What is B2B integration?

Business-to-business (B2B) integration is the automation of business processes and communication between two or more organizations. It allows them to work and trade more effectively with their customers, suppliers and business partners by automating key business processes. B2B integration software provides the architecture needed to digitize information and quickly route it through an organization’s trading ecosystem. 

What is a B2B integration platform?

A B2B integration platform helps companies integrate all their complex B2B and electronic data interchange (EDI) processes across their partner communities in a single gateway. The platform collects data from source applications, translates the data into standardized formats and then sends the documents to the business partner using the appropriate transport protocol. B2B integration software is available for on-premises use or integration services can be accessed through hosted cloud services. 

Why is B2B integration important?

Digitalization is pushing partner and customer expectations. Organizations are finding that slow, inefficient, error-prone manual processing of information is not sustainable in a digitally-connected world. And every business has their own mix of systems and applications for exchanging files and messages with partners. Disparate technologies make it difficult to communicate. 

To achieve goals like increasing revenue, speeding time to market and improving efficiencies, organizations need a successful business network — and that requires a modern B2B integration solution.¹ With the right B2B tools, organizations can digitally connect and communicate quickly and reliably. This can reduce the time it takes to get new products and services to market and help companies achieve the nimbleness and agility they need to compete.

Key capabilities of B2B integration

B2B integration platforms come with a wide variety of capabilities:

  • Communications adapters. Never say no to an onboarding request. Supports security-rich Internet communications protocols, including AS2, SFTP, MQ, HTTP, Connect:Direct and others.
  • Application integration. Includes adapters to connect to back-end systems, including databases, SAP as well as cloud object storage with AWS S3 Client Adapter.
  • Translation engine. Powerful any-to-any transformation. Converts documents from one format to another.
  • Mapping software. Enables the visualization of data fields and shows the relationships between documents.
  • Message tracking and reporting. Provides event management and reporting, auditing in centralized dashboards that can enable you to extend real-time activity and status information to your system administrators and your partners.
  • Encryption. Encrypt data at rest or in motion. Robust certificate management including support of modern ciphers and algorithms.
  • Data validation. Applies business rules with graphical business process modeling to the information being sent to identify any errors. 
  • Compression. Allows big files to be sent faster. Features include any size file and message transfer.  

A real-world example of B2B integration

Consider this retail order-to-cash scenario: 

A big-box retailer wants to buy widgets from another company. Big Box Retailer preps an order in its enterprise resource planning (ERP) or purchasing system. The order is translated into an EDI 850 purchase order, which is used to place an order for goods or services. The 850 is securely transmitted to the Widget Company, which processes it and sends back a 997 functional acknowledgement and an 855 EDI purchase order to confirm receipt.

The Widget Company then sends an 856 advance shipping notice over the same AS2 connection to let Big Box Retailer know the order is coming. Big Box Retailer receives the 856 which is integrated into their back-end ERP. They send a 997 to Widget and prepare for the shipment.


¹ "Driving strategic value with IBM Supply Chain Business Network," Chandana Gopal, Matthew Marden, IDC, Jan 2018. (PDF, 222 KB)