June 2023 | Issue 6


Agora - Striving towards supply chain resilience with B2B integration

As we try to recover from the global disruptions experienced in the last few years, many organisations have come to terms with the realisation that Supply Chain “uncertainty” is here to stay.


Empowering Your Supply Chain: The Transformative Impact of Supply Chain Transactional Efficiency and Competitiveness.

According to a recent IDC white paper that analysed the strategic significance of IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Networks, it has become increasingly apparent to businesses that they must enhance their supply chain capabilities to remain competitive.


Minimising Data Centre Downtime with IBM Sterling Global Mailbox

“Data centre downtime” is a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of any organisation, as it represents the potential for significant disruptions to critical systems and operations. It can have a major impact beyond the business community, including public services, emergency response, and critical infrastructure.

Agora – Striving towards supply chain resilience with B2B integration
As we try to recover from the global disruptions experienced in the last few years, many organisations have come to terms with the realisation that Supply Chain “uncertainty” is here to stay.

The words “Supply Chain Resiliency” are bandied about as an urgent necessity with the call for organisations to make their networks more ‘agile’. To achieve this, we are advised to modify our B2B strategies and ensure we are prepared for futuristic changes in demand and supply. We are expected to operate with a focus on risk mitigation without sacrificing the cost and quality of our goods and services. This new operating mindset has pushed businesses to reconsider many aspects of their supply chain management. Operational goals remain unchanged, with top Supply Chain leaders at industrial companies and OEMs noting their top priorities as flawless order orchestration, real time inventory availability and accurate and on-time fulfilment.

“In our 20-year history, we have designed and developed a number of services and solutions that make our customer’s lives easier and more profitable”

So, what have the top organisations done to ensure they observe and apply the urgent requirement of resiliency and agility to their supply chain models?

Most organisations have considered or adopted: inventory stockpiling and cushioning, localisation and near shoring, supplier diversification as well as the implementation of strategic partnerships with key raw material suppliers. All helpful changes indeed, but these B2B diversifications have added new layers to the traditional supply chain management model that relied on standalone systems, with little or no data sharing.

As companies change from the simple process of production and provision, they realise that they can no longer operate with limited visibility and marginal real-time data.

In today’s information age, we still require the traditional planning and proper management of inventory, shipping, and tracking, but we can no longer operate without the availability of performance analysis data to identify gaps, delays and errors or forego proper reporting. We can also no longer operate our supply chain management processes without complete visibility across all sectors.

This is why most organisations have chosen to fully digitalise their supply chains with robust B2B integration solutions. This adoption has ensured that their supply chain process is fully dynamic. Those who have successfully adopted B2B Integration are able to automate their sales across multiple sales platforms, they have a global view of their inventory, and they can create, update and process orders with on time delivery utilising pre-established SLAs. Most of all – they operate with scalability for changing strategies and growth that their ERP can manage.

They are now able to adapt to pandemics, political unrest and market disruptions in real time, not only incorporating, but easily managing the new layers required of successful supply chain management. This has helped them achieve ‘Supply Chain Resiliency’ as they gain access to the predictive, analytic and management capabilities that achieve supply chain ‘agility’ goals.

While the opportunities and benefits of B2B integration are clear, actively incorporating a digitalised solution into an existing legacy system or completely embracing a new digital revolution for your company comes with an additional set of problems.

Firstly, the concern of high capital expenditure and secondly, the justifiable anxiety that surrounds the holistic integration of a new process. How can we effectively administer and manage connections between our critical and actionable data to boost our company’s planning and production strategies? Moreover, what do we want our new B2B integration solution to look like?

Coliance has recognised the top Six requirements that all the new B2B integration adopters want to achieve in their drive to attain higher levels of supply chain performance:

  1. The need to visualise the transactions you manage, empowering you with a true vision of your business.
  2. A reduction in cost by avoiding errors and proper management of operating costs.
  3. A simplified integration with your main supply chain systems such as ERP, WMS, TMS and OMS.
  4. Shortening of trading cycles by establishing business partner links in hours not weeks.
  5. Access to experienced consultants who are skilled in the latest technology.
  6. Improving the integration with your smaller trading partners.

At Coliance, we offer managed service models that achieve all the above, optimising your supply chain operations, giving you access to experienced consultants and accelerating your business with reduced costs. 

Coliance’s secure managed B2B solutions will meet all your integration needs. We can empower your organisation to respond to customer demands and supply dynamics with optimised visibility into your entire supply chain.

This visibility will enable you to identify operational disruptions, improve your vendor performance, and, by token, boost your profitability, not to mention your competitive advantage.

Agora Platform

This is a fully hosted and fully managed solution for your EDI transactions that includes process monitoring and accelerated Partner onboarding capabilities. The AGORA team will ensure seamless data flow between you and your customers, ensuring quick action on any problem that may arise.

