Your EDI Resource

Why is EDI Still Around?

Posted by Roger Curtis on Fri, Nov 02, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

14884844251_4fbbf3479e_zPhoto appears courtesy of www.twin-loc.fr.  Welcome to our 200th blog post!  As I think about EDI through the years, I remember sometime during the early 1990’s taking a class on the structure and workings of XML. XML was all the rage and was supposed to replace EDI at any moment!!! It’s 20+ years later and yes, XML is widely adopted now in web service applications where systems talk to each other, but it’s really still the wild west with XML XSDs (XML Schema definitions) often inaccurate.  And it involves a lot of back and forth with trading partners saying, “…oh, hard code this, and that XML element loop can be executed multiple times, not the once limitation in the XSD, etc. etc. etc.”  Implementing XML with a new trading partner or transaction often feels like black magic to get it all working correctly, and that’s in the best of circumstances – usually it’s teams of technical and business staff on endless conference calls just to get it right.  Did XML replace EDI?  No.

So why is EDI still around and so widely adopted? It’s structure man, pure structure.

For decades volunteers from all industries have gone to quarterly ANSI X12 meetings all around the country to sit around in hotel conference rooms (undoubtedly with pastries and coffee abound plus fruit for the healthy ones) to hash out the EDI standards we all use. See this past blog on the history of EDI.  Still in use today are Versions 4010 for Y2K, 5010-5030 for the Walmart crowd, 6010 and now into the 7010-7030 to do who knows what.  Widely used documents include the 850 PO, 810 Invoice, 856 ASN, 875 and 880 Grocery documents, 940 Warehouse Ship Order series, 210 Motor Freight invoice and 110 series for the Air freight Jetsetters.  All these transactions and hundreds more are precisely defined down to the Inch, Foot, LB, KG, EA, CA (case) and PC (piece).

It’s hard to find a business transaction which can’t be exactly defined by one of the EDI X12 standard defined documents to allow your system, regardless of how large (think Boeing, GM or Walmart) or small (one person companies) to seamlessly talk to each other. We service enterprise level companies who send and receive hundreds of thousands of transactions each month as well as single entrepreneurs who make flower leis in Hawaii.  Virtually anyone can be EDI capable and that’s why EDI has thrived so strongly over the decades since it was developed!!!

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Tags: EDI, EDI Standards, XML, business transaction

B2B Growth Leads to New Adventures

Posted by Warren Spiller on Wed, Oct 24, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

jawsPhoto appears courtesy of Kevin Dooley.  “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,”  is what Roy Scheider famously said in the 1975 film Jaws.  Of course, this is now a well-known euphemism for “we’re going to need more resources,” which brings us to a meeting three decades later.

It was a beautiful spring evening in Atlanta in April of 2011.  Faith Lamprey of Aurora Technologies, Harrisville, Rhode Island, Roger Curtis of Sitcur, Los Angeles, and myself, Warren Spiller of JRX Services, Atlanta, were attending the annual meeting of Liaison Technologies’ reseller partners.  The three of us had been resellers for Softshare’s pioneering EDI mapping and communications software for quite a while, and now Softshare had been acquired by Liaison Technologies, a world-wide provider of B2B integration and data management solutions.

Faith, Roger, and I sat in the hotel cocktail lounge, reminiscing about our past experiences over the years, how we enabled our client companies to become EDI compliant from scratch, or helped them to replace outdated EDI software with ECS and Delta, the state-of-the-art software originally developed by Softshare, and now would be an important addition to Liaison’s product line.   

We also talked about the future.  Our individual regional approach to marketing our extensive expertise and software had been working well.  We all had solid and successful businesses, but would this be enough to meet the challenges ahead, especially in light of the global marketplace now available to us with Liaison Technologies?   We all agreed that we were “…gonna need a bigger boat,” a new business model with a nationwide presence in which we could share our combined vast EDI and data integration experience and resources, and yet maintain our individuality.  And so, the Aurora EDI Alliance was born!

The Aurora EDI Alliance has experienced major expansion, so that we now are a major nationwide provider of EDI implementation and support, data integration, and related B2B services.  And collectively, we are now Liaison’s largest reseller with customers around the globe.    

