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Electronic Business to Business (B2B) communication is an essential component of the infrastructure of any large enterprise. It enables the fast and accurate transfer of data between partners, automating cross business processes and improving supply chain performance. However, because of the high set-up and running costs, it has not been embraced by the majority of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), leaving many companies dependent on paper or faxed information to power their supply chain.
The SME market is now beginning to implement B2B for the following reasons:
- Improved supply chain performance, the faster turnaround of business processes—especially orders and invoices—helps SME companies improve customer service levels.
- The potential for significant cost savings by reducing labour requirements and eliminating transcription errors.
- The availability of on-demand solutions for companies of all sizes as provided by GXS Trading Grid.
- Pressure from larger companies who prefer, or in some cases insist, that transactions are processed electronically.
- The GXS-Microsoft alliance that now provides an affordable solution for smaller businesses.
GXS is a leading worldwide provider of business-to-business integration, synchronisation and collaboration solutions. It has over 35 years of experience. The company operates a highly reliable, secure global network services platform enabling more than 40,000 businesses to conduct business together in an on-demand real time environment. GXS’ Trading Grid solutions help companies, both large and small, connect worldwide with their business partners, synchronise product and price information, optimise inventory levels and demand forecasts, and speed the overall execution of their global supply chains.
Microsoft, with BizTalk, has enabled SME customers to integrate internal systems and this has provided many productivity and cost reduction benefits.
The Microsoft-GXS alliance has bridged the gap between BizTalk and the Trading Grid by developing a BizTalk Trading Grid Gateway and packaging it as a standard part of Microsoft BizTalk. This means that any enterprise that has implemented BizTalk can easily connect to the Trading Grid and thus to any of the thousands of enterprises already connected.
The solution not only supports the electronic transfer of all the basic B2B or supply chain documents such as orders, shipments and invoices, but also much deeper integration including the sharing of meta data and real time tracking and tracing of business processes.
Although the emphasis of the Alliance is to enable SMEs to connect to large enterprises on an equal footing, these innovations will improve processing for every player in the supply chain, providing access to real time information and making paper driven events a thing of the past.
The alliance is much more than just the implementation of the Gateway:
- Microsoft has named the GXS Trading Grid as the recommended global B2B network for BizTalk Server 2006. This endorsement means that BizTalk customers can be confident of the long term viability of connecting to the Trading Grid.
- GXS is using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 and SQL Server 2005 technology in the GXS Trading Grid. This will enable customers to extend existing internal investments on Microsoft .NET Framework-based technologies outside their enterprise through seamless integration with business partners.
- Microsoft and GXS are planning to deepen the integration with support for Microsoft Office and Microsoft Dynamics. This will enable a variety of supply chain innovations that will enable a set of partners to appear as a single extended enterprise.
The GXS-Microsoft Alliance provides the basis for SMEs to become full electronic B2B players and communicate electronically on-demand with peers, large enterprises and smaller partners. There should be a rapid take-up of this technology as SMEs recognise that the benefits of an integrated supply chain can now be achieved in a simple, cost effective and Microsoft compatible way.