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Understanding the Complexity of B2B & EDI Implementations

Let’s start out by discussing the tasks involved with EDI / B2B implementations. EDI / B2B implementations involve many different people, systems, documents, business processes, departments, positions and trading partners. All of these variables must be discovered, analyzed, documented and addressed during the implementation and maintenance of EDI / B2B systems. These variables make for complex working environments as you can imagine.

It is natural to think that the EDI / B2B software solutions providers would have developed software tools and applications to simplify the management of these variables, but they have been reluctant. The reasons can be found in their annual financial reports which detail that traditional EDI translator companies make between 67-69% of their revenue from services. They view complexity as a driver for consulting revenues, and therefore have little financial motivation for simplifying these challenges.

EDI / B2B Projects and Tasks

Let’s consider the work involved in a EDI / B2B project implementation.

  • Decide on a B2B Strategy
  • Educate top management on the value
  • Obtain top management support and funding
  • Recruit and hire an EDI / B2B team
  • Establish a project team (get on all of their calendars)
  • Conduct/obtain EDI / B2B training (bring in trainers or incur the travel expense to send them elsewhere)
  • Educate the business users on the B2B / EDI processes that impact them
  • Select B2B / EDI technology platforms, tools, standards and integration applications
  • Perform an EDI audit (trading partner survey to learn what your supply chain and customers can support and integrate)
  • Develop cost benefit analysis of automating each business process and trading partner community
  • Select and prioritize trading partners
  • Decide on a data exchange / EDI standard
  • Establish EDI Trading Partner agreements/contracts
  • Negotiate with your trading partners to actually sign them
  • Map to EAI/ERP/Databases/Standards
  • Conduct Pilot
  • Review Pilot
  • Promote results and get more funding to expand the project

Let’s now take a look at some of the specific tasks required for EDI / B2B e-Commerce implementations.

  1. Identify, categorize and prioritize trading partners (customers and suppliers)
  2. Identify B2B standards that meet your business needs
  3. Customize these B2B standards to match your existing data requirements
  4. Document your customized implementation guides for future reference and sharing with trading partners
  5. Negotiate the definition of data elements (what do you mean by unit?)
  6. Define business rules and process flows
  7. Define and negotiate “technical dictionaries and descriptions” to be used
  8. Define escalation procedures for production errors
  9. Define and agree on implementation schedules and switch over dates
  10. Negotiate trading partner agreements
  11. Create test data files that match your standards
  12. Use the test data files to test the system
  13. Communicate any errors to your trading partners
  14. Identify trading partner contacts (project leader, EDI specialist, Business owner, etc)
  15. Integrate the data to your ERP or API
  16. Manage multiple implementation projects at the same time so you can on-board your 348 suppliers before year 2043
  17. Analyze the effectiveness of B2B exchanges with specific trading partners
  18. Adjust business processes to take advantage of automated B2B exchanges in near real-time

These are just a few of the daily tasks necessary to implement B2B. It takes expertise, business process re-engineering and a significant investment of time and resources to implement B2B.

Today, many companies are recognizing that they want B2B data exchanges with their business network, but perhaps on a managed service basis so they don’t have to incur all the costs upfront. They are treating the B2B connections more as a telephone service exchange. They want the benefit and use, but don’t want to implement and manage all the network connections themselves. They would rather find a service provider that can spread the implementation costs over thousands of users and manage the 7x24x365 service from a secure data center staffed by experts.

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