Survey reveals European businesses speak different languages for exchanging supply chain data

Sterling Commerce survey highlights data integration challenges leading to poor automation and missed business opportunities

Sterling Commerce an AT&T Inc. subsidiary has announced the results of a survey of more than 300 Senior European IT decision-makers in UK, France and Germany.

The survey, conducted by independent research company Vanson Bourne, revealed that integrating external business data with internal back-end systems is the single biggest IT challenge affecting trading communications in the supply chain. Lack of integration means retail and manufacturing companies are consequently heavily reliant on manual communication methods to send and receive order and purchase documents amongst supply chain trading partners.  Companies are also struggling to automate the order-to-cash fulfillment process and electronically enabling trading with suppliers and customers quickly & efficiently leading to lost business opportunities.

According to the research, only 50% of European trading partners use any form of electronic communication as a means of sending and receiving order information; and only 26% of those surveyed use Value-Added Networks (VANs). UK companies are better equipped to handle electronic trading than their French counterparts, but behind German businesses.

Almost half of those questioned (46%) said integrating back-end IT systems is placing the greatest burden on skilled resources and will be the most costly IT issue to resolve. European IT decision makers rated meeting customer and supplier mandates to handle new EDI requirements as their second biggest challenge in supporting trading partner communications, suggesting that the problems associated with integration are only likely to get worse as supply chains become more complex and fragmented.

Dave Carmichael, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Sterling Commerce, said: As supply chains continue to grow and extend across geographical boundaries, the challenge of managing the complexity of a growing business community becomes even more critical to achieving profitability and customer satisfaction. Globalised businesses need to manage B2B collaboration with multiple trading partners with often wildly different technical infrastructures, communications standards and protocols for exchanging electronic data. Not only does this create a significant burden on resources, but it exacerbates the integration challenge even further.

He continued: Many businesses are turning to third-party network providers to help ease this burden and to simplify partner integration.  With the capability to securely and reliably connect trading partners worldwide, regardless of the communication format used, third-party hosted services can enable businesses to re-focus their resources on  where it matters most their core business. With a lower cost of ownership, businesses can achieve greater control and end-to-end visibility of their supply chain processes, to become more responsive to customer needs both now and in the future.


Survey Methodology

The survey was conducted on behalf of Sterling Commerce by Vanson Bourne Monograph in August 2007. The independent survey was conducted online by questioning 312 IT managers in the UK, France and Germany.

About Sterling Commerce

Sterling Commerce, a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), helps customers thrive in a global economy by connecting their business communities, processes, people and technology.  More than 30,000 customers worldwide including 80 percent of the Fortune 500 use Sterling Commerce solutions for business process integration, multi-channel selling, and supply chain fulfillment to improve profitability inside and outside their company walls.  Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Sterling Commerce has offices in 19 countries and most major cities around the world. 

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