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B2B Process Integration

Even with industrywide initiatives such as RosettaNet, a point-to-point data exchange that manages static interactions has some limitations. If Corporation A wants to purchase office supplies from Depot X, it must agree ahead of time on the content of the documents exchanged and buying process. This is, of course, to be expected. However, what if the situation involves managing multiple suppliers or if the interactions become more complex? For instance, a scenario in which suppliers openly bid to compete on pricing will increase the dimensions of process interactions. In that case, managing the B2B transaction is no longer an activity of managing a single point-to-point interaction. Instead, it becomes a challenge of managing business processes that are dynamic rather than static.

The B2B Process Integration pattern takes the limitations raised by the Data Exchange pattern and addresses them by providing Business Process Integration (BPI) services. Just as the Data Exchange pattern allows participants to manage data exchanges dynamically through XML-based documents, the B2B Process Integration pattern allows the participants to manage processes in the same way. Therefore, richer, more complex relationships can occur between trading partners.

B2B Process Integration pattern can be implemented as one of two variations: Closed Process B2Bi or Open Process B2Bi. You might argue that each of these variations constitutes an individual pattern, but because they share the common attribute of being process focused, I have decided to treat them as variations to the B2B Process Integration pattern.

Closed Process B2Bi

Closed Process B2Bi occurs when an organization manages processes internally and externalizes key process activities only through the data exchange gateway. Each organization through BPI is able to monitor the status of business process activities within the enterprise. Relevant business events are published to its partners through the data exchange gateway.

In Figure 3.8, Corporation A and Corporation B have both implemented BPI within the enterprise but have chosen not to directly expose these processes externally. Therefore, processes between the organizations are not managed. Instead, what exist are two sets of managed business processes linked together by a common gateway of published business events. The intra-enterprise implementation is at both the data and process level, whereas the inter-enterprise integration is purely at the data exchange level.

Figure 3.8 Closed Process B2Bi.

Open Process B2Bi

Open Process B2Bi creates the potential for sharing processes between multiple B2B corporate entities. Processes between companies are actually managed by both companies. This requires BPI products implemented by both corporate entities. Processes within the corporate walls can still be managed as private processes, limiting their visibility to within the corporate body. However, external B2B processes shared by both corporations are managed as public processes. The resulting picture should look something like Figure 3.9.

Figure 3.9 Open Process B2Bi

The Open Process B2Bi requires a BPI solution that allows for the segmenting of the management of public and private processes. Chapter 6, "Understanding Business Process Integration," discusses BPI in more detail.

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