Got Technical Debt In B2B Ecommerce? Stop Digging That Hole!

Photo courtesy of Lance Cpl. Fredrick J. Coleman, public domain.

How to prevent technical debt

A recent tweet from IT thought leader Wayne Sadin captured a sentiment that’s essential for CIOs considering the future of B2B ecommerce at their organizations. In a chat about robotic process automation, Wayne said: “As responsible #CIOs it’s on us to minimize new #TechnicalDebt as we invest in #DigitalTransformation. First step to filling in a hole? Stop Digging!”

The metaphor of a hole is perfect for technical debt—but it doesn’t only apply to robotic process automation. In fact, it’s powerful concept for B2B ecommerce. In this post, we’ll examine how this insight applies specifically to B2B ecommerce.

Defining the hole (technical debt): Are you still digging?

Wikipedia defines technical debt as the “implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.”

So what does that mean in the context of B2B ecommerce?

Manufacturers often come to us with technical debt in B2B ecommerce. Here are the telltale symptoms:

  • Your ecommerce platform is end of life. It will become a liability once the vendor no longer supports it. Note: SAP WCEM (Web Channel Experience Manager) is a classic example of this scenario.
  • Your ecommerce implementation is still a standalone system, even though it was supposed to integrate to SAP. We see this situation with manufacturers who have implemented hybris (now SAP Commerce Cloud) and have yet to achieve a functional integration between SAP and hybris. Because this architecture treats integration as a separate problem from ecommerce, it naturally incurs technical debt, whether it’s eventually integrated to SAP or not.
  • Your ecommerce platform depends on middleware to talk to SAP, which requires maintenance of business rules in 2-3 places and introduces all kinds of possible errors that don’t exist with a direct ecommerce integration. Because this kind of solution requires you to maintain independent copies of your business rules in 3 places (SAP, middleware, and ecommerce), it tends to increase in complexity and cost of maintenance over time due to software entropy.

How to reverse the trend and start filling the hole

If you’re going to stop digging the technical debt hole, the first step is to identify the primary driver of technical debt. (If you have technical debt in B2B ecommerce, chances are, it falls into one of the 3 broad categories above.) For each of those 3 categories, here’s a suggested next step in your journey to ridding yourself of technical debt in B2B ecommerce:

  • If you’re replacing an end-of-life platform, evaluate your options for future-proofed, scalable B2B ecommerce. Hint: You should prioritize cloud-based software, like Corevist Commerce. That way, you’ll always be on the latest version, and you’ll work with a vendor who has committed to keeping the solution up-to-date.
  • If you’re replacing a failed SAP ecommerce integration, look for solutions that integrate to SAP out of the box. That way, you’re guaranteed to address the biggest problem with your previous solution. Hint: Corevist Commerce includes real-time SAP integration out of the box.
  • If you’re replacing a cumbersome middleware-based solution, look for real-time SAP ecommerce integration. This type of architecture requires business rule maintenance in only one place—SAP—where you already maintain it. Therefore, from the perspective of business rule maintenance, it incurs no new technical debt and no new cost because it reads your SAP business rules directly. Hint: Corevist Commerce integrates to your SAP system in real time.

The Takeaway: Choose cloud-based ecommerce that’s integrated to SAP in real time.

A solution like Corevist Commerce addresses the common causes of technical debt in B2B ecommerce. Because Corevist Commerce integrates to SAP out of the box, it doesn’t require middleware sitting between SAP and ecommerce. This architecture, based on direct, real-time integration, cuts out a great deal of cost and complexity. Since Corevist Commerce is cloud-based and maintained by our team of SAP ecommerce experts, it’s always on the latest version and always integrated to your SAP system. It’s intentionally designed to avoid new technical debt.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see what scalable, future-proofed B2B ecommerce looks like in real life? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. This leading manufacturer of flooring launched a Corevist Commerce ordering portal integrated to SAP, then added a catalog with rich content when they were ready. The result? 150% sales growth in the digital channel.

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About Author

George Anderson

George serves as Digital Marketing Manager. A blogger and journalist with a passion for B2B ecommerce, he has written for the Magento blog, Digitalcommerce360, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, ERPgenie, and others.