Retailers are far better integrated than financial institutions, survey finds

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Retailers are three times better integrated than financial institutions, with only 12% falling into the category of bottom tier performers, compared with 35% of financial institutions, according to a survey for data integration specialist, Liaison Technologies.

The survey also revealed nearly half of the 23 retailers, which responded, are aware they can improve from their middle tier business-to-business integration performer rating, and have improvement plans on their radar. This was in stark contrast to financial institutions, of which the majority (51%) of bottom tier respondents have no current intentions of driving improvement.

B2B integration is an essential capability for all UK organisations in an increasingly connected and interdependent global economy, said Liaison Technologies. In the overall survey covering manufacturing, wholesale, retail, engineering and financial services, half of all mid-performing respondents last addressed their B2B integration solution over three to five years ago, compared to the bottom performers, which addressed their solution over six to 10 years ago, researchers found.

Automating the way a business connects, communicates and transacts across extensive global supply and demand chains can have a massive impact on the overall cost of doing business. It comes as no surprise top tier performers are three times more likely to be doing well financially than the bottom tier, and four times as likely to be growing, Liaison Technologies said.

Almost half (48%) of middle tier performers regard lack of clear ownership and support at management level as a hurdle to achieving better B2B integration. Lack of skills and knowledge also has a big impact, with 38% citing this as a big impediment.

According to Dale Vile, research director at Freeform Dynamics and regular commentator on B2B integration issues, the findings shine the spotlight on a fundamental misconception about B2B integration.

“Decades of relying on bespoke solutions have conditioned many to accept high costs and inflexibility as norm, especially when large managed service firms are in the mix. It’s clear from our study the shortcomings of B2B solution providers have played a significant part in perpetuating the low levels of integration we see among UK businesses.”

Mikko Soirola, vice president of Liaison Technologies, believes the subject of B2B integration needs to be a top focus for financial institutions. 

“Poor IT integration has really hit the headlines recently and what is surprising is that these incidences will become a lot more common if people don’t address the issue. Too many financial institutions are becoming complacent when it comes to improving their integration with partners and suppliers despite the performance improvements available. There is a huge question mark over who takes responsibility for data in many organisations, and the RBS integration failure is a classic example of where such complacency can have a serious impact on both profitability and company reputation – a setback which companies simply cannot afford to put themselves in at the moment. But, all too often we have to pick up the pieces after being called in following unsatisfactory implementations.

“Because of the benefits it can deliver when done correctly, I feel that B2B integration should be viewed as one of the most profitable strategic initiatives for financial institutions rather than an inconvenient cost.  UK firms that wish to remain competitive should make an honest assessment of their current B2B capabilities and, if they are underperforming or accepting sub-standard solutions, should refuse mediocrity and raise their expectancies.  The specialists are out there and the market may be pleasantly surprised by both expertise and costs.”

The survey was conducted by independent research firm Freeform Dynamics. The full findings of the white paper ‘Effective B2B Integration: Challenges, Practicalities and keys to success’ is available at: http://liaison.com/drip-pages/uk-drip-pages/eu-b2b-trading-partner-research-report