EDI / B2B systems are expensive to setup. A positive ROI (Return on Investment) is realized only after economy of scale is reached. This may come after the successful implementation of 10 trading partners or 1000. The exact figure depends on the initial investment and the expected returns from each successful implementation. What is known is that the faster, and simpler the implementation the less expensive it will be. Also, the more that the initial implementation work can be reused and leveraged, the more cost effective it will be and the sooner the ROI will be recognized.
In order to maximize our ROI, it is necessary that we prioritize our tasks and efforts. Which trading partners do we implement with first? Where is the greatest potential savings or returns? One of the first steps to implementing our strategy is to audit our internal business processes, and then to audit our external business processes involving our trading partners.
The following list contains questions that must be resolved before and during EDI / B2B system implementations.
- What information is exchanged between business partners? This includes formal documents such as purchase orders, invoices, etc., as well as informal documents such as messages, memos, phone calls and faxes.
- How and where is the information initiated; manual input, screen entry, or computer generated?
- Where can time be saved?
- How much labor savings could be recognized?
- What is the internal flow of information?
- Currently – How many copies are produced, and in what format?
- Who receives copies and why?
- Are these copies stored and for how long?
- What control and reporting measures are used-status reporting, audit trails, security safeguards?
- What specific information is needed for current application programs-form of data, data flow between applications, entry of data?
- What information is available from application programs?
- What results are produced?
- What is the format and structure of the data output?
Once internal and external business processes have been documented, it is necessary to evaluate the changes required to your internal systems to accommodate the EDI / B2B standards that both you and your partners require.
1. The addition of new data to the database to meet standards requirements.
2. The use of tables to cross-reference part numbers with trading partners.
3. A change in review or approval processes.
4. The development of a data link between the application program and the translation package.
5. Electronic linkages to the database for departments that formerly received manual reports.
6. The need to bridge between applications if multiple departments use the same information.