Recently Faith Lamprey decided to sell her business (Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc.) to another Aurora EDI Alliance partner, GraceBlood LLC, based in Baltimore, so that she could accept a full-time position teaching accounting and technology at Providence College.  GraceBlood has retained all of Faith’s staff and customers, and Liaison has heartily approved of the transition.  The newly formed company is well poised to build upon a foundation that has been 20 years in the making.  Current solutions and support services will be expanded with more resources and expertise, while retaining the industry-leading customer satisfaction for which they’re known.  We will surely miss Faith, but we are confident that the GraceBlood team will lead us to new heights.

Faith’s leadership, along with our combined 200 plus years of experience and B2B expertise, has truly fulfilled the vision that we planned on that beautiful spring evening seven years ago.  How can we help you fulfill YOUR vision???   

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Tags: B2B integration, B2B, data integration, EDI software, data management

Business Process Automation (BPA) - Where Do I Begin?

Posted by David McAlister on Fri, Oct 05, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

5422793573_83facbd326_oPhoto appears courtesy of John LloydThis blog was written by Michael Barnhouse of McAna EDI.  For many years industrial process automation was accomplished with such inventions as the moving assembly line, and more recently robotics have been leveraged to further the automation of an inherently physical process.  In today’s data rich internet era, process automation is not limited to the industrial process or viewed as an emerging technology, but a necessity for every business in determining how best to serve the customer.  Business Process Automation (BPA) allows successful organizations to focus on developing key relationships and differentiating the value they deliver in the marketplace.

BPA in today’s business landscape is a broad topic.  To fully explain what it is, how it has evolved, where it should live within the business and supporting infrastructure, who uses it, and the demonstrable benefits that can be achieved are far beyond the scope of this article.  What I hope to convey in this article is how to get started with a BPA project.

So, where do you begin with a BPA project?  How do you identify which processes should be automated?  What else is necessary to start?

The first step in every BPA project is for the business to ask and answer two questions:

  • What differentiates the business in the marketplace?
  • What are the competitive advantages the business has over its competitors?

Next, companies must identify the processes within the business that are strategic and core to its success.  Essentially, the processes that deliver the most value or enable the differentiation and competitive advantage.  For instance, improving order accuracy, reducing time to market, improving customer service, or decreasing pricing while improving margins.

Once identified, a process must be well defined, else it is not a candidate for automation.  This is most often the biggest barrier for many small and medium size businesses.  Most do not have well defined processes, relying heavily on key employees to manage the process, and the all too many exceptions that exist.

Next, companies should rank the processes.  The highest ranking being given to processes that consume extensive time or resources and are often rife with human error.

The following is a listing of process types that are opportunities for automation:

  • Simple and repetitive
  • Document management
  • Finance management
  • Clear decision tree or matrix
  • Order management (Sales or Purchase)
  • Tracking and alerting

With the candidate processes identified, there are a few additional tools and resources that will be needed to begin a BPA Project. 

A project champion is the most important resource to drive the desired improvement.  Business owners and entrepreneurs typically focus their attention toward their products, services, technology and sales teams for the champion. The best champion for the project may come from anywhere in the organization.  While it is imperative that the champion is internal to the organization, the knowledge necessary to successfully accomplish the BPA project can come from other internal or external expertise. 

The remaining tools are the systems the business already own and use every day.  Many of which may have workflow automation capabilities that are unknown or unused.  There may be several mission critical stand-alone software applications in daily use that are not but could be integrated.  One important tool that likely does not exist in most organizations is an integration platform.  This will provide the framework that enables, orchestrates and monitors the new processes established through the BPA project efforts.  One such tool is Delta/ECS from Liaison Technologies.  Delta/ECS is a full featured enterprise level integration platform, scalable to every business need. 

Delta/ECS offers:

  • Data Transformation Mapping
  • Event Driven Process and File Handling
  • Advance Process Monitoring and Notification
  • Trading Partner and Document Management
  • Comprehensive and Integrated Communications

If you believe that your organization can benefit from exploring the benefits of starting a BPA project, I encourage you to reach out to a group like the Aurora EDI Alliance.  We can help you identify your path to BPA success.

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Tags: automation, business process automation, BPA, workflow automation, Liaison Delta/ECS, Integration

What are the Most Successful B2Cs Doing?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Sep 21, 2018 @ 06:17 PM

14865096482_366bdf03df_zPhoto appears courtesy of Mike MozartThis blog was written by Aurora EDI Alliance partner, Jim Gonzalez.  This is a question all companies should be asking themselves as we are moving in the direction of purchasing all goods online through mobile devices.  How often do you go to the store to pick up something you ordered online? Grocery stores are moving to ordering online with the local store delivering to your home. Some stores - Walmart and Target come to mind - allow you to order online and pick up at the local store to save on shipping.  This is due to Walmart and other major entities moving into other sectors they weren’t historically known for. Walmart was the go-to retail store for discount items just a decade ago. Now they are pushing to also be your discount everything from tires to iPads to tomatoes, and even offer additional discounts for ordering online with store pick-up. To further meet consumer demand, they are offering more items that are either organic or sourced sustainably or both.  Think about it, if you stay stagnant, you will quickly become irrelevant in today’s competitive environment.

You want to evaluate where your business is successful compared to your competitors. Then work through how you can expand those areas in the next month, year and decade. Envision the future growth to keep pushing the envelope.

I am seeing more and more successful B2Cs adding as much automation as possible to remove the human error, along with keeping the customer informed throughout the entire customer experience. You might not think of Domino's when it comes to Business to Consumer (B2C), but they are doing a fantastic job in this area.  Their system allows you to order food online and get notifications of where your order is at in the process, from time of order to delivery. You can also check online to see the progress.  Think about that – their customer never has to call to find out where the order is. This also reduces the amount of staff needed to handle those inquiries, allowing for more time to make pizza.

The last major hurdle is to be the trend and more importantly, to keep being the trend. Amazon is leading the charge among all B2Cs. They are looking to place warehouse facilities to allow delivery of products to homes in 24 hours or less.  Also, they’re working with stores that use radio frequency identification (RFID) to allow for purchases without having to wait in checkout lines. They are acquiring other market leaders like Whole Foods to expand offerings – did you know that Amazon has lockers at Whole Foods’ brick and mortar locations?  Order from Amazon and pick up at Whole Foods!  It’s the perfect compromise for apartment dwellers and the like.  And they’re looking to start using driverless trucks to get products cross country faster without driver fatigue.

Your business may not have the cash advantage like a Walmart, Domino's or Amazon. You may not have as many employees or resources. But what you do have is the opportunity to make your mark. All of those companies started out of nothing and became something. If you need a partner to guide you through some of your technical initiatives, contact us for a consultation. We will help you expand through data integration and automating your business processes.

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Tags: B2C, data integration, automation, amazon, Walmart, smb

Dashboard Dreams

Posted by Shandra Locken on Tue, Sep 18, 2018 @ 06:51 PM

5380858405_1a63aed659_zPhoto appears courtesy of Airwaves1.  This blog was written by Alliance partner, Karen Blood of GraceBlood LLC.  Our company serves supply chain clients who operate their own on premises systems for handling EDI activity as well as clients who rely on our managed services for handling some or all such B2B activity. We’ve been exploring how best to leverage the latest technology to deliver useful, actionable information based on such activity directly to our clients. Lately, we’ve been dreaming about delivering dashboards, or at-a-glance views of key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor important aspects of the business. Today’s tech is so powerful, today’s dreams quickly become tomorrow’s reality!

We’re starting by imagining what the various stakeholders might need and how they would benefit.

The bread and butter activity for most of our clients is performed by the wizards in Customer Service. These are the people who ensure that every customer’s needs are being met. With a properly running, automated EDI system a quick glance at their daily dashboard can confirm system processing including activity and exceptions by trading partner and performance status vis a vis service level agreements (SLAs), especially for more demanding trading partners. Anything amiss becomes easily actionable and leaves more time for any ad hoc activity, i.e. addressing product, service, billing or other concerns. While internal ERP systems supply much product-oriented and transactional information, we can easily imagine querying a dashboard system for the customer’s PO # and getting back a visual flow from the customer’s perspective of not only when that PO arrived, but when it was acknowledged, shipped, and invoiced, including the option of drilling in to each document. Why shouldn’t we be able to query with any piece of available information and then pick up the entire related document flow?

Part of the Operations team’s dashboard might be more volume oriented to guide staff utilization, i.e. focused on #s of orders, #s of lines, organized by ship via as well as partner and requested shipping date. Another part might clearly identify orders facing shipping or ASN deadlines. What about alerts for Rejected ASNs which may be due to mismatched or missing information? Operations should be able to drill-down to identify the challenge, and quickly correct which can avoid the ripple effects of an invoice being rejected because the ASN has not yet been accepted.

The Controller / CFO types dream of dashboards to improve payment days, and queries to support refuting any chargebacks that are incurred but more importantly wants the information about activity, chargebacks and exceptions aggregated for easy analysis, prioritization, and elimination, collaboratively both within the organization and with trading partners. Are we doing enough business efficiently with a given trading partner to meet a SLA demand or price reduction request? It is easy to lose sight of orders that are processed automatically - what about alerts for unusually large ones?

IT of course wants the new Dashboard system to be easy for non-technical, non-EDI familiar users to successfully use. Really, they do, IT already has a lot on the plate. They want additional dashboards to be available to address the specific needs of their various stakeholders, and useful templates to encourage creation and adoption of new ones. What about definable notifications and alerts by e-mail or text message? For speed, security and risk management, IT wants the infrastructure for such a system to reside separately from the production systems yet be linked real-time for the most up to date info without regard to time of day or other scheduled business processes. IT would wake up ecstatic to have a system built on trusted data that is already flowing in and out of the company rather than one that requires transformation or cleansing. And IT wants to deliver such a system fully loaded, with data from as much as possible of past activity so applicable dashboards may be easily built and used immediately.

Let us know what’s on your Dream Dashboard and watch this space to see your dreams come true soon!

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Tags: data integration, dashboard, big data analytics, B2B integration, business processes, Integration, ERP integration

EDI Testing Challenges - Lessons Learned

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

3716273172_fe716fbf1f_zPhoto appears courtesy of frankieleon.  This blog was written by Kristen Kearns, EDI Manager for Aurora Technologies. Who else does this happen to?  Mapping is done, VAN/AS2 connections are set up, you have gotten through testing with flying colors, and then you go-live and EVERYTHING falls apart.  OK, perhaps I’m being overly dramatic….maybe not everything. Sometimes it is just a minor thing, but other times you are blindsided by a major problem!

I just went through extensive testing with a large trading partner, we passed their testing with several documents.  We go live and BAM!  Come to find out there was a large amount of data missing or wrong when we went live.  I really do not know how they passed us.  And the specs were incredibly vague.  Getting slammed with chargebacks is not a great way to start out a new trading relationship.  We did not change a thing when going live, so why was everything so different? 

How can you avoid potential issues?

  • Get the latest specifications from the trading partner.  Sometimes a trading partner does not have specifications so you need to make sure you work with them ahead of time to find a solution.  You do not want to test through documents only to find out when going live there was additional information they wanted/needed. Work with your salesperson and their buyer to find out what type of documents you will be receiving/sending as well as what should or should not be included in them.

  • Sometimes the trading partner has several sets of the same document depending on the business rules.  Find out if you can just test the documents and the types of documents you will be actually trading.  That will also cut down on the confusion

  • Make sure you have the right people involved in the right pieces of the process.  Most of these projects are B2B (business-to-business) integration projects rather than just EDI implementations.  That means there are typically a lot of different business processes involved.  I just had a client who did not have the warehouse review the packaging requirements and they are getting hit with some major chargebacks for not placing the labels on the cartons correctly. 

  • Where data is concerned, the number one issue I see is item numbers.

    • First issue with item numbers is the trading partner tries to send you data with “dummy” item numbers but you cannot test that through your ERP system.  Just ask, most trading partners, even the EDI testing companies (i.e. SPS Commerce), will allow for real data.

    • Second issue with item numbers, is once you go-live, the trading partner doesn’t have all of your items entered, or entered correctly.  Make sure your people talk to their people and get the items correct between the 2 companies.

    • Another data issue is ship-to location codes.  Make sure you get their list of location codes and set them up in your system correctly.  Doing this ahead of production, will make for less intervention.

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Tags: EDI testing, chargebacks, B2B integration

EDI is 90% Political

Posted by Shandra Locken on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

6811644901_04d479b706_zPhoto appears courtesy of Newtown grafitti.  This blog was written by Art Douglas, member of the Aurora EDI Alliance.  We have all heard some of the sayings of that wise American philosopher, Lawrence Peter Berra, aka Yogi.  “It isn’t over ‘til it’s over,” and “You can observe a lot just by watching.”  But my all-time favorite is, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.”
 
Yogi’s sayings make you think, and it made me think of a corollary to his math-challenged quote that is every bit as true:  “EDI is 90% political, and the other half is technical.” Think about it.  Once you’ve learned the basics of the technical part of EDI, nearly every challenge is political in nature.  The CEO wants to know if EDI is so great that it runs automatically, why does he need to budget for a staff of even one to babysit it?  Political.  Here’s one I’m dealing with right now.  The connectivity team at a giant health plan will only talk to one person at each of their trading partners firms.  Technical?  Nope, political.  A new CIO comes in when the company is acquired and announces that he has a buddy who can program a custom EDI system so they don’t have to pay the annual maintenance on it.  Definitely political.  Another client brought in an EDI expert who helped them put together requirements for their new EDI system.  Together they produced an RFQ and received several responses.  Once all the responses were received, the managers got together and decided to purchase the most expensive package.  The architect was not consulted.  After two years, they abandoned that package and purchased the least expensive package.  Ten years later, they’re still using it.  Political?  You think?

How do we, as EDI consultants and experts, handle the political issues?  We know how to correct a mapping error, or how to configure an FTP to place files in a sub-folder on the target server, but how do we deal with the misconceptions management, trading partners, and the business units of our employers or clients have that cause even bigger headaches? Let’s become experts in communication.  This can be somewhat challenging for so-called techies, but I would argue that it’s necessary to be successful.  We must learn how to network with people, how to become known and respected, how to speak up, write coherently and cohesively. We must view our roles as much bigger in scope than they appear to be or in some cases, want them to be.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Speak to your superiors about their goals for EDI, IT, and the firm

  • Offer your expertise when questions arise for which EDI could be the answer.

  • Learn the company org chart – who is responsible for what.

  • What are your company’s challenges?  Could an EDI solution be part of the answer?

  • Join a local Toastmasters club. Find one at Toastmasters.com.

  • Ask somebody who is good at writing to help you improve.

  • And in case all else fails, update your resumé.

Remember, as Yogi says, “I tell the kids, ‘Somebody’s gotta win, sombody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just get better.’”

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Tags: EDI solution, EDI Consultant, EDI, EDI expert

What is Tableau Software and How Does it Relate to EDI?

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 @ 08:36 AM

2126909099_b37c305b9b_zPhoto appears courtesy of Todd Huffman.  Data seems to be the be-all end-all of today’s business world.  We have access to more data than ever before, but no one seems to know what to do with it.  Enter Tableau.  I spent three days in a Tableau class this summer to learn how to use this software package to discover interesting insights that can be found by analyzing data about a company’s customers and products.  The Tableau software is a data visualization tool that allows you to explore and better understand your data and create insightful visuals and dashboard displays to help with decision making.  Using the analytical tools and robust visualization the software contains can unveil trends, correlations and meaningful statistics that are not obvious by just looking at the raw data.  Tableau also enables a story about the data to be told in a format that is interactive allowing for slicing and dicing of the data to answer questions from your audience during a presentation to reveal even more insights on the fly.  This software is powerful and easy to use and is being utilized by many organizations to uncover a wealth of information from their data to help with decision making.

What becomes quickly apparent when working with this type of software is that it is essential to spend time up front to review and clean the data sets.  In order for the software to provide valuable and actionable information that can be trusted, the data that is used must be accurate, consistent and complete which is not usually the case with data.  The data cleaning step (also called data cleansing and data scrubbing) can take some time, but investing the extra effort will allow the software to provide more meaningful results. 

Data should come from a trusted source.  It should be compiled and maintained under a sound data governance program that uses good editing and verification techniques to ensure the integrity of the data.  In a data cleaning process all fields that are to be used for analysis should be verified to ensure that the data values are not missing and the fields contain valid data.  For instance, in order to perform meaningful and accurate geographic analysis, all state fields cannot be blank or contain an invalid state code.  Often codes must be standardized when looking at data from different divisions of a company to make them consistent across organizational lines. 

This is no different than what we find with EDI transactions.  A missing item number will cause an outgoing Invoice map to fail when the data element is a mandatory field.  An invalid item number on an incoming Purchase Order will cause a delay in the processing as that item will be unknown to the Trading Partner receiving the order.  We are currently working with a customer whose Trading Partner continues to send invalid item numbers that slow down the incoming purchase order process while demanding a short time for our customer to ship the order without penalties.  In addition, the users at the company have been changing data on the order accidently (carelessly?) which causes problems with the outgoing invoicing and ASN process.  This is frustrating for all of the parties involved and the chargebacks are mounting.

I have been in the Information Technology field for many decades and while so much has changed, one thing has remained constant.  Only good data will yield meaningful results that can be trusted for decision making.  The process of data cleaning, while it is a rather mundane, very time consuming task and not on the top of anyone’s list of fun things to do, is essential as a basis for all information processing.

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Tags: big data analytics, data integration, EDI, data transformation

The Definitive Guide to the Business Benefits of Digital Transformation

Posted by Shandra Locken on Tue, Jul 03, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

bigstock-Win-Win-Strategy-199453594This blog, written by Liaison VP Gary Palgon, is reprinted with permission by Liaison Technologies.  Much has been said and written about digital transformation and its benefits. But as companies that have embraced digital transformation continue to be analyzed and studied, patterns emerge and the positive impacts of digital transformation can be summarized into three major benefits: the transformation of business operations, the evolution of customer-centric organizations, and the revolution of business models.

Key Benefit #1: Business Operations Transformation

Arguably, the most important and impactful benefit of digital transformation happens behind the scenes. The transformation of business operations lays the foundation for other key benefits of digital transformation.

This benefit can be further categorized into three types: the digitalization of business operations, empowerment of employees, and greater resource management.

Digitalization of Business Operations

Using technology to transform business operations reduces or even eliminates processes that do not require human judgment or strategic thinking. By digitalizing business operations, enterprises are freeing their employees from menial tasks and allowing them to focus on strategic tasks. Digitalization achieves this for enterprises through applications that make business operations less time consuming, and programs that completely automate business processes.

For instance, T-Mobile transformed its IT department by automating its testing process. By automating over 83% of its IT department’s test scripts, T-Mobile’s IT experts, programmers, and developers were able to focus on more complicated test scripts that require human judgment. At the same time, automation streamlined its testing process, leading to greater efficiency and reduced errors.

Greater Resource Management

Digital transformation has paved the way for enterprises to capture large amounts of varying information and transform them into deeper insights. Big data analytics provides enterprises with real-time information and greater visibility and insights into its operations, especially the performance of its assets. This allows enterprises to make faster and more objective decisions based on data. 

As the ingestion and analysis of data become faster and more powerful, the level of detail that enterprises are able to capture and generate is also improving, allowing them to make even deeper and more informed decisions that were not previously possible. For instance, big data analytics has enabled the analysis of thousands of connected devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), which provide extremely detailed information on assets, operations, and processes.

Empowerment of Employees

Aside from being able to focus on strategic tasks, technology has also increased the mobility of employees and the collaboration and knowledge sharing among them.

Through the virtualization of work processes, many employees can perform their work regardless of location, even in the comfort of their own homes or when posted overseas. In the area of field service operations or aftermarket industries, the virtualization of processes is even more beneficial as it allows field service engineers and technicians to access the latest information even when they are on the field or when they are mobile. This also allows enterprises to reduce costs by saving on office space rentals and other related expenses.

Networking and collaboration applications enable employees to work together, even when they are remote. It also eliminates the inconvenience of having to find a meeting room and setting a schedule when the meeting proponents are all in one place. These applications also open the door for enterprises to communicate with third parties and even global partners. Finally, these applications can also enable and encourage the sharing of knowledge and best practices among employees leading to the overall improvement of the enterprise. This is what Marriott has done exceptionally well as it incorporated the best practices across its 15 brands into its entire company culture.

Key Benefit #2: Evolving into Customer-Centric Organizations

Among the three key benefits of digital transformation, elevating enterprises into customer-centric organizations is the most obvious and evident. The results of this key benefit are greater customer insights and a better overall customer experience.

Greater Customer Insights

Just as technology is enabling enterprises to gain insights on their assets, it is also enabling them to capture information and gain deeper insights on their customers.

With the rise of e-commerce and social media, there is an abundance of customer data for enterprises to gather. For instance, by listening to what people say on social media, enterprises are able to gain an understanding of what customers like and what leads to dissatisfaction.

By using applications and programs that can integrate with e-commerce and social media websites, enterprises are able to capture, utilize, and analyze these information and transform them into meaningful insights. For example, McCormick, one of the leading spice companies in the world, launched FlavorPrint. FlavorPrint captures customers’ flavor preferences and recommends recipes that they can try based on these preferences. Not only did this enable McCormick to engage with customers and add value, but it also put their customers at the center of their future product development and promotions based on the data they capture.

Better Customer Experience

Greater customer insights also lead to the transformation of the overall customer experience. By better understanding their customers, enterprises are able to deliver what their customers want. For example, using these insights and customer data, enterprises are able to provide customers with more personalized products, services, and even promotions.

Technology also empowers enterprises to provide their customers with a truly digital experience. For example, enterprises are now able to provide customer service through social media channels, thus assuring customers that they are heard and that their grievances are addressed as quickly as possible.

Key Benefit #3: Revolutionizing Business Models

Digital transformation is not only improving how enterprises operate from within and how they interact and engage with customers — it is also redefining their entire business model.

Creation of Digital Products and Services

Consumers are now willing to pay not only for physical products and services, but also for digital ones. Technology is also enabling enterprises to augment their physical products and services with digital offerings. Some companies use digital technologies to promote and sell their physical products, while others are even able to build businesses around purely digital products and services.

Under Armour has developed a fitness app that captures not only its customers’ health and fitness information, but also data on how its customers use its products. Knowing that the average running shoe breaks down after 400 miles of running, Under Armour is able to notify customers and recommend its products based on their activity and fitness regimen.

Opening the Door to Globalization

Finally, technology has truly connected economies of all sizes and opened the door to globalization.

Technology has allowed enterprises to operate in any part of the globe by enabling faster communication and by establishing shared services for their support functions (such as finance and human resources) and even their core functions (such as sales and manufacturing).

Massive improvements and transparency in shipping and logistics, coupled with easier and greater access to shippers, extended trade from advanced economies and large multinational companies to developing countries, startups, small companies, and even individuals.

While the opportunities presented by globalization are providing an incentive for enterprises to transform digitally, the competition that globalization brings also compels them to change.

Digital Transformation Starts With Integration

Digital transformation enables organizations to open up new sales channels, find new markets and opportunities, increase revenues, and improve efficiency. But in order to begin their digital transformation journey, enterprises must start with connecting and managing data to ensure the highest quality of data is supplied to the enterprise — and only then can enterprises fully harness the business benefits of digital transformation.

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Tags: big data analytics, data transformation, data integration, globalization

Change in EDI is the Only Constant

Posted by Roger Curtis on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 @ 08:30 AM

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Photo appears courtesy of Gabriel Villena.  The only thing that is constant in EDI is change.  Coming up on 30 years in EDI I’m observing lots of change in my customer’s EDI.

Companies are moving to new VAN or adopting AS2 after sometimes decades on one of the older VANS. Along with that EDI IDs sometimes change. AS2 security certificates usually expire after 2 years.EDI software and ERP systems are updated, often with new user interfaces.

EDI standards are changing and companies are adopting new processes, documents or even moving to XML (they were worrying about that in the 1990s). And now more than ever EDI coordinators and programmers are retiring or moving on to hang up their hats and do something else.

One thing is often missing – good record keeping!!! This is a topic we have blogged about many times and it cannot be overstated.  Twice in the past few weeks I’ve encountered a changing of the guard at a customer's site where someone calls in a panic, “What’s our EDI ID?” or, “Our AS2 certificate is expiring, where’s the original?”  Also, “Where are the EDI guidelines for abc company?”  and, “Who’s the EDI coordinator at our big customer? Suzy coordinator has retired!!!”

Now more than ever, with all the change happening in our industry it is incredibly important to have a record, spreadsheet, database or Cloud storage of your EDI records with IDs, EDI Guidelines, AS2 certificates, software versions and a good contact list of who to call for help!!!  If you cannot put this together, find a company who can help you document all of this information.  Critical business processes depend heavily on EDI running smoothly so your success depends on that.

Have a great summer everyone, and document, document, document to support YOUR changing of the guard.

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Tags: EDI solution, EDI, Integration, EDI Documