What is our primary use case?
We're primarily using it for communication and translation of our traditional EDI documents. We're an automotive supplier so a big part of our business is automotive related, but we're also using it for synchronous APIs or web services with some of our customers or trading partners.
Of course, not everything we're doing is EDI. We're doing a lot of distribution of unstructured files, even in our company, transactions between systems. With the mapper, we're doing data transformation as well, to integrate back to our back-end ERP system. We're also using the Message Tracking component, which allows us to confirm what's come in and what has processed.
About 90 percent of our global EDI transaction volume is coming in and out of SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS).
How has it helped my organization?
We have different application development groups within IT. My area is primarily EDI and integrations, but in some of the other areas, like HR or payroll or shipping, there's a great need to transfer files and data with their trading partners. Those partners could be a bank or an HR company or a payroll company. The folks in our other application areas don't really have any experience with communications and integrations. Where I'm able to improve our organization is that all I need to do is have them tell me, "Hey, I need to get a file or send a file to this trading partner, can you help me?" Then I'm able to work with them and get that set up and tested.
Our other application development folks don't have to spend time worrying about doing that part of the project. I'm something like a middleman and using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) has decreased the turnaround time on a lot of these projects.
Also, one of the things that SEEBURGER always touts is their ability to do "any to any" formatting. I really didn't understand it when we first got the product, but what I've come to find is it doesn't matter if you want to take a CSV file or an XML file or a flat file or a PDF file or a structured EDI file; you can transform it from one format to another - any to any or even to the same format - which is a really nice feature. We deal with a lot of different databases and structures in our company. We don't have a single system. We used to have a lot of problems trying to integrate our different locations. This has allowed us to seamlessly integrate our different database products together.
One example is that we had a project where we needed to have a consolidated sales history from all of our regions loaded into a third-party product that runs an SQL database. Of course, all our legacy systems are in the iSeries or AS/400. What we were able to do, since they didn't really integrate directly with an SQL database, was to have them generate CSV files and SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) was able to pick them up from their respective host systems, translate them, and load them to the SQL database records. It was quite easy and we didn't have to spend a bunch of money trying to add an Oracle Database or some other database that we really didn't need.
What is most valuable?
The one thing about SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) that we really liked is that it's what I would call "platform independent." Most of our systems back in 2012 were on an AS/400 or iSeries and there were some limitations with that. We really wanted to find a product that could communicate with all platforms.
In addition to that, we really like the AS2 communication adapters, which allow us to not use a VAN and for data to be pushed between trading partners. That's a big feature we really like.
Then, in our landscape, we have a lot of AS/400s or iSeries and SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) has a file service listener that allows data to seamlessly be transferred between the SEEBURGER solution and the AS/400. That was a very big part of it.
There are also a lot of alerting and notifications within it that allow us, even though we have a very small staff, to manage and monitor a very large number of EDI transactions.
One of the biggest features, as well, is the Mapping Designer because that's what we were looking to upgrade in addition to just communication protocols; we wanted to get a more modern mapper that we could use for both EDI documents and other types of unstructured data.
What needs improvement?
The BIS Front End needs a little bit of refreshing, especially when it comes to setting up new trading partners and trading partner agreements or transactions. It can be a bit clumsy to copy and rename and then go in and modify. That could be improved a little bit.
Also, on the server side, there are a lot of administration and configuration files that you need to go in and do maintenance on. You have to find them in a certain folder so it's very error-prone and it can be a little time consuming unless it's documented. They could pull some of those individual configuration files into the product itself where there's a better user interface for that.
In terms of adding features, they've recently talked about a few. One is a way to manage your web services or your APIs. That would be a big help because, right now, we have four web services and there's quite a lot of setup to each. They're in different areas within SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). It's my understanding that they're going to be able to pull that together so you can view that entire setup in a more streamlined manner. That's something we're looking forward to.
For how long have I used the solution?
More than five years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability is good, as long as you have the database sized correctly and your server sized with the right amount of processors. It's been very good for us.
We did run into a situation where at one point we didn't have enough memory on our servers. It became slow and we had some issues there. But once we recognized what the issue was and made a correction, it was resolved quite quickly.
So, it's very stable. Of course, we're really dependent on the Windows environment and SQL Server environment. It's only going to be as stable as those platforms are.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We've had to increase the core processing units in our SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) central instance, maybe twice, and the same with memory and disk storage. We've been able to wait until the need has come and not use up all that extra processing and memory that we didn't need.
There was documentation on how to do it and when to do it but we still used consulting services to have them direct us. We said, "Here's what we're going to do. Is this correct?" and they were able to lead us through anything we needed to do to scale up and pick up more transactions or more disk space.
So, scalability is pretty good. Right now we're only running a central instance of SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). They allow you to split it up into individual instances. If we wanted to separate the US from Europe we could do that, and allocate different resources to each. That's another area where they're scalable. It's been pretty good for us so far.
How are customer service and technical support?
Technical support is located in Germany and there are different levels of support you can pay for. Regardless of your support level, you're able to open tickets and, based on the severity of the ticket, they get back to you. They're all very knowledgeable of the system and they know where to pinpoint.
I will say that if the issue is something new to your company, something you haven't done before, they will refer you to consulting services which are billable. They won't do any development or the like for you. But they will troubleshoot problems.
The only thing I'm not crazy about is that, while they all speak English, they have a heavy accent in a lot of cases. Sometimes that can be difficult, depending upon who you're working with. Other than that, we've had no problems with their technical support.
The consulting services we work with, because we're in the Michigan area, are all working out of the Atlanta office. We're always working with them over the phone and through emails, so not onsite. They're are also very knowledgeable and they've come to get familiar with our implementation and how we're using their products. It really cuts down on some of the cost when we have a project because the consultants we're working with are familiar with our company. So, overall support is pretty positive.
In terms of response time, if it's a situation where you're saying you're down, they're supposed to call you within one hour, and in my experience, that's always been the case. We haven't had an experience where they're not getting ahold of us. Beyond that, if it's more of a question or you don't understand something, then it falls into another category and it might be later that day or the next day. That's fine. It's been good.
How was the initial setup?
We have our own technical resources onsite. We have a server group and a firewall group and I'm the EDI application guy. We were used to a lot of the terminology and stuff from the past. With that in mind, I thought the setup was quite straightforward.
They provided us with a hardware-sizing questionnaire, which was really helpful in determining our server requirements. Thinking back - it's been six years - it really seemed to go a lot smoother than it could have gone, especially since it was a brand-new product to us.
Regarding our implementation strategy, what we wanted to do first was move all of our communications with our VANs and our direct trading partners into SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). That meant we weren't doing the translation and the mapping within the solution, but all of the communications were done through it. What that allowed us to do was to pull all of our trading partners together from Europe and South America and North America into one place and have all the communications flowing through one area. That allowed us to support it a lot more easily and to take advantage of that AS2 protocol.
That was our initial strategy, to do communications, and then follow that up by doing the mapping, one trading partner or one transaction set at a time. And that's what we've done.
With any new product or implementation, usually there's a driving force. One of the things we were asked to do was to implement a web service in Europe that we had no expertise in and we had no platform to run it on. SEEBURGER provided both of those. They showed us how to use SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) and we used their consulting services to assist us with the back-end integration. So, rather than put this web service or API in another place which would eventually have to be moved to a central location, we were able to incorporate it right into the SEEBURGER product.
Our first phase with communication for all of North America only took three months from the time they loaded it onto the system initially until we were cut over. And then, to pick up Europe, we didn't want to do everything at once. We worked on Europe after that and that was another three months. So, within six months we had our communications moved over and we were then moving onto the other phases.
When we deployed, we had one SEEBURGER consultant who was dedicated to us for that first three-month period. Then we had another one who came in and did some training and some of the planning with us. As far as our own internal resources go, there were three of us who identified all the trading partners and all the nuances of what needed to be set up and tested in the new system. All in all, it was about like three internal people and two SEEBURGER people.
What about the implementation team?
We worked with SEEBURGER employees.
What was our ROI?
We've had some ROI. I'm not going to be able to give you any dollar numbers, but as far as headcount in my group goes, we used to have four or five people and now it's just me and one other. We're supporting the same number, and more, of trading partners than we used to. Right off the bat, that's a good savings.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
All the new adapters are individually priced, which is good. You don't buy the whole system and then, if you don't use it it just sits there. You only buy the stuff you want, which is good. There are some components that are either new or that we didn't need at the time of implementation, so we added them later, or we have plans to add them in the future.
Sometimes it seems a little pricey, especially when some of the stuff is available through freeware, like SFTP communications. You can download a free copy of something and perform those type of functions. But we understand, as an IT group, that those are not long-term solutions that you want in your core processes. It costs a lot more money to buy this stuff from SEEBURGER but I think it's worth it in the long run.
Everything seems expensive to me, so I'm neutral on the pricing and the licensing.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We wanted to be platform-independent from our iSeries and AS/400, and we wanted a more modern product for our EDI integrations. We looked at SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) vs IBM Sterling B2B Integrator. We did a lot of demos and had a lot of conversations between the two. Ultimately, we ended up choosing SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), but those were the two primary vendors that we were evaluating.
The Sterling Integrator was a little bit more complex than it needed to be. It wasn't straightforward. The mapper was a little bit, I won't say clumsy, but it was a little bit busy, hard to understand. One of the big things we wanted to do was to have a new refresh mapper. Also, the pricing seemed to be a lot higher for what we were getting.
Based on the demos that we had - we had given a script of what we wanted to see from both companies - the way SEEBURGER presented it was much more straightforward and understandable. We could see ourselves moving to that product a lot easier than moving to the Sterling Integrator.
What other advice do I have?
If you are looking to implement SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), talk to other companies that are already using it, some that are in the same industry. That would help you feel more comfortable with what it is you're getting into, and maybe open your eyes to some of the technical capabilities that the solution has that you really hadn't even thought about yet or which weren't presented to you in the sales pitch.
I would also advise doing a lot of planning, because some of the initial setup, design, and planning you do at the onset is hard to change down the road. Take some extra time when you're figuring out how you're going to set up your trading partners, what the naming conventions are, and things of that nature. It'll make it easier.
We've established a pretty good working relationship with our sales contact, and this has been important for us. If we want to have a demo of one of their new products, we're comfortable going to them and saying, "Hey, can you tell me more about this? Hey, can you do a WebEx session to show us how this works?" It's been helpful for us to maintain those relationships.
Obviously, with any new software, training is also something. Don't skimp on that. We did it in phases. We got training on the BIS Front End itself first, and then, when we were ready to start doing the mapping, we got training on the mapping. Down the road, we took some more advanced training. We were able to do it in phases, but it's something that you don't want to skip because there are a lot of good capabilities and different ways of doing things that, if you don't know about them, you may be shorting yourself on the solutions that you deliver.
We don't use the landscape manager but that is something we are interested in. I don't know a lot about it but it keeps track of the configuration of all your implementations so when you do an upgrade, it makes it much easier to manage. That's something we're going to be looking at with the new release of SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS).
We don't do clustering. We just have a single instance of SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) so I don't think we're using the Active-Active feature.
There are probably fewer than ten users of the solution in our organization. These are IT folks. They are the ones that really want visibility into the Message Tracking module to view the data that's come in or that went out to confirm that they're receiving the stuff they're looking for. Those transactions aren't with EDI people, they are people to whom we send a payroll file at a bank or a third-party payroll provider. The IT guys may want to monitor it.
Regarding staff required for maintenance, we have five people who are using the BIS Front End and the Mapping Designer. All five of us perform the daily monitoring activities and the trading-partner setup. We have it separated right now. We have three users in Europe and they're able to manage their own customers and suppliers. We do the same in North America. Two of us are doing the regular mapping tasks, while two of the others are occasional mappers. And one person is more of an administrator.
We have plans to continue utilizing SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) and to use it for more non-EDI types of activity, such as payroll, banking, HR, different sales systems, warehouse management systems, and integration between ERP systems. There is seemingly an endless number of integration projects. In addition to that, we've begun to do a lot of the web services or the APIs, even within our ERP system. So our EDI transaction activity may be staying the same, but we're using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) for a lot more of the non-EDI integration and data transformation stuff; not the typical automotive training partners, rather more financial related types of trading partners.
Overall I would rate the solution a nine out of ten, which is really high. I have been really happy with it. Of all the projects where people have come to me, I can't remember having to say, "No, we can't do that." We're able to deliver what I have been advertising since 2012, so it's meeting our needs. Most of the issues we've had have really been things that we've done to ourselves. It hasn't been the product or bugs in the software. Support has been pretty good, we've had consulting services that have gotten to work with us regularly and they know us, so we feel like we're in good shape to tackle some of the newer projects or bigger projects in the future.
The only thing I'm always wanting is that SEEBURGER doesn't seem to be doing a lot of marketing in the U.S. It's a German company, the founder is in Germany, and most of their development staff is over there. Not as many folks are using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) in the U.S. They're using IBM and TrustedLink and those type of products. When I talk about SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), nobody knows what it is. I have to sell the product and what it can do. If SEEBURGER could do some marketing, do some reaching out to management, the executive level, to give them some visibility into this product, it would make my job easier.
While there are a lot of companies in the U.S. using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), we don't have a network or a users group. SEEBURGER has offered some sessions in the past, where you could go to Atlanta and they would give you a three-day update on new things they're doing, but there's no forum for users, other than on Facebook. There isn't really a users group that I know of where we could get together and do things, have conferences, etc.
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.