2017’s retail environment is littered with store closings, strategic uncertainties, and an accelerated pace of industry change. Historically loyal shoppers are frequently leaving for Amazon or new digital experiences offered by the competition. Many new strategies and technologies exist to help retailers compete in this rapidly changing market. Today, I’d like to talk about one of the most basic, and often overlooked, opportunities ripe for improvement: trading partner integration. Retailers have been “onboarding” supply chain partners for decades, migrating from fax and paper environments (you would be surprised how many of these still exist) to EDI documents running over Value Added Networks (VANs). Many have done little in the internet age to innovate around this critical business process.
Liaison Technologies believes there is a better way for retailers to onboard supply chain partners using state-of-the-art technologies and integration-as-a-service concepts. Here are 5 reasons why:
The faster a trading partner onboards, the faster their SKUs can be assorted online and stocked on store shelves. Improvement in speed translates into more days-of-sale, faster time-to-market, and higher top line sales. Most retailers either don’t judiciously measure this business process or they struggle to reduce cycle times and variability. Liaison can setup trading partners at the pace the business requires and commits to service level agreements with each retail customer. We act as an extension of the retailer’s onboarding team to get things done faster. No more missing a holiday promotion due to vendor onboarding delays.
Faster is not better if quality is compromised. In the age of social media and low switching barriers, retailers cannot afford lapses in supply chain data quality that lead to disappointed customers and lost sales. Liaison uses a comprehensive methodology and collaborates with retailers and their trading partners to ensure that the right level of testing is executed. We also use 100% onshore teams that monitor our cloud production environment and fix issues before they impact the customer experience. No more taking a vendor off-line due to repeated ASN problems that should have been caught during the testing cycle.
A lack of interoperability within the enterprise and between trading partners remains a major supply chain hurdle. Retailers have specific business and data requirements that often cannot be supported by all trading partners. Suppliers also have their own idiosyncrasies that create headaches for retailers and add complexity to the network. Consumer needs change and new business realities emerge that create costly rework for previously onboarded partners. Liaison leverages our experience in having completed more than 7,000 integrations to create an adaptable approach that does not lock retailers into specific IT systems or middleware investments. No more walking away from potential business opportunities due to technical incompatibilities between trading partners.
Money historically spent on trading partner integration represents a significant portion of a retailer’s IT budget. Integration expenses are increasing as IT resources become more specialized and the number of trading partners in a retailer’s ecosystem increases. To do trading partner integration correctly, retailers had to previously build and maintain the necessary infrastructure, people, and processes to be successful. During some months, retailers might require 25 trading partner setups. The next month 250 setups might be required. Matching this variability with in-house onboarding resources and assets often leads to inefficient resource management and unnecessary cost. Liaison has a shared resource pool of experts available today and as retailer needs change over time. We have invested $250M in a multi-tenant, cloud-based integration platform that offers tremendous economies of scale for retailers looking to take strategic advantage. Also, Liaison provides a predictable and simple pricing model that has no hidden fees or overage penalties. No more money being spent on misused assets or outdated technologies to support the business.
Perhaps the most important reason to use state-of-the-art technologies and integration-as-a-service concepts their effect on an organization’s ability to innovate. When a retailer’s own business and technical resources are redeployed to more strategic projects such as improving the store experience or decreasing supply chain cycle time, big innovations become possible and the customer is better served. Liaison’s ALLOY Platform is a next generation cloud platform for today’s integration and data management challenges. It provides unified and tailored integration and data management solutions in a fully managed environment. No more missing the opportunities to innovate because IT resources are focusing on the wrong problems.
In the age of Amazon and digital commerce, retailers need maximum speed, quality, and flexibility to compete for the privilege of serving their customer. The environment is so dynamic and difficult to predict that it is hard to know where to deploy capital on new initiatives. We believe one of the best places to drive better return on investment is rebooting the basic blocking-and-tacking of trading partner integration. Liaison Technologies is excited to offer a new, competitively-priced approach to progressive-thinking retailers and looks forward to discussing how we can help improve your supply chain operations.