Digital supply chain management

How Tradeshift’s Flexibility Drives Successful Supply Chain Digital Transformation

An Interview with Tradeshift’s Mathieu Pasture, VP of Engineering System Integration Platform at Tradeshift

Every day, thousands of businesses use the Tradeshift network to connect with their business partners, trade, and grow via digital supply chain management. None of that would be possible, however, without the powerful integration platform that facilitates the seamless exchange of information between different companies and their systems. 

As the technology landscape becomes more diverse, integration remains a key factor in any supply chain digital transformation strategy. We spoke to Mathieu Pasture, VP of Engineering Systems Integration Platform at Tradeshift, to understand more about the challenges around integration and the vital role that his team plays in making global trade seamless.

Watch highlights from our conversation below, and read on for a more in-depth summary of what Mathieu had to say.

Tell us a little bit about what you and your team do at Tradeshift.

At Tradeshift, we want to create a global network of companies doing business together. We are building a more connected world. Our team creates the infrastructure that underpins these connections. 

Doing business together means participating in common business processes. And that’s exactly what our products facilitate. We make global trade seamless by building the digital connectivity that allows companies to work together. 

For that to happen, you need a solid platform, smart business logic, and a nice user experience. But all of this counts for nothing without integration. Think about the integration as the glue that brings these different technologies and systems together. Integration is a way to strengthen relationships between companies and people.

Can you dive a little deeper into the solutions your team is focused on delivering?

At a very basic level, we pull data from a source system, and we push that to another target system in a different target format. We accept dozens of different protocols and formats. We offer countless digital transformations and processing options. The number of potential combinations is infinite, and we’re the very best at making sure the connection works.

On a practical level, our integration platform underpins two products. Firstly, we have Tradeshift Link, which is fully integrated into the Tradeshift UI. We use Link to connect companies to the Tradeshift network. That typically involves integrating procure-to-pay data between buyers and sellers. 

Then we have what we call “Babelway Classic.” It works on a similar premise to Link but is used for integrations outside of the Tradeshift network. Again, most of the integration happens around the sharing of digitized supply chain information, but as a self-service platform, we see a fairly wide variety of uses among our customer base. For example, some businesses are using “Babelway Classic” for order forecasts.  

Why does integration remain such a critical element of any supply chain digital transformation project?

Data integration is one of those topics people have been predicting will disappear in five years. In fact, the opposite is true. Data integration needs have exploded over the past decade as the technology landscape has become more diverse. 

A lot of businesses we talk to still retain on-premise systems, but they’re increasingly deploying SaaS software across a variety of different processes. All of these disparate pieces of software need to be able to function together in order to provide different teams with a uniform view of data across a variety of sources. Importantly, they want access to that information in real-timereal time. 

Integration goes beyond the four walls of a single business. Many of our customers have integrated with their largest partners. Still, there’s, but there’s a growing recognition that to fully embrace supply chain digital transformation to fully embrace digitalization, they need integration with all of their partners, right down to the very smallest. 

Regulatory requirements, such as the worldwide move towards Continuous Transaction Controls, are raising important questions about the need for integration. We’ve also seen a shift in the industry toward security and compliance. It was innovative in 2015 to have an ISO27001 certification, but today it is a basic requirement for even small customers.

What are some of the typical challenges that businesses face around integration? 

Any digital supply chain transformation integration requires a certain level of technical expertise, particularly when you’re dealing with multiple systems and diverse sets of stakeholders. It’s fairly common for us to work with companies that need to integrate systems where data belongs to different companies spread across the world. This is the type of flexibility that we provide all the time in Link and Babelway. 

Integration opens the door to a lot of possibilities, but it’s the end of the story. People often forget the initial setup is only a fraction of the job. Don’t underestimate what comes next.

It’s vital that organizations have plans to cover aspects including monitoring, alerting, documentation, change history, testing, and so on. This is an area where our platform really comes into its own. All these features around administration and lifecycle integration are readily available. We remove a lot of complexity by cutting out the middleman and delivering features directly to the right person.

What misconceptions around integration do you encounter when talking to customers and prospects?

There’s certainly some legacy thinking around integration that needs addressing. We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking to customers about why the traditional approach to integration is no longer relevant. 

In the old days, customers would typically have a binary choice between managing their integrations in-house or outsourcing to a service provider. The first option is expensive and quite risky. The second option means surrendering control. 

Today, the SaaS approach is a lot more understood. Customers are realizing they can get the best of both worlds. 

You mentioned a ‘new’ approach to integration and digital supply chain transformation integration. What’s new and differentiating about our approach?

We always had the vision to get integration out of the hands of developers. From our very earliest days, we’ve been steadfast advocates of the ‘No Code / Low Code’ movement. And for good reason. Development resources are scarce and expensive. Developers also like to make things overly complex.

For sure, there are times when a high level of technical skills is needed. We have a fantastically talented team at Tradeshift who eat complexity for breakfast. More generally, however, we believe that more business-minded people are better equipped to implement and maintain integration. 

We know that integration can often appear complex, involving several systems and a continuum of document formats. In that kind of context, the visibility offered by Tradeshift Link is critical and, I believe, unique in the market. 

Flexibility is a term we use a lot at Tradeshift. Can you dive into the significance of that for us?

Tradeshift’s power comes from its global network of connected businesses. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

What knits the network together is the machinery sitting below the surface that moves data back and forth between different systems. Flexibility on this level is unique. 

We complete the software offering by delivering comprehensive support and services, from buyer integration through to supplier onboarding, and not forgetting our Babelway professional services team for integrations outside of the Tradeshift network. I’m convinced that this is one of the fundamental elements that keeps our customers happy. 

You touched on regulation a little earlier. Can you give us more of a flavor of the kind of projects you and your team are working on?

There’s a major move towards mandatory e-invoicing compliance across the globe. Each territory has a different system, requiring a specific integration. This can often mean a very precise implementation of digital transformation. Tradeshift helps businesses to achieve compliance with these regulations. 

In France, for example, the government is in the process of implementing a mandatory n e-invoicing system that will ultimately impact any business that has a footprint in the territory. 

Many businesses will meet these requirements by using a specialist ‘Plateforme de Dématérialisation Partenaire’ or PDP. Each PDP needs to be located in a data center in France. We would not be able to comply with this requirement without the flexibility of our integration platform. 

Finally, what advice would you give to a business that’s approaching an integration or digital transformation project?

Businesses will often embark on an integration project before they’re really aligned on what they want to integrate. What tends to happen then is that you have integration engineers getting involved too early in the process and making business decisions before those decisions have actually been fleshed out. 

Integration is a conduit to business goals. It’s never the goal in and of itself. Start your integration project discussions only when the business discussions are over. 

Learn more about Tradeshift’s approach to integration.

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