How to Harness the Trend of the decade – ESG
Proceeding, ESG, its utility and implementation in corporate practices has evolved considerably over the years. Much of this can be attributed to advancements in technology and the subsequent enhanced sophistication of stakeholder expectations.
To elaborate, previously, there were little to no means of measuring and tracking the effectiveness of ESG investments. Organizations would adopt what is characterized as a greenwashing approach to ESG. Within which, companies could make grandiose claims of their commitment to ESG goals, particularly those related to environmental sustainability, without having to provide any kind of evidence or support.
Today, with advancements in information technology (IT) and increased data transparency, companies are expected to provide insights to their investors that demonstrate whether or not they are actually “moving the needle on ESG principles.”
In addition to providing insights on whether goals are met, technology such as IBM’s Envizi can also be used to support the actual achievement of ESG goals. A profound example can be seen in the Race to Zero.
Here, technology can be used in four primary ways; process optimization, carbon data transparency, circular products and services, and data systems and ventures. Within these areas, examples of technology that can be used include cloud technology, artificial intelligence, IoT and blockchain.
With evolving market conditions accelerating the need for advanced EDI and B2B integration capabilities, we can’t help but ask:
In order to evaluate these three important questions, we need to examine the history of the three main ‘on premise EDI Solutions’ available from IBM under the Sterling brand.
Many enterprises rely on one of the three ‘on-premise’ based EDI solutions that IBM currently offers under the Sterling Brand.
Originally called SPE (Standards Processing Engine), ITX Advanced was an offshoot from B2Bi. It took the EDI processing engine within B2Bi and married this up with an updated XSLT mapping tool and integrated another tool WTX (WebSphere Translator, now called ITX). An excellent combination, that unfortunately had very little traction in the supply chain market. The failing was possibly because of the added requirement to send and receive the files for processing. ITX Advanced is therefore more beneficial for specialised applications or part of a wider set of tools.
IBM B2Bi was developed to be platform independent and to widen the EDI toolset into integration. It was designed to overcome the varied skills required to support many different products and cover the shortcomings of a fuller suite of Gentran products. Besides the Windows product, there was also Gentran for Z/OS (Mainframe), AS400 (I-Series), Unix and the lightweight version of Gentran for Windows called Gentran Director. The latter being tied into the Sterling Commerce Network and was only licenced to run on windows’ desktop products. Over time, IBM gradually removed support for all operating systems except Microsoft Windows and for limited applications with Gentran Director.
Gentran for Windows was developed in the late 80s and established itself as a very competent single tenant EDI solution. Arguably, with support, consultancy, and licenses, it became one of the highest revenue earners of the Sterling Commerce products sets, certainly to EDI/Supply chain customers. Gentran has some key strengths, such as a simple to use and maintain mapping tooling and the ability to visualise transactions. However, from the late-90s onwards, the limitations of the tool showed. Multi tenancy was only achieved with workarounds and the technology had to retrofit the rise of XML messages. Bridge products were required for communications beyond the very simple protocols acceptable when dial up was replaced by internet communications. Its biggest threat, however, arose with security and the rise of many vulnerabilities.
Despite these limitations, there has remained a loyal user base attracted to the simplicity of the tooling and its ability to track transactions. Often, these clients have a small number of partners and very few new partner onboardings.
But this brings us back to our original questions:
Above all other considerations – the time has come for all clients to rethink their security position. The rise of ransomware attacks means that all organisations are vulnerable to attack and need to have solutions built for the modern day. Whilst Gentran for Windows continues to be supported by IBM, they achieve it with a skeleton staff. Most fixes are only applied once clients have identified an issue. This is not a healthy position when that issue could be a security flaw.
As the original name suggests, the solution was built with a strong migration route from Gentran to B2Bi in mind. From a communications point of view, Gentran was designed for Dial Up Communications and there has been no significant update to cater for Internet Communication. With IBM B2Bi, support for VAN’s (Value-Added Network) communications is available, along with a suite of secure protocols and approaches for point-to-point communications. There is also a host of other capabilities in B2Bi, such as the handling of many types of API (Application Programming Interfaces). From a platform perspective, a wide range of platform combinations are available as well as certified container solutions. This allows for ‘deployment on premises’ in traditional methods through to full hybrid cloud deployment.
In recent years, frameworks have been created such as the Lightwell Framework to address the simplicity that exists with the Gentran visibility tools and B2Bi’s more textual standard view. These frameworks sit on B2Bi software to provide a similar simple interface and functioning like Gentran. Hosted services like Coliance Agora, built on IBM B2Bi and the Lightwell Framework, provide a simple migration service. They can assist you to migrate away from Gentran and provide a service that is more cost effective for low volume companies. An added advantage is that they are monitored and fully supported to provide the latest security versions. In addition, EDI expertise is on hand to assist with new partner onboarding whenever required.
If you are finding it a challenge to improve the security in your organisation and still run Gentran for Windows or Gentran Director, then you might want to consider talking to Coliance. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover how a hosted service built on IBM B2Bi and the Lightwell Framework can provide greater security with cost efficiency and effective onboarding.
In our technology corner, we select the most common issues encountered within the IBM user community and source the best answer links to help you find a solution, If you are facing similar issues and need further guidance, contact us – we are happy to help.
From the world of business
Is the supply chain the next big sustainability software play?
Carbon accounting and management software really came into its own last year, spurred by corporate net-zero commitments, and it looks as if 2022 could represent a tipping point for supply chain software that empowers sourcing decisions point to net zero.
How exposed is your supply chain to climate risks?
Climate change is posing major challenges to supply chains. This article assessed the climate-related risks of supplier sites that serve original equipment manufacturers in the high tech, auto, and consumer goods industries. It offers advice on how OEMS can improve their resiliency to climate-related disruptions.
Intel in chips warning, as Ukraine war squeezes supply
Intel CEO warns microprocessor shortages likely to run into 2024 due to Ukraine invasion and China lockdowns, and sees reshoring as future.
IBM enables improved partner integration for reduced carbon footprint
A Key enabling technology in this battle is the ability to modernise your IT Infrastructure and move some key solutions into the cloud or containerise the solutions on-premise, thus reducing the physical server footprint and resultant power output.
In this article, we see how IBM and CVS, a health provider, went on this journey through the need to improve the integration of their supply chain partners with a key driver to reduce their carbon footprint.