B2BConnex – Connecting Companies the World Over Part II

In our last post, which re-introduced you to B2BConnex, a solution for e-Document Management that was designed to automate the end-to-end purchasing process and targeted at small and mid-sized manufacturing organizations still mired in the world of ERP.

We noted that, since our first posts on e-Document Management and automating the end-to-end purchasing process back in the 2010 time-frame, they have been hard at work and have increased the number of supported document types, added scorecard corrective action reporting (SCAR), the ability to have multiple configurations of the software for different geographies/countries/divisions/departments/plants, an improved shopping cart solution, more integration options out of the box, more usability features, and considerably more customization capability. We then dived into some of the new usability features, UI streamlining, reporting capability and some of the new configuration capabilities.

Today we are going to discuss the improved shopping cart, integration options, configuration options, and a few of the workflows more in depth.

Their catalog-based shopping cart works like you would expect, with the ability to search an individual catalog or all catalogs and be presented with a list of matching products complete with images, (partial) descriptions, price (with volume break) fields, default order quantity and add-to-cart button(s). One unique feature is that the application not only supports multiple languages, but allows each product to be associated with custom descriptions in any language the buyer or supplier chooses. This allows a buying organization to present the same catalog and interface to its users around the world, who can then select the language they want to see results in if the default language isn’t their native language. In addition, currency is also configurable and can be changed by the user as well. When the user goes to check out, the system automatically generates a purchase order template where the user can override the default billing, billing contact, shipping, shipping contact, and (requested) shipping method. Once the user confirms the order, the order, broken down by supplier, will be sent back to the client’s sales order system to generate an order there. Then, through the ERP’s fulfilment functions, the order can be used to generate one or more Purchase Orders which can be sent to the supplier through the B2BConnex Direct platform or Supplier Portal.

Once the supplier receives the PO, they can immediately accept it as is and return a Sales Order Acknowledgement, or, if they can’t deliver (all) of the requested items (at once), they can request modifications to delivery dates and order quantities and even request substitutions. In addition, if the supplier can deliver some products now and some products later, the supplier can split the line items and define the quantity that can be delivered now and the quantity that can be delivered later, each with associated delivery dates, and send the PO back with a modification request.

While the catalog-based shopping cart looks plain and simple with its “old-school” PO style, it’s actually quite sophisticated as it plugs into the B2BConnex Direct platform, which can deliver the purchase orders using a variety of methods, including, but not limited to, delivery through the B2B Supplier Portal, EDI to the supplier’s ERP, and XML or EDI (X12) to the supplier’s order management software. And all of this is configurable by the client in the sophisticated administration panel that allows the customer to define the document types supported, the delivery methods required (down to the plant level if need be), and any required mappings to translate from one format to another (which is important if the customer uses their own units of measure, abbreviations, or terminology and not what is expected in the EDI standard, for example).

In addition, there is a lot of security built in. Not only is there no capability by the supplier or buyer to change fields they have not been given access to (unlike there was in a big system that shall not be named that, for years, didn’t pull in the contract price data from the database but just assumed whatever was in the XML was correct), but there is a lot of security to prevent cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and other common and uncommon hack attacks.

Another neat feature is credit limits, which can be configured for each supplier per order and on aggregate and allow the buyer to be alerted when an order will surpass a credit limit and possibly be rejected by the supplier until Accounts Payable brings the buyer’s account up to date.

Their B2BConnex Direct platform, which functions as their native data mapping middleware, allows them to not only translate document types from one format and standard to another very easily, but also provides an API that they can use to integrate into just about any ERP, finance, procurement, or back-office system of relevance with respect to one of the many e-Document types that are natively supported which include, but are not limited to, RFQs, purchase orders, sales order acknowledgements, ship notices, delivery schedules, goods receipts, invoices, payment reports, payment receipts, RMAs (return merchandise authorizations), and inventory forecasts.

The B2BConnex platform, like the B2BConnex Customer (Buyer) and Supplier Portals, are very configurable — each document type that is sent from and/or delivered to each location can have its own delivery format. For example, if you have one plant offshore that still isn’t on the enterprise ERP, and can’t accept EDI, you can have EDI documents delivered to all plants except that one, which can be required to use the portal.

In addition, customers can manage their own profiles and user base, deciding who has access to what parts of the system and add and remove accounts as necessary. The last thing you want is to have to wait for a vendor to add or remove an account every time someone joins or leaves your organization. While a number of modern systems have this feature, there are still systems out there that work on named-user licenses (and as a solution buyer, you have to watch out for that).

In a nutshell, even though the B2BConnex solution employs an old-school look, it is actually a very modern SaaS application under the covers and definitely worth looking into if you are a small-or-mid-sized organization that is still in the ERP world and need a better solution.