If you were talking to someone whose organization is considering SEEBURGER BIS, what would you say?
How would you rate it and why? Any other tips or advice?
The biggest lesson is to understand the monthly fees and whether or not you're going to be making use of all of the data cap at the time of go-live. If not, try to plan for expansion so that you're maximizing the use of what you're paying for. SEEBURGER take a lot of the headaches away from you. That was the main point of it. We were very demanding about the contracts. We got them to amend their standard contracts to meet our requirements. Make sure that you read the contacts thoroughly and that you understand all of the implications. Know what's expected of you and what to do in the implementation in ongoing phases. We haven't really had to do any maintenance since we've migrated to them. I am the primary contact in my organization. I'm trying to bring one of my colleagues up to speed about what EDI is, to start him off from scratch. He has no knowledge of it at all. But the main point with SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) is that you don't have to have the knowledge. They take all the hassle away from you. I'm just in a bit more of a privileged situation because I do have the knowledge. But the point is, you say to them, "All right, I have these five trading partners. If I want to reduce our costs, what information do you need me to get from them?" I can then request it and pass that back to SEEBURGER. Or we can pay SEEBURGER a little bit more money and they'll do it end-to-end. It depends on the skills you have in-house and how much you want to do yourself. They'll take it all away from you, or you can still do a bit yourself. They also have other solutions that we haven't taken onboard as of yet, but we could consider in the future. They have some integrations with the tax authorities, like making tax digital. We have a branch in Italy and SEEBURGER have an Italy e-invoicing solution, in accordance with Italy's government policies. But we already have the solution for that, so we don't need it. Integrating into customs is another one, but we don't really have a case for that as yet. So it's not just the EDI, it's a whole framework of things that they can offer. If we have any new requirements, they said to send them to them and they'll put together a proposal. It's really an area that they specialize in. When we were selecting SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), we were looking at a few different other options. But they really have a high number of trading partners already with them in the automotive business. So that's hopefully something that we can make use of in the future when we're onboarding. Hopefully it will take a lot less time. I look at the fact that SEEBURGER invests a high proportion of revenue into R&D instead of promoting brand awareness like this: If you haven't got a good product then no one's going to buy it. By putting that money back into the R&D, they're also making sure that they're meeting any new requirements that come up in B2B activity. For me, it's a thumbs-up. They have a lot of offices globally. One of the good things for us is that we are able to deal with sales and technical people based in the UK, but they do have offices throughout Europe and America and Asia. Some of our company's regional operations are also looking at SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) as a solution because they can talk in the local language. That was another really good point about SEEBURGER. And because we want to deploy onboard trading partners throughout Europe, they have people who can talk and work in the same countries as those people. That helps to take away those language barrier issues. Also, they're a wholly-owned business by themselves. They're not a sub-organization of anyone else. That was quite an attractive thing for us. They've been around for a long time. They've got a lot of integrations into many ERP systems including the one that we are looking to — SAP. They seem to have it all.
Have a good understanding of what your business is. Understand what protocols you need to support. Know what your volume of transactions is and what the latency is of those transactions. Do you have to deliver those transactions in five seconds or do you have to deliver them in two milliseconds or do you have to do it in five minutes? If I were buying software that would be my question to the vendor: How long does your tool take to go from point A to point B? The lessons I have learned from using the solution is that their tool can do many things. It's a full B2B solution, which is nice. They have additional software that you can tie into it. If your company ever needed something really specific to communicate with another backend application, or to convert an email to an Excel, or an Excel to an EDI file, their tools can do all that. We have around 30 to 40 people using it or who have access to it and different components of it. Their roles range from database administrators to people who monitor the servers themselves. Our EDI analysts use it and managers use it as well. SAP level-two support people use it. We have five people who are involved in updates and maintenance of the solution, including an operating systems administrator, a database administrator, IT operations, and my team that validates that updates were done properly. The fact that SEEBURGER invests a high proportion of revenue into R&D rather than promoting brand awareness is fine. They emphasize that quite a bit. They don't spend a lot of money marketing, like SAP or Oracle would. I'd rather them spend more money on R&D. That's where the value is. They're spending money to ensure that, with any new technologies and any new security threats or issues that come up, their application stays afloat. We may look at SEEBURGER'S API feature but it's a little bit early. We have an API management tool already. When we went to them looking for this some years ago, their tool was nice on paper, but it wasn't a reality. SEEBURGER has invested in the last couple of years and has come up with some tools. I don't know how many companies are using it, but I think it's a little premature right now for us to buy it. But it might be something that we switch to. Ten years ago, none of that played a role in our decision. It was more that our company had been using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) in Europe over the last three years and we needed to get the North American side of the business on SAP and to be on the same type of system. Because I've seen some other products, I'd rate SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) a nine out of 10. That's only because I know what they're capable of doing and there's room for improvement. It's not perfect, but their solution is probably one of the best ones out there.
