Extol International, a business-to-business integration provider, has introduced a middleware application aimed at the upper midmarket. Business Extenders, a subset of its main product line, Extol Business Integrator, is designed to address a one-off pain point in the IT environment.
Such one-off integration glitches, to cite a few examples, could be a sales manager’s inability to see the company’s current inventory in real-time; a line-of-business manager’s inability to make an accurate sales projection forecast; or a marketing executive’s inability to plan a promotion due to lack of insight into the warehouse management system.
Typically, these scenarios would call for a custom-coded interface written for each specific integration.
By contrast, the Extender app allows a company to accommodate nonstandard data into existing processes. How it does that depends on the corporate IT environment and the particular issue the company wants to address: It could, for instance, provide the data in XML (extensible markup language), in a spreadsheet, in event-tracking, in a flat file collaboration, in an application-to-application interface, through a specific business process — or even EDI (electronic data interchange) through AS2 (applicability statement 2), FTP (file transfer protocol), Web services, value-added networks or e-mail.
Each Extender targets a different set of integration requirements of these common formats and automates that integration.
“Within every IT shop, there are always one or two pressing problems that require a fungible solution,” Steve Rosen, Extol’s vice president of marketing, told CRM Buyer.
According to Extol, one of its customers, Randa Luggage, was able to integrate data it received and sent from the 16 different factories in China it uses in its supply chain. None of them use EDI. Instead, they use Excel spreadsheets. The firm would print out the spreadsheets and work the data manually. Inevitably there would be delays, data entry errors and late shipments.
“Every morning, we printed out the spreadsheets that came over from China,” explained Gino Giombetti, vice president of operations at Randa. “Our EDI Coordinator literally had stacks of paper all around her office. Despite our best efforts, there were always delays [and] data entry errors, and our sales department consistently fell short on their Promise to Ship commitments.”
The problem, was that each factory has its own interpretation of the spreadsheet for orders and shipment info, noted Lora Cecere, an analyst with AMR Research. When the company was able to integrate and automate the management of these spreadsheets into its normal EDI processing, the re-keying, errors, data latency delays and need for custom programming were eliminated.
“The company now has Monday updates from all of its factories,” Cecere concluded.