COVID-19 makes automation more important than ever for enterprise integration

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As a longtime supply chain technology professional and head of a software company focused on enterprise (B2B) cloud integration, I’ve been watching several key trends that are shaping the fortunes for ecommerce and digital transformation as organizations push through the business impacts of the ongoing pandemic. These include the need for more IoT deployments and the rise of collaboration platforms to cope with increasingly remote and hybrid work environments. We’re also seeing enterprise end-to-end visibility across the business ecosystem emerge as a top C-suite priority.

These factors will help define the level of success organizations can expect in transforming data into value and impact. Ecosystem Integration, which is an advanced approach to multi-enterprise B2B/EDI integration that creates seamless end-to-end integrations that connect partners, applications, systems, and marketplaces, enables organizations to leverage collaborative platforms and increase end-to-end visibility. It’s a multilayered approach with various technologies that, when combined, amount to more than the sum of its parts. For the sake of this article, let’s zero in on automation as the common underlying capability that will best serve in the months and years ahead as an increasingly critical lynchpin for successful ecosystem integration adoption.

Pandemic fuels rush to adopt automation

As we continue to adjust to the new normal of pandemic-induced pressures on supply chain and business processes overall, automation and no-code are becoming more central as a foundation for digital transformation. That’s because COVID-19 showcased the fragility of manual processes. Recall how organizations struggled under the pressure of workforce lockdowns and the virus hindered efforts to become more agile in supply chain and other operations that were disrupted by the pandemic.

The pandemic is not yet over, but far enough along that we can see how companies like Amazon and others that invested in automation succeeded in growing both revenue and profitability despite the shutdowns. These success stories are sinking in, and that’s driving consensus and C-suite buy-in at more companies to automate core business processes. Further accelerating adoption is the increasing availability of tools and techniques that lower the barriers to entry for companies that may have thought automation solutions were out of reach. 

Automation tools and the low-code technologies that support them are fueling an expanded list of use cases and applications. Low-code automation simplifies the complexities of traditional back-end programming through more user-friendly interfaces and apps. This can shorten development cycles and allow organizations to automate more of the core processes that most impact operations and revenue.

Helping companies where they need it most 

Automation can help businesses in the process areas hit hardest by the pandemic. Consider the realm of transportation, a key part of the supply chain equation in a time when supply chain logistics have been hammered by COVID-19.

Developer experience (DX) teams can automate order processing and customs documentation with new electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities, complete with rules engines for validating load tenders, invoices and shipment-status messages. Trucking providers can also enhance their application programming interface (API) integration to achieve more accurate load-tender processing and eliminate errors between the various transportation management systems (TMSs) of freight customers. With the right automation, these efficiencies can hold up even at the scale of large fleets. 

Transportation logistics may be near the epicenter of pandemic impacts, but those impacts ripple far and wide through the spectrum of business operations. That’s why the opportunities and benefits of automation extend across the broader spectrum of business process automation.

For instance, companies hoping to excel in ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (D2C) operations can leverage automation to gain visibility and control across revenue-critical business processes like order-to-cash and procure-to-pay. This can be done by automating end-to-end processes that streamline the integration of internal applications with the external ecosystem of business partners, ecommerce sites, marketplaces and even consumers directly. 

Automation: A top digital transformation priority in 2022

Automation allows for more efficient, scalable and agile control over a wide range of integration use cases that deliver more valuable insights and smoother operations. Along with this comes better visibility and more steady and secure innovation as organizations evolve their operations, even in the face of pandemic disruptions and other business headwinds. That’s why, as we forge further ahead into 2022, automation and no-code are cementing their place as vital components for any digital transformation.

Mahesh Rajasekharan is CEO of Cleo.

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