The fact is that we use it for everything. It's pretty good really. My advice would be: Don't hand the initial development over to SEEBURGER itself. When we first put the product in, the SEEBURGER consultants that came along wrote very complex interfaces for things that didn't really need to be that complex. We're only just removing some of those complexities, because it's not really very supportable. The best thing would be, if you're doing it the way we do it, to either hand it all over to SEEBURGER and let them look after it, or if you're keeping it in-house, get your people trained to the eyeballs so that they can do the initial system setup themselves. In our environment, there aren't really users, per se. We allow some users within IT to view the front-end, but that's ten people at any one time. However, as I say, the number of processes that run through it in files, that's what we consider to be our user base, and it's in the vicinity of 300,000 per week. We have a team of four to deploy and maintain the solution. We call them the integration specialists or EDI specialists. The fact that SEEBURGER invests a high portion of revenue into R&D, rather than promoting brand awareness, is good for us. Some local companies use SEEBURGER & they usually take it on because they need some aspect of the system that isn't provided for by any other systems. We have plans to use one of the solution's additional services, the API management. We use our own, in-house MFT, which we don't require to become cleverer than it currently is. It's a very simple sort of system. But the API, that's the new kid on the block, which we will start working on. We're starting on that path. That will be work that happens this year, probably when we migrate to 6.7. That's when the API management will come in, in a major way. It's not so much our customers who are driving that, it's more suppliers.
The biggest lesson we've learned throughout our time using it is not only a lesson with SEEBURGER but with all remote vendors, because everything was done remotely. That meant we had to be very clear in communication and in logging issues and tickets with them. And it required a large amount of testing because even though there's the standard format, every customer does something different or has different requirements. We probably underestimated the testing required. Those were the two big lessons for us. It was quite late in our project that we established that our VAN provider couldn't communicate with SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). So my advice would be to establish that upfront. Make sure there's a really good ticketing system and any issues are well-documented because the implementation is going to be remote. Also, have a very good estimate of how many messages you process so you can buy the right package or service level from them. We have simplified how we track errors because at times there will be maybe an issue on the customer because a product is not set up, for example. We batch our invoices, so we would need to find which files need to be resent. We've simplified that, but that's done in our ERP system. The other simplification we did, which was SEEBURGER-related, was that we update the status of our SAP documents which communicate with SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). That was an improvement for tracking errors because now we just go to SAP to find out the status of an IDoc. We have the status that it was sent, whereas before, we would only know that it was sent to the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) system. That was an improvement for us. I don't think SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) has saved us money. We had an on-premise system which was at end-of-life. The service charge replaced the maintenance on that. So it's about the same, maybe a little bit more. It's good that they're putting effort into R&D, rather than investing in brand awareness, but if we, as a potential customer, are not aware of it, we're not going to look to use it. I'm not overly aware of what SEEBURGER is doing or how they can help us. They have tried to have meetings with us sometimes but we're very busy because we're now in the middle of doing an ERP migration. I've heard the solution can transfer other documents, like PDFs and marketing documents and that it can do other things besides the standard EDI messages we use. But currently, we have other tools that do that sort of stuff, like Microsoft Azure, etc. I don't think we have any plans to increase our footprint with SEEBURGER at the moment. We only have two users of the solution because it just works away in the background. It's like a blackbox solution to us. The only time anyone would have reason to go into it is if we had a problem. It doesn't require much maintenance from us. And really, there's not much we can do either. We can just see there's a problem and then log a call. I would rate the product around a seven out of ten. The product is reliable. We don't have any outages. We do get the messages. Everything is converted. And there is a query tool. It's pretty basic. I would like to see more features. And I would like to be able to do a bit more to troubleshoot, rather than having to log a ticket straight away. They're quite pleasant people to deal with. It's just getting the resources. They did have a resource issue when we were doing our implementation and there was some restructuring happening at their end.
My advice would depend on the purpose you're considering SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) for. If you are going to use it like we are using it, I would say it is a really good tool. If you have restrictions where you can't change the applications you have - you host a lot of third-party applications and you need to integrate the data between each of those applications, then SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) is one of the best tools available. There are other tools, but this one is one of the best. We may look to use the solution’s additional services such as its MFT (managed file transfer). We have three integration specialists and one team leader for maintenance of the solution. We also have a design lead but he's not entirely dedicated to SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS); he does design for other things as well. We have seen version 6.7 and we want to migrate but we have not because migration is a big task for us. It might take some time.
Do your technical homework carefully to ensure that it's the right solution for you, because all solutions are slightly different in various different ways. It depends on your own back office systems and how your communications would work. Do your due diligence on technical requirements. The biggest requirement that we have is resilience and robustness of the systems. If they fail for any reason, there is a monetary cost to us. The biggest lesson that we have learned: If you partner closely with them, maintain the stability. If there are any issues, understand what those issues will be before they occur and before they would be able to potentially cause any problems. The reliability, resilience, and robustness of SEEBURGER's services are the most important things. We have had good service and uptime, generally. The resilience is pretty good. We have not experienced any problems. SEEBURGER is established. They have a long standing presence within the market. They appear to have been there for a considerable period of time. If we had to change our systems, that would be a big upheaval in terms of the amount of work and testing that we would have to do. It's not something that we want. We would be unlikely to partner with a company if we felt that their future was uncertain. I think it is a good thing that SEEBURGER invests a high proportion of revenue into R&D rather than promoting brand awareness. Some companies have a huge marketing spend compared with their R&D. If they can support it, then great. For SEEBURGER, the R&D is important because they need to be resilient and responsive. They need to be delivering what their services should be providing. It is crucial for us that the R&D spend continues to be sufficient. We have no plans to expand into their API management, MFT, eInvoicing, or IIoT services at the moment.
My advice would be to make sure you have a good, strong change-management group which can assist and help along the way. If you're not coming from something like we did, it can be a struggle getting people to adapt and change. It's not so much the system, it's the people that'll be utilizing it. It also helps if you have a strong SEEBURGER consultant there who makes sure that your IT people fully understand what's expected and where they're going with it. We don't use the Landscape Manager at this time but it is something we're looking at. In terms of the Active-Active feature, that's part of IT while I'm on the business side. I know it's being utilized. We have had very few issues with the load volume passing through it. It handles it well. Sometimes we see a few spikes, but they don't last and they don't cause any system issues. When it comes to adding integrations, the way we're utilizing it, a lot of it seems to be pretty fluid. We haven't had a ton of issues. We use middleware. We don't allow direct-connect to any other platforms, at least on the US-side of our operations. We have various file formats that we have to convert the documents into, and putting them through message queues, or through the NAS Exchange, has been pretty easy. If we have issues, it seems to be on the other side of the ball, where they didn't set up their interaction or integration correctly. We increase the usage every year. To give you an idea, 99 percent of all our purchase orders through our vendor partners run through the platform. The one percent are new partners who are still working at getting their EDI up. For the purpose of trading most documents with us, the bulk of it goes through this platform, whether it's invoicing, shipping notices, purchase orders, changes, etc. We're looking at what they're offering for the 6.7 upgrade. We're definitely strongly interested in the new Message Tracking upgrade. Landscape Designer is being looked at for our infrastructure group, for being able to handle upgrades and service pack upgrades. And there is the potential move, eventually, to go to 6.7. I would give the platform itself an eight out of ten. As I said, I have a problem with the error messages that are in the system.
Create a matrix of criteria to evaluate all tools fairly. In our company, we have ten to 12 users of the solution and they are very technical development/support people. Deployment and maintenance are shared among a team of people but SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) requires almost no maintenance.
Make sure your internal team has the manpower required and the knowledge, of course. It's big. It shouldn't be left up to SEEBURGER, the way I did. I made them do more work than they should have had to do. To use the on-premise you need to have good technical people, not just business knowledge but also technical. That might be a drawback for some companies. The advantage is that they cover the EDI world: EDA, EDIFACT, ANSI. The American guys are great at their ANSI and EDIFACT and the European guys are great at EDA and EDIFACT. I don't know if it's true that every software company out there is able to cover all three of those worlds as well as these guys seem to. In North America, there are only two of us using the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) Cloud version. It's 90 percent me doing all of the checking, communicating, and updating with the SEEBURGER team and my one SAP team member is there to back me up or answer questions. I don't think he's been on it since January 2018. We have two solutions, we have cloud and we have on-premise. Two more people use the on-premise. Our plan is that we're actually moving everything to on-premise now. There will be two main people, myself and my colleague in Germany, who will be to the two main people for maintenance, and we're looking at one minor role in both Europe and America that will just be there to get the alerts, making sure there are no stoppages during the day. But the two of us will be the ones installing maps. If there's a map adjustment required, I would work on that, but the two of us will be doing the installing and mapping of the communication and new users. In terms of the extent of usage and plans to grow, we have three plants using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), two plants on cloud, one on-premise. We just moved a small plant to on-premise last month and our plan is to move two more. Then, as our company rolls out SAP, we're looking at moving three more. If Asia jumps into EDI someday, it will grow even more, but right now the Asian market isn't using EDI. We'll see how that works out. We're hoping to, within the next year, move a Spanish plant onto it as well. I would rate this solution at eight out of ten because it covers as much as it does. It's not higher because I think it might be missing a little bit of the non-automotive world. They focused on the big EDI-hitters, versus some of what I call the "industrial applications." That's the only place I've seen where it doesn't seem to be as strong.
Training, of course, is really important. Get trained on the tool. If we could have used some of the consulting from SEEBURGER for the initial implementation, we could have learned best practices. Because now, when we go back and look at some of the EDI maps that we developed, now that we are experienced, we say, "Okay, we could have done it in a different way or in a better way." If you get that help in the very beginning, then you can avoid all that, and do a better design of the overall solution. In terms of the users, it's basically an IT-supported application. We don't really have any direct business users. We have six or seven IT people who support the system. We have a team of four EDI analysts who mainly do all the EDI implementations and regular day-to-day support. We have an admin team, but we hardly use them. It's only during any restarts or any maintenance that we have to use them. On a day-to-day basis, we have a team of four people who actually provide support on the system. Regarding extent of its use, as I mentioned earlier, we are using it mainly for EDI. We also do have some other tools in our company that we are currently using for application-to-application and business-to-business integration. SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) is mainly for EDI-related stuff. In terms of usage, on a yearly basis, we have an objective where we try to increase the usage of EDI in our company. We reach out to our trading partners and a lot of our customers who are currently not sending documents through EDI. If they are sending orders, or we send invoices to them through, for example, email or fax or another manual method, we reach out to them and ask them if they have the capability so that we can onboard them into EDI. With that campaign, every year we are increasing the usage of SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) by at least some 15 to 20 customers. We have the on-premise solution. We have not used the Landscape Manager feature. I would rate the solution at eight out of ten. As I mentioned, we are only using it for EDI. In terms of enterprise application integration, because we already had another tool, we don't even use that; I don't know where SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) stands in that. But in terms of EDI, it is a pretty good tool. If I were to just rate it for EDI, I would rate it a ten but, overall, because some of the capabilities that other tools provide, I give it an eight.
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.
The only advice I would give is to see that the industry is moving towards the cloud and this solution is an on-prem solution. The vendor does not have a cloud offering, at least not that we're aware of. So evaluate a solution based on your needs. Right now, we are deployed on-premise and we are migrating it into the cloud. The product is being used quite a bit and it's meeting all of our needs for file transfers at this point. We are not expecting to increase usage at this point in time. We are looking to the vendor for the cloud migration and, as part of that, we may have to add more cores. The cloud architecture is different than our on-prem architecture so we may have to make architectural adjustments to allow "five nines," and that might force us to buy some additional licensing. We do not use Landscape Manager, we only use the base solution, the Business Integration Suite. We mostly focus on the Manage File Transfer part. We do not have any business users using the solution, it is an IT solution. We do have support teams that are the users of the solution and they're supporting and monitoring the processes. We also have a number of software engineers who are configuring processes to take the files and move the files. There are about ten people who provide support for these things, so they have access to it, along with our system administrators and engineers. Our system administrator is responsible for running the system, upkeep, and making sure that the servers are patched and everything is working. We have a couple of engineers or developers who are using it. Right now, we are turning around about five to eight projects in a month. The developers work on some of these configurations and provide testing. It's a very small staff. I give the solution a seven out of ten because it's a very robust product and it works well, but architecture-wise it's complicated.
Overall, its an excellent product. I would highly recommend it.
We plan to increase platform usage by 25 to 30 percent over the next six to 12 months. This does not even include the WebEDI, which would probably add another 25 percent. We are not utilizing the Business Integration Suite (BIS) platform to its fullest capacity and functionality.
I would definitely recommend this product. We use it and we are happy with it. Generally, we have not had any major issues. Use SEEBURGER for implementation. Do not go with third-party providers. We don't use Active-Active. It's not necessary for our company. Instead, we use disaster recovery (DR) to help function with our host providers. We are consistently increasing usage of the product. Currently, 75% of our usage goes through SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS).
We are now considering using the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) solution, the exact same one, in the SEEBURGER Cloud, meaning we are not going to have it on-prem and we're going to have them do the transport and the translation to us and then send the EDI data, so we don't have to manage the server on-premise. It's the same basic concept but it's slightly more robust having them manage the maintenance of the system. We are 99 percent sure we're moving to their cloud and that would give us the stability and scalability that we need, so we can have that same process work globally and not just be reliant on our one on-premise instance. The strategy of moving to their cloud is for both of those reasons. So the product in and of itself, on-prem, does not give you that, but the same product, in their data centers around the world, allows me to do the same functions but where I need it. We're going to the cloud in the next three to six months because of scalability, because of global reach, and standardization. We have one user of the software and their role is the mapping development and the day-to-day coordination of changes. They monitor the flow in and make changes as needed, based on customer maps: a new map request, a new customer, or new sites. That same person also does the maintenance and the deployment. I'm looking to have the same tool globally and I will be able to contract people to do it in Asia, since they speak a different language. I will contract SEEBURGER consultants to do that for me. I don't know if we're using the Landscape Manager and I don't think we take advantage of any Active-Active in terms of handling larger loads, as we have one instance. It's not multiple and it's not their Cloud Services, it's the on-prem SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) 6 platform. In terms of its flexibility, when it comes to adding integrations, it's not that kind of setup for us. We don't integrate into SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). We use the tools and the mapping, Workbench, as it's presented, and send the EDI information off to our ERP system. We don't take advantage of integrations. I would rate it at eight out of ten because the current tool is planned to be moved to the cloud so we are not looking to switch. We are looking to scale it globally, so we are pretty happy with it.
The Active-Active helps handle larger loads without time delays. Our reaction time has changed by 50% since implementing this solution. There are so many moving components. Even if it is on-premise, some servers need to be on the DMZ and some need to be inside of the firewall, so working with SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) made it easier.