When it comes to selling online, we understand that EDI processes are a necessity for some organizations. B2B eCommerce may be rising in popularity, but EDI is still prevalent and a big source of revenue for those organizations running it. So, how can you make sure that your EDI processes are running smoothly?
It may not be as slick or sexy as some other technology, but EDI is a crucial part of your businesses. Because it’s in the background, it’s easy to ignore and most people probably just assume that it’s working. And if it’s inefficient? Well, who wants to spend money repairing something that just sits in the background when there are more exciting things to invest in?
From our experience, EDI systems are often neglected and could be performing much more smoothly for their companies. So how can you make sure you’re getting the most out of your system? We suggest running an EDI Business Process Review.
What’s a Business Process Review?
A Business Process Review looks at your software and how it is being utilized in your organization compared to industry best practices. Utilizing a cross-departmental approach that brings together a variety of users to evaluate your current software configuration, and examine what is working and not working as well within your organization. The goal is to provide you with a road map by which you can implement solutions for the identified opportunities to better leverage the tools you already have.
For any BPR, our process includes spending some time on-site with our client investigating the people, technology, and processes at play.
Starting with the people, our team spends a few days interviewing both executives and those people on the front lines of EDI processes. This includes getting an idea of the skill sets of those on the client team and determining where their strengths lie. After that, we compile a matrix of skills and resources.
From there we evaluate things at the technology level, including the different tool sets the client is using. Finally, we take a deep dive into their EDI processes to get a better idea of what their environment looks like. From setting up new customers and documents, reviewing the documents being traded, and troubleshooting processes that aren’t as efficient as they could be, we spend more time evaluating the processes than anything else.
Why do an EDI BPR?
We’ve found that clients running an EDI know that their system could be better, but they don’t know the specific fix they need. Perhaps the system is heavily customized and no one is quite sure how it really works. Or maybe there is only one person on the team who can navigate the tricky system.
The situation we’ve seen most often is when the data changes. EDI takes daily maintenance because if any data changes even slightly, it can ruin the careful balance of the system. If something is miscoded or a piece of data is forgotten due to human error, things will be thrown off course. Sometimes data changes are unavoidable as a large customer dictates it. Adjusting your system to meet those demands can get messy very quickly.
A BPR addresses many other common EDI challenges, including:
- Data mapping and working with your EDI translator
- Custom coding found with EDI systems on IBM i
- Customer request backlogs
- Rolling new customers onto the system
- Adding new document types
All of these things are important to evaluate and document so you can identify ways to make your system better. A BPR will smooth out the infrastructure and make it easier to use so that it can be internally managed moving forward. By partnering with an experienced team and giving your EDI system a good hard look, you can clean your system up and make it easier to manage.
We worked with a client who, like many organizations, was running multiple EDI processes to communicate with customers and vendors. They were experiencing a number of pain points in their EDI environment, however. The main challenge was that their EDI environment contained duplicated software tools and business processes. This resulted in tasks taking too long to complete. As an example, things like adding a new customer or making changes to an existing customer’s information were taking an extraordinary amount of time to complete.
Managing their day-to-day activities was laborious as the processes had multiple points of failure that required the help of multiple people to fix. Because of these hiccups, they were spending too much time and money on supporting their EDI environment. Additionally, the organization wasn’t sure that they had the right mix of skills and resources working within the EDI environment.
This client already knew that the technology layers were in bad shape, but they wanted a second opinion. Our team took a look and analyzed how to approach these issues in a Business Process Review of their EDI instance.
We followed our established evaluation procedure and took that assessment of the people, technology, and processes and gave each item a red, yellow, or green score, along with explanations for those scores. From there, our team assembled a matrix of 20 recommendations of things to do moving forward. With the client team’s input, each recommendation was ranked low to high on effort to implement and impact to the business. To begin making changes, we recommended starting with those recommendations ranked as high impact, low effort.
With the priorities identified, we put together a timeline of next steps in terms of weeks, months, and quarters, as well as which recommendations could be completed internally and which would require outside help.
By following those straightforward steps, our client now has a plan to improve processes and technology, consolidate their environments, and make their infrastructure more straightforward. They also know which business processes need improving and what training is required for their team.
This is an assessment that our team can do for any client, and any EDI customer should at least think about doing one. By evaluating your current people, technology, and processes, you gain a better understanding of what’s working and what isn’t. With those specifics sorted out, you can better plan for future improvements.