November 4, 2013 | Written by: Vipin Chandran
Share this post:
Business-to-business (B2B) electronic data interchange as software as a service (SaaS) is a combination of various programs with different points of flow for the data processing and transfer. Some of these points of flow are:
- Data retrieval
- Data transfer
Things could go wrong at any one of these points, and when that happens the analysis usually begins with the starting point of the data.
There are separate teams supporting different applications at each point of flow. Usually, as the analysis of an issue progresses, each stage of the data transfer and processing gets ruled out as point of failure and the issue is forwarded to the next stage of analysis or to the support team that handles it. Such forwarding of data adds significantly to the resolution time.
How can we save time while resolving problems, and how can we make sure to quickly notice the point of failure?
Swift end-to-end visibility of the data flow, processing and setups on a simple dashboard would be a very good function, and it can help a lot in relieving the frustration that customers face when things go wrong. This also makes the point of failure more visible for the customer and support team.
Some of the big companies may have a very complex set of transactions, which might involve different modes of communication with trading partners. Each mode of communication may involve a different server altogether. For example, a huge multinational liquor company, which uses IBM Sterling Collaboration Network on SaaS, has a very complex solution for the B2B process. Their solution involves four UNIX servers, two instances of IBM Sterling Connect:Direct, IBM Sterling B2B Integrator on hosted platform (GIODE), IBM Sterling B2B Integrator for AS2 and Sterling Information Broker (VAN), besides other custom applications like QGateway.
When the level one team receives a request to investigate a missing outbound file, the research needs to start from the Connect:Direct instance on the customer’s end, which is the starting point of the data. The presence of the specific file is then checked in each server. As one server after the other gets ruled out as a point of failure, the ownership of the research also gets handed over to the next levels of support. The IBM SaaS B2B solution, which includes IBM Sterling InFlight data management tool can take away some of the complexity from this scenario.
Still, supporting such complex customer architecture is a challenging task, especially if the support personnel are relatively new to the customer or do not have enough knowledge of the implementation methodology of the customer. Hence, there is a real need to first get very familiar with the implementation methodology to be able to support them efficiently. Often, this situation even leads to the need to create a dedicated support team for reasonably large customers.
Now look at the picture below. This picture shows the near real-time movement of data between the customer and the trading partners through SaaS B2B server.
A quick end-to-end visibility of the data flow and processing, as shown in the picture above, would be a very handy tool in these situations. The support team can simply search the data on this flow using the unique key and determine where the flow stopped. This will help the support team, as well as the customer, to find out the exact point of failure of data. Such visibility of the data flow also gives the customer a sense that he or she is keeping up with the proceedings if it is desired.
If you have any questions or comments on this article, please connect with me on Twitter or comment below.