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5 Questions to Ask to Prepare for a B2B Integration Project

Discover the B2B integration fundamentals for building effective B2B connections that support PunchOut catalogs, purchase order automation, and more.

john-towner-p-rN-n6Miag-unsplash.pngB2B sellers often contact PunchOut2Go when a buyer asks them to provide a PunchOut catalog that is integrated with their eProcurement system.  Today, most B2B sellers understand that PunchOut catalogs—and other B2B automations—depend on integration with an eProcurement or enterprise resource planning system. Still, they may not have a clear understanding of how the integration process works.

This article explores and answers the key questions to ask about B2B integrations, the role of the PunchOut2Go Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), and how B2B integration supports automation.

What is B2B Integration?

B2B integration uses networks and software to automate the communication of business data between software systems. For example, PunchOut catalogs work by communicating product and order data between a buyer's eProcurement system and a seller's eCommerce store. 

Many eCommerce applications and eProcurement systems—although not all—enable PunchOut catalogs via the cXML protocol. cXML is a standard that describes the documents exchanged between the buyer and seller, including PunchOut setup requests and order messages, as we described in What is cXML? 

An integration project implements the technology and processes that make two-way communication possible using cXML and other protocols, formats, and APIs.  

B2B Integration vs. Automation: What's the Difference?

B2B integration and automation are often mentioned in the same breath, and you’ll hear them used interchangeably. However, they are different, and it’s helpful to understand the distinction. 

As we said in the previous section, an integration project sets up the networks and software that allow systems to exchange data such as catalogs, purchase orders, and invoices. It’s what enables your eCommerce store to “talk to” your buyers’ eProcurement systems. 

Automation, in contrast, refers to the streamlined labor-saving processes that integration enables.  For example, PunchOut catalogs automate aspects of the ordering process. They allow buyers to access product catalogs and complete the order approval process within their eProcurement system without manual data entry.  

Because buyer and seller software is integrated, the PunchOut catalog automation creates a superior user experience focused on actions that matter to the business, rather than time-wasting administrative tasks that add no value. 

How does an iPaaS Facilitate B2B Integration?

We’ve talked about integration as a connection between two software systems, but that’s only possible if they speak the same language. What happens if an eCommerce platform supports only cXML for PunchOut catalogs, but the eProcurement system you’d like to integrate with doesn’t? They can’t exchange documents and data, so you can’t take advantage of time-saving and cost-reducing automation. 

One way to solve this problem is with a custom integration project. You build middleware that translates between these specific platforms. That works, but it’s expensive, it takes a long time, and it doesn’t scale. You’d have to pay for a new custom integration for each platform pairing, which is why, in the past, B2B businesses only embarked on integration partnerships with their top-line buyers and sellers. 

The alternative is a universal gateway that supports the protocols, formats, and APIs used by eProcurement and eCommerce software. Most importantly, it can translate between them, consuming data in one format while emitting it in another. That is the primary role of PunchOut2Go’s Integration Platform as a Service. It can quickly integrate and translate between any platform pair, empowering B2B businesses to integrate without custom development and scale automation to many more partners. 

What Does the B2B Integration Process Look Like?

PunchOut2Go develops and manages the IPaaS, and our integration specialists work with you and your buyers throughout the integration process. Unlike other integration solutions, you won’t have to adopt a proprietary commerce solution, as PunchOut2Go can integrate any eCommerce store with any eProcurement platform.

The PunchOut2Go integration process takes a few  weeks on average. We implement the connections between the iPaaS, the supplier’s eCommerce store, and the buyer’s eProcurement system, followed by testing to ensure that data is exchanged correctly. 

You can learn more about the PunchOut2Go integration process in How PunchOut2Go Made Supplier & Buyer Enablement 12 Times Faster.

How Does B2B Integration Support Procurement Automation?

B2B integration via the PunchOut2Go iPaaS brings automation to a wide range of procurement processes. They include:

  • Rich eCommerce shopping experiences with PunchOut catalogs. 
  • Sales order automation to automatically exchange electronic documents including:
    • Purchase Orders
    • Order Confirmations
    • eInvoices
    • Advance Ship Notices
  • Digital quote management with PunchOut2Go eQuotes

To learn more about the integration process and the benefits of B2B procurement automation, complete the form below and an integration specialist will contact you soon.

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