Electronic Business Collaboration (EBC)

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Electronic Business Collaboration (EBC)

The competitiveness of businesses is increasingly dependent on their electronic networks with customers, suppliers, and partners. The area of Electronic Business Collaboration (EBC) is concerned with the interorganizational integration of ERP systems and other information systems across the boundaries of companies (interorganizational perspective). EBC has many names, among them i.e. Interorganisational Systems (IOS), B2B Collaboration, B2B Integration, Electronic Business Networking or Electronic Supply Chain Management.

For many years, this area has been dominated by the use of EDI technologies (Electronic Data Interchange). In recent years, Web technologies have been increasingly used for interorganizational information exchange.

Electronic Business Collaboration (EBC) is a challenge for large and small companies alike. There is no standard IT solution for EBC – every company has to find their own approach which requires a certain level of expertise of the available options and choices. There are specialised companies that help their clients with the development of B2B integration concepts and provide the necessary technology.

Over the last ten years IBD researchers have studied the field of EBC and developed classification schemes for the structuring of the problem area. A number of academic papers have been published in the field (see references below).

Integration needs to be achieved on different levels of the organisation:

  1. Technical integration describes how information is processed and shared electronically within and across organizations. It comprises the enabling information technologies and systems.
  2. Organizational integration refers to the type of inter-organizational interactions that are enabled by B2B integration technologies. It comprises the organizational structures and processes which are put in place to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain.
  3. Institutional integration describes the different actors and the formal and informal agreements which govern inter-organizational relationships.

Possibilities for technical integration are:

  1. Client integration in which external users are gaining direct access to data and application by means of Web front-ends or portals.
  2. Application (functional) integration denotes the machine-to-machine coupling of applications. It can be achieved by exchanging electronic messages via remote method invocation or service calls, but may also be associated with asynchronous communication.
  3. Data integration describes a direct link on the database level. The most popular forms of data integration are data synchronization or replication, and file copy.

Generic

Figure 1: Generic model of technical integration

The direction of integration can be differentiated according to the position in the supply chain:

  1. Vertical Integration: The partners are in the same industry sector but at different positions in the supply chain. This is typically the case of supplier or customer integration in supply chains.
  2. Horizontal Integration: The partners are in the same industry sector and at the same position in the supply chain. Since the partners share a common role, they collaborate to create an augmented output for their suppliers or customers.
  3. Diagonal Integration: The partners are in different industry sector and at different position in the supply chain. Typical examples are shared services or outsourcing scenarios.

 

The actual IT solutions for B2B integration range from self-developed applications (EDI converters) to using the services of a specialist EDI provider. The following “types” of integration seem typical for the B2B integration between companies.

  • Scenario 1: Parallel use of different information systems with manual system access
  • Scenario 2: Parallel use of different information systems with data interchange and direct connection
  • Scenario 3: Parallel use of different information systems with data interchange provided by anintermediary
  • Scenario 4: Joint use of a self-operated, central ERP system
  • Scenario 5: Joint use of a central system operated by an intermediary

 

If your company is searching for a customized solution for B2B integration our IBD experts might be able to assist you in the development of a concept. Contact info@integrated-business-design.com.


References:

Schubert, Petra; Legner, Christine (2011): B2B integration in global supply chains: An identification of technical integration scenarios. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 20 (3), 250-267.

Tanner, Christian; Wölfle, Ralf; Schubert, Petra; Quade, Michael (2008): Current Trends and Challenges in Electronic Procurement: An Empirical Study. Electronic Markets, 18 (1), 6-18.