of doing business increase.

Moving Forward with B2B System Integration

To determine the best path for moving forward, consider these questions:

  • Are any B2B systems integrated now? Which ones? How well do those integrations work?
  • What business processes improvements are most important to us, our partners and our customers?
  • What can we do now, and what will integration allow us to do?
  • What type of data integration is available? Integration options may include direct application integration, API’s, and integration platforms.
  • Which type of integration will facilitate our processes most effectively?

Data integration stands to impact many business processes as well as customer satisfaction, so it is important to fully understand the current state and the desired improvements, as well as how the integration may improve or change business processes. A thorough evaluation will identify the processes that will be impacted and improved by integration. Is your company facing B2B system integration challenges? What solutions are you considering? Let us know in the comments.