Agora enables businesses to have a full EDI implementation without:

    It also provides the following benefits:

    Agora Managed Services – This is a service where we take on responsibilities for a customer’s on-premise IBM B2Bi system.

    This flexible solution allows customers to define what level of involvement they require from our team. From a simple, scheduled check and report, to full management of all your customer systems and the associated infrastructure. Coliance can integrate, extend and develop your systems, onboard new partners and provide support, consultancy and training at all levels.

    Agora Managed Services also provides the following benefits:

    In addition, Coliance offers IBM License Management (ILMT) as a service, which maximises your sub-capacity licensing advantage and protects you from being under-provisioned.

    Digitalising your B2B supply chain and opting for a secured, managed integration solution is the optimal way to achieve resiliency to new supply chain challenges. However, it is important to choose a solution provider that delivers the experience you are seeking. AGORA overcomes the deficiencies that many B2B integration technologies suffer with today, with a substantial portfolio of connectors and APIs and advanced monitoring capabilities. Coupled this with IBM world class technology either on premise or in a safe and secure cloud environment.

    If you want to get all the benefits of a managed service team today, then reach out to one of our experienced consultants. The time has come to empower your organisation to respond to new supply dynamics, improve your vendor performance, and raise your profitability and competitive advantage.


    Empowering Your Supply Chain: The Transformative Impact of Supply Chain Transactional Efficiency and Competitiveness.
    According to a recent IDC white paper that analysed the strategic significance of IBM Sterling Supply Chain Business Networks, it has become increasingly apparent to businesses that they must enhance their supply chain capabilities to remain competitive. The comprehensive supply chain survey conducted by the paper revealed that 60% of companies anticipate being outpaced by a rival with superior supply chain capabilities in the next three years. This leads us to the question:

    What are superior supply chain capabilities and how can we achieve them to retain our competitive edge?

    Effective EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) management plays a significant role in the above capabilities because EDI allows for the exchange of electronic business documents such as purchase orders, invoices, and shipping notices between trading partners. By streamlining these processes and reducing manual data entry, EDI can improve supply chain efficiency, reduce errors and delays, and provide greater visibility of the status of orders and shipments. All of which ultimately leads to better supply chain performance and a competitive advantage ensuring that your organisation isn’t part of the statistic that loses out to competitors.

    There are two schools of thought among those who have recognised the importance of these capabilities: those who choose in-house management and those who prefer a managed EDI service. It is important to take an honest review of both options before making a decision.

    In-house EDI management

    In-house EDI management involves a company using internal resources and personnel to manage its Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) operations and infrastructure. This approach requires businesses to be responsible for selecting, installing, and maintaining the necessary hardware and software, as well as managing day-to-day EDI operations. Though in-house EDI management might seem like a straightforward decision, it is essential to consider the various activities involved, such as selecting appropriate hardware and software, ensuring compatibility with existing business applications, and managing trading partners. Compliance with industry standards and real-time monitoring and support are also critical aspects.

    Effectively managing your own EDI can be challenging and costly, as it requires a significant financial investment and securing personnel with EDI expertise. A frequently underestimated consideration is the substantial allocation of personnel resources required to coordinate with third-party partners or their suppliers for obtaining connection specifics. Keeping up with evolving EDI standards and regulations can be difficult, and failure to comply can result in fines or penalties. Additionally, scaling your EDI system to meet the needs of a growing business can be demanding and may cause transaction delays or errors.

    Downtime or technical issues with an in-house EDI system can impact your supply chain and bottom line.

    Overall, managing your own EDI requires a significant investment in time, resources, and expertise, which is probably why many businesses choose to outsource their EDI operations to third-party providers.

    Managed EDI services

    A managed EDI service (third-party service provider) can provide a comprehensive range of services to assist businesses with their EDI operations, including hardware and software procurement, installation and maintenance, monitoring, troubleshooting, and ongoing support. It is important to note that managed EDI services can encompass various services tailored to the unique needs of each business.

    Some common services that an EDI managed service provider (MSP) may offer include:
    While outsourcing EDI to a managed service provider offers huge benefits and prevents many of the pitfalls associated with in-house EDI management, it is essential to recognise that managed services can also come with their own set of challenges.

    The decision to switch from an in-house EDI management system to a managed service can still be problematic if your organisation fails to understand and assess the issues that are unique to your supply chain ecosystem.

    With over two decades of experience as provider of EDI and File Transfer solutions, we have garnered valuable knowledge on how to expedite our clients’ projects to ensure a consistent and successful delivery. However, equally important is the invaluable insight we have accumulated regarding problem areas and common traits that our clients have encountered.

    We have identified four issues that often prompt customers to seek our help in managing their EDI transactions:

    • A loss of expertise to run a reliable internal service, which can result in errors and delays in transactions.
    • A growing concern over the length of time required to onboard new trading partners or customers, leading to internal friction with other departments, such as Sales or Supply Chain.
    • The challenge of finding and then managing multiple EDI solutions, which can be costly and difficult to coordinate.
    • A lack of real-time visibility into why transactions may be failing or incorrect, which can result in a significant impact on the supply chain and overall business operations.

    Our first recommendation to our customers is always to address any internal issues within their organisation. This  involves careful consideration and planning, and our team offers guidance on how to effectively tackle these steps.


    Although some of these steps may seem obvious, it is surprising how often potential customers approach us without having fully thought through these critical stages:

    STEP 1
    Assess your current B2B processes

    Understand how you currently exchange business documents with your trading partners and identify any inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or challenges in the process.

    STEP 2
    Define your requirements

    Determine what types of documents you need to exchange, how frequently you need to exchange them, and what standards and formats are required by your trading partners.

    STEP 3
    Develop a solution

    This may involve process changes to improve integration, modifications to existing software and hardware, or implementation of new technology to keep up with the competition.

    STEP 4
    Evaluate your technology infrastructure

    Understand the capabilities of your current systems and identify any gaps or limitations that may impact your ability to implement an EDI solution.

    STEP 5
    Identify potential partners

    Research and evaluate EDI solution providers to identify those that meet your requirements and have a track record of success in your industry, like Coliance.

    STEP 6
    Plan for implementation

    Develop a detailed plan for implementing an EDI solution, including timelines, resources, and testing procedures.

    By taking these steps and investigating your business needs and capabilities, you will be better equipped to select an EDI solution that meets your specific requirements and delivers maximum value to your organisation.

    Managed EDI services from Coliance offer a range of benefits to enhance your business operations. By streamlining processes, automating data exchange, and reducing manual data entry, we boost your efficiency and productivity. Our services provide improved data accuracy, standardised communication formats, and a reduced IT burden, enabling a greater focus on core competencies

    Coliance’s experienced team manage the setup, configuration, testing and monitoring of your supply chain transactions. Our cloud-based managed services ensure easy scalability, reliability, and uptime, promoting better supply chain visibility and relationships with trading partners. If you want to experience substantial savings in labour, infrastructure, and maintenance costs contact Coliance today.


    Minimising Data Centre Downtime with IBM Sterling Global Mailbox

    “Data centre downtime” is a phrase that strikes fear in the hearts of any organisation, as it represents the potential for significant disruptions to critical systems and operations. It can have a major impact beyond the business community, including public services, emergency response, and critical infrastructure.

    Despite the best efforts of IT professionals to maintain these systems, data centre downtime can occur because of a variety of factors:

    Data centre downtime can result in a significant loss of revenue, not only from interrupted operations but also from additional expenses such as emergency repairs and customer support, coupled with the costly disruption to supply chain partners. In addition, it can tarnish a company’s reputation and result in a loss of customers. The consequences can be dire in certain industries, such as finance or healthcare, where downtime can pose life-threatening risks, compromising patient care and safety.

    While the cost of downtime may vary depending on the size and nature of a business, the effects of being unable to access essential applications extend far beyond financial losses.

    Strategies for Avoiding Downtime and Ensuring Continuous Operations

    It is important for all organisations to invest in solutions and strategies to reduce the risk of downtime and ensure they can quickly rebound from any disruptions that may occur. To overcome the challenge of downtime, many organisations aim to achieve always-on, high-availability operations by implementing redundancy measures. This means that critical systems and applications are backed up with redundant hardware and software, ensuring that if one system fails, another can take over seamlessly, minimising or eliminating any disruption to operations.

    The goal is to have a highly available infrastructure that can provide continuous access to critical applications and data, even in the event of an unexpected outage.

    To ensure high-availability operations and redundancy, businesses commonly use approaches such as a database-driven strategy that leverages the disaster recovery capabilities of a database vendor or operating at a third-party hot site by transferring copies of the latest backup. However, these approaches can still result in occasional downtime, as well as recovery latency, and increased costs.

    Alternatives to Traditional Downtime Prevention Methods

    An alternative is to implement a Global Mailbox, which can provide always-on, reliable operations and redundancy. With a centralised platform for managing and processing data across multiple host sites, a Global Mailbox can help businesses achieve high availability operations and replication.

    A Global Mailbox is a single platform that provides a resilient solution for managing and processing data across multiple server locations.

    Data is automatically routed to the nearest server location based on the user’s location, ensuring fast access, and real-time data replication using triggers to ensure consistency and minimising the risk of data loss. A Global Mailbox is instantly accessible to trading partners and eliminates the demand for managing multiple connections or configuring systems. Utilising geographically dispersed locations and data replication features, vital business data and documents can be shared promptly. Ultimately, a Global Mailbox can establish a more reliable data infrastructure and minimise the risk of downtime and associated costs.

    Differences in Global Mailbox Solutions: Not All Are Created Equal

    While there are a few Global Mailbox offerings available in the market, they each have their own drawbacks. One common issue is that some rely on a single data centre, which makes them vulnerable to downtime and reduces their redundancy. Some solutions may not provide the same disaster recovery capabilities, while others may have limitations on data storage and transfer, potentially affecting performance and usability. Another important drawback is the level of customisation and control that companies have over their email infrastructure. Most solutions are restrictive in terms of configurations and integrations.

    IBM Sterling Global Mailbox, on the other hand, offers a solution to these common issues. It is not reliant on a single data centre, providing greater redundancy and resilience. Additionally, IBM offers tailored plans based on an organisation’s specific needs, including additional storage and data transfer capacity. Companies using IBM’s Global Mailbox can enjoy greater customisation and control over their email infrastructure, avoiding potential restrictions on configurations and integrations. This makes the IBM Sterling Global Mailbox a highly attractive option for businesses seeking a flexible and resilient Global Mailbox solution.

    IBM Sterling Global Mailbox’s all-inclusive solution addresses data centre downtime challenges by implementing private mailboxes, load balancing among data centres, and regular replication for disaster recovery.

    Enhancing B2B Integration Processes with IBM Sterling Global Mailbox

    IBM Sterling’s Global Mailbox leverages the functionality of other IBM Sterling B2B Collaboration portfolio architectures and technologies to provide a reliable, high-availability solution across multiple server locations. With quick deployment and seamless integration into existing processes, it enables businesses to achieve greater value from their current investments while extending the capabilities of their B2B integrator and File Gateway. The add-on solution also enhances data management and B2B integration processes, enabling organisations to evaluate system performance through the IBM Sterling Control Centre.

    With IBM Sterling’s Global Mailbox solution, companies can establish a dependable, centralised data management platform that ensures a smooth experience for employees, customers, and suppliers.

    This advanced functionality, which is an integral part of IBM B2B Integrator, includes a managed file transfer solution that addresses potential gaps caused by the requirement for both the sender and receiver’s B2B platforms to be available. The IBM Sterling Global Mailbox is crafted to seamlessly integrate with the IBM B2B Integrator, effectively bridging the availability gap by offering a reliable data management solution for both sender and receiver platforms. This ensures that both ends are operating simultaneously in a highly available manner for point-to-point file transfers, such as EDI transactions. Besides facilitating efficient data exchange between organisations and their trading partners, the IBM Sterling Global Mailbox also provides always-on, reliable operations, enhanced redundancy, and cost-effective disaster recovery solutions, improving the overall efficiency, reliability, and performance of B2B integration processes.

    How IBM Sterling Global Mailbox provides always-on, reliable operations and replication

    To achieve all the above, the Global Mailbox system typically includes separate independent B2Bi clusters and databases in each data centre, as well as smart load balancers that can detect failures and redirect traffic accordingly. One important consideration is the type of replication used by the Global Mailbox system, as this can impact both performance and data consistency.

    Companies can choose between immediate (synchronous) or delayed (asynchronous) replication, depending on their needs and priorities.

    • Immediate replication ensures data consistency across all data centres but can affect performance.
    • Delayed replication offers faster response times but can lead to inconsistent data across different centres.
    Organisations should carefully evaluate their requirements and priorities to select the most suitable replication type. Failure to do so could result in compromised data consistency or degraded performance.

    It is important to note that implementing a Global Mailbox system requires careful planning and expertise as the exact configuration, management and maintenance of the system varies depending on the specific needs of your business. 

    Earlier in this article, we showed the various problems that can cause data centre downtime. Now, let us revisit those issues and explore how a Global Mailbox effectively addresses and counteracts each of them: 

    In summary, IBM Sterling Global Mailbox offers a holistic solution that not only addresses data centre downtime challenges but also revolutionises your organisation’s data management and B2B integration processes.

    By leveraging the advanced features of IBM Sterling Global Mailbox, you can eliminate downtime challenges and achieve a high-availability infrastructure, leading to a seamless experience for all stakeholders. By partnering with Coliance, you can unlock the full potential of IBM Sterling Global Mailbox, customised to fit your organisation’s unique needs. Our expert team can guide you through the implementation process, ensuring a smooth transition and maximising the benefits of this innovative solution. Don’t let data centre downtime hold your organisation back – contact Coliance today to learn more about how we can help your business thrive in an increasingly interconnected and fast-paced digital landscape.

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