The Three Stages of EDI Implementation Part 2 – Limited Use EDI

By Bob Raida on

This blog post is part 2 of a 3 part series describing the various types of EDI implementations (Initial, Limited Use, and Extensive).  The prior posts can be found here:  Intro, and Part 1.

Stage 2: The Limited Use EDI Implementation

It doesn’t take long to see the benefits of EDI when it works well.  Whether you measure the gains in terms of your ability to sell to customers with EDI requirements, or if you look internally to your own streamlined process and error reduction. However, it is easy (and common) to get to the point that you can see the benefits of EDI, but don’t know how to expand or improve your implementation.

Frequently when I ask companies if they use EDI the answer I get is something like “yes, but not well”, or “yes, but we want to do more and we’re not sure how”.  These are the responses common to those that I categorize as being in the “limited use” stage.

For these companies they have made the initial investment and data is flowing.  However, making EDI work well consistently and efficiently is the challenge – especially for the IT department that is already being pulled in a number of directions and may have little real EDI expertise on the staff.

Options at this stage: in house EDI or outsourced EDI.  Either one will enable integration, which is key.  The method you choose should depend on what kind of expertise you have on hand and how involved you want to be with your EDI translation and mapping.  If you have EDI expertise readily available you may be in good shape, but it can be very effective to rely on a third party to manage your implementation.

For those companies in this stage there are a handful of things you can do to streamline and enhance your EDI implementation.   A few suggestions include:

  • Automate EDI jobs and transaction processing. The fewer manual steps the better, so it will be in your best interest to schedule jobs that kick off the movement and processing of data.
  • Look for ways to improve error checking and reporting. If you can identify and trap issues with data before it goes to your translator you can make trouble shooting that much easier.
  • Make sure everything is well documented. This includes EDI specifications and procedures, but it also includes maintaining a database of good contact information.  Eliminate time wasted trying to look up the right person to call at a trading partner in order to get EDI questions answered.
  • For transactions that you control, create implementation and data requirement guidelines. These may be as simple as a list of data points that you require.  Often times, the hardest thing to do is to add trading partners.  By ensuring that all processes and data requirements are well documented you can bring new partners on more efficiently.
  • Consider outsourcing EDI to a third party and the above suggestions will be managed for you!

In general, my advice to those that are in the “Limited Use EDI” stage is to keep it simple and keep the costs down.  Naturally, I recommend outsourced EDI for many companies in this stage.  This is what I do for a living and there’s a reason I chose this path after 20 years’ experience with EDI!  Handing the keys over to a partner that can work with you to expand your implantation can be extremely effective and economical.  In fact, even if you are large enough to have EDI experts on staff, you will still likely find that outsourcing is more cost effective than your own team.

If you’re not ready to outsource, hopefully the above tips come in handy.  By the way, Foundational offers EDI consulting to help if you’re not ready to outsource.

Stay tuned for part 3 – the “extended use” EDI implementation.