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In the course of my work over the past few weeks I have spoken with a good number of large companies and IT departments. As a result of these conversations I have compiled a list of what companies have been sharing with me about their rapidly changing priorities in Q1. Here is my list:

  1. Reducing the TCOs (total cost of ownership) of assets
  2. Reducing operational costs (consolidating functions into Shared Services Centers)
  3. Consolidating and simplifying IT assets (reducing and consolidating the number of ERP instances, different redundant software solutions and B2B and EDI systems)
  4. Developing agile systems that can change quickly based upon changing markets and economic conditions.
  5. Achieve the benefits that SOA (service oriented architectures) promised
  6. Conversion of manual processes (that require more FTEs) and automating them
  7. Converting paper documents to electronic file exhcanges (e.g. paper invoices to electronic invoices)
  8. Optimize accounts payable processes to reduce processing costs and to realize more early payment discounts
  9. Implement e-Invoicing with customers to reduce processing, mailing and customer service costs
  10. Working capital optimization – exploring options in the financial supply chain to find and preserve more working capital

It is interesting to recognize that most of these priorities can be positively impacted by efficient business process automation and effective EDI/B2B E-Commerce enablement. The vision of EDI/B2B has long been to replace manual and paper based document exchanges with electronic and automated exchanges of data. The trouble was, it took too much time and effort to achieve the vision using traditional EDI implementation methodologies. Today there is reason to be optimistic.

Service Oriented Architectures, enterprise services repositories, web services, secure Internet communication protocols, matured EDI and B2B standards, and the advent of EDI/B2B managed services hubs are reducing the costs and greatly simplifying the ways business process automation and EDI/B2B implementations can be accomplished.

EDI and B2B managed services companies, some with investments by large ERP providers like SAP, are taking advantages of these relationships to develop solutions that remove integration barriers, extend existing work flows and business processes beyond the 4 walls, and make implementations much faster and less expensive. The economies of scale that can be achieved by large EDI and B2B managed services hubs with tens of thousands of connected companies make them a very compelling alternative for companies. Traditional models of self-funding a complete EDI infrastructure and team internally and implementing multi-year EDI roll-outs is hard to justify in today’s climate if there are better and less costly alternatives.

The more that companies embrace and implement SOAs, the easier it is to benefit from the economies of scale and expertise of low cost managed service options that are increasingly in demand in this economic climate.

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