How to Find the Best EDI Solution For Your Operations
In today’s supply chain, change is a constant. Businesses have to gather and communicate information in real time to manage variability and efficiently match supply to demand. Flexibility and scalability are important. But with new sets of transactional requirements and data elements emerging, integrating and mapping this information to existing business systems and rules is a recurring challenge.
Electronic data interchange (EDI) technology and infrastructure is adapting to help businesses more quickly and accurately share information within the corporation and across the supply chain.
For many companies EDI is a critical enabler, not a competitive differentiator. But with the rapid growth of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery platforms, businesses are reconsidering how they electronically integrate with external trading partners. Combining existing EDI connectivity with SaaS functionality and pay-as-you-go convenience shifts the pressure of how technology is delivered and the risk and return of investment from the end user to the service provider.
The new EDI model is scalable and accommodates diverse needs. For a small or medium-sized business with no EDI functionality, a cloud-based solution is preferable to investing money in a hard system install. It’s also advantageous for companies with existing and aged EDI hardware that are looking to upgrade with new peripherals.
As companies strive to stay lean and reduce costs, SaaS EDI solutions are proving their worth. Technology buyers gain operational latitude and economy by plugging new customers, service providers, and vendors into an adaptable solution with flexibility to grow.
7 Rules to Finding the Best EDI Solution
Shippers and service providers have three options when they shop for EDI solutions: a traditional hardware platform and software license; a hosted solution and singly managed service; or a multi-tenant SaaS solution, where the vendor hosts and manages the service. When considering SaaS EDI suitors, make sure solutions meet these seven criteria:
1. Support all transactions, data formats, label requirements, and workflow. IT vendors should be able to perform all of the tasks of a targeted operation to maximize the solution’s efficiency. This includes required tasks (purchase orders, advanced shipping notices, invoices, UCC-128 labels, branded packing slips) and specific workflow scenarios that require shipment to DCs or vendor managed inventory.
2. Provide a comprehensive outsourced solution. A SaaS EDI service must be able to secure data conversion into and out of the EDI system; map data, business rules, and workflow unique to each customer and trading partner; connect the software/network for transporting data between suppliers and partners; and integrate ERP and/or accounting software for importing and exporting.
3. Use multi-tenant application architecture. The most important feature of SaaS EDI is its strategy of reusing maps. This is critical to providing superior reliability at a lower cost than in-house approaches.
4. Ensure services are easy to access and integrate. To be efficient, EDI services must integrate easily into existing workflows. For example, Internet access allows users to perform tasks regardless of whether they are in the company’s or partner’s facility, or a foreign country.
5. Offer role-based, secure user accounts. EDI users want data that informs them where their product is in the chain of supply. Enabling suppliers to create sub-accounts and distribute their use to third-party partners gives customers greater visibility to shipments in transit.
6. Allow migrations without interrupting existing systems. A solution is only as good as its capacity to accommodate a user’s unique scenario. Practical EDI solutions provide the necessary tools and are built to make transitions among partners painless and seamless.
7. Offer related trading partner products. Not all solutions are created equal. Many offer the same functionalities, but some recognize the value of EDI transaction data to other processes and offer services to help suppliers improve processes such as electronic cataloging and item synchronization.