August 29, 2016

Digitalize and control your collaborating partners

Mikael Ekström

Senior Digitalization Advisory Consultant, Tieto

The pressures of digitalization are many. The demands of globalization, specialization, automation and cost containment, among others, have driven many companies to try to establish extensive collaborative relations with different partner networks.

The geographical extent of these collaborations and the granularity of their specialization were uncommon a decade ago. Today it is a matter of course to collaborate with partners spread around the world. These collaborators can include a wide variety of sub-manufacturers, logistics firms, warehouses, hubs, suppliers, repair partners, points of sale, financial institutions, and literally millions of end-consumers, all interacting 24/7, globally. 

However, the downside of this elaborate collaboration is that it can be an insurmountable task to manage such a hyper-connected business partner network. It raises a lot of concerns and technical challenges for businesses. Some of the key questions they will have to answer in order to see success include: 

  • How do you obtain meaningful information from this value network?
  • Can you extract real-time information about the performance of each link in the chain?
  • Can you extract critical analytics from the data and present it optimally to decision makers?
  • Can you provide your managers at the strategic, tactical, and operational levels with the analytics they need to identify and evaluate the most important alternatives?
  • Can you provide management with the ability to quickly make changes once you have identified the optimal alternative?

All this may sound like an overwhelming task, but it is actually possible to use an external system integrator, like Tieto, with thousands of already running Cloud Services and delivering out-of-the-box integrated and reusable connections with thousands of business partners around the globe. This would bring you the most cost effective and fastest solution to your technical problems.

Integrating your business network

The first prerequisite for a well-functioning partner collaboration is very much about integration. Seamlessly integrating all the collaborating participants in the network and their relevant systems, anywhere on the globe is an essential foundation for success. Because it links all collaborators together, it enables automation of the end-to-end business processes, which is the second prerequisite for effective management of your partner collaboration. 

Integration enables all participants to automatically exchange information and documents in real time. For example, orders can be automatically distributed to the correct parties worldwide, customs documents are automatically produced and printed, spare parts inventory levels are automatically reported, delivery times are monitored, etc.

This makes business-critical information about the end-to-end operation of the complete business process available to management. You no longer have to struggle to overcome the insularity of organizational silos, or the lack of time or incentives to collect the information you need. 

Reaping the benefits

There are many business benefits to be seen as a result of this. The ability to integrate multiple partners within each sector results in greater visibility, enabling you to monitor their performance measured against SLAs. If you encounter capacity shortages or a failure to live up to SLAs, you can then easily shift to another partner. You can even use the information provided to negotiate better contracts/agreements with different collaborators.

Consider the evolution we see today. The world is moving away from traditional, hierarchical organizations in favor of highly-connected networks of value-adding business partners. These are often referred to as 'virtual organizations' or 'extended enterprises'.

This evolution places a premium on building stronger and closer business relationships. In terms of operations, integration is a powerful support tool for highly effective business relationships because it guarantees, among other things, amazing advances in the process execution, which leads to increased efficiency and revenue.

It also ensures an optimal flow of business-critical information to participants. This helps you excel at managing and coordinating your partners' value-adding activities, bringing them under your control in spite of the fact that they are independent organizations.

The data you get about operations helps you understand how well they perform, and thus how to best use them and when. From your partners' perspective, they can avail themselves of process information to better perform their tasks and improve their contributions to the overall effort. Working more closely means working more efficiently.

What is startling is the exponential improvements in collaboration management that are brought about by adding end-to-end integration, automation, and visibility to the operation of these network chains. Greater efficiency, better decision making, and exceptional corporate agility, just to name a few. Imagine the effects this degree of management and control can have on your company’s bottom line. 

Take a step ahead -  read our whitepaper on Service Integration and Management (SIAM),  Creating business value with service integration and management  

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