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The First Step to Business Network Collaboration

Business Network Collaboration is more than just the exchange of business data and electronic documents between business partners. It’s about a complex set of collaborations and communications between the various parties and the coordination of these activities. It’s about supporting these sophisticated relationships virtually and seamlessly all around the world so that business continues to move at the speed of the Internet. It’s about business network collaboration. Business Network Collaboration needs to be documented.

The following list identifies a few of the categories of information that needs to be documented in order for a company to effectively and efficiently conduct EDI & B2B with trading partners.

  1. Document internally preferred industry EDI/XML/B2B standards, EDI implementation guides, IDocs, XML schemas and web service interfaces, and organize by business process and trading partner.
  2. Document the details of the business process that is being automated through the use of EDI or other B2B formats.
  3. Document the timeframe requirements and priorities of implementing various business partners. Who is most important and needs to be implemented first?
  4. Document your EDI/B2B vendor/service provider’s sales contact and account information.
  5. Document any EDI/B2B consultant’s or internal software engineers involved in specific implementations. Know how you can contact them?
  6. Document your trading partner’s EDI transaction set(s), B2B messages and XML schemas in a standardized guideline. Include all of the semantic and syntax information.
  7. Document and store your trading partner’s business documents including trading partner agreements, project schedules, security requirements, relevant business agreements, NDAs, etc.
  8. Document the names and contact information of all the people in your trading partner’s organization that are involved in the EDI/B2B implementation (who manages the business process, EDI translator, security, communications, helpdesk, legal agreements, IT priorities, etc).
  9. Document task lists (specific to a trading partner’s implementation plan and schedule)
  10. Document your internal issue resolution and escalation processes.
  11. Document your EDI/B2B vendor’s helpdesk information, support plan information, renewal dates and history.
  12. Document the hardware, software and networks involved in your internal EDI/B2B processes so you can quickly resolve issues and answer questions from your business contacts and IT managers.

Here is the challenge. Where do you document and store all of this information? EDI software vendors don’t care. They do not feel this is their responsibility, although it is an absolute requirement for the EDI/B2B support and implementation team. I would suggest that the first step of any EDI/B2B implementation project is to design a database application that can be used as the designated repository of all the information listed above. This is how managed EDI/B2B service providers must do it in order to manage tens of thousands of implementations effectively.  The best practices that managed services providers use are relavent for internal EDI projects as well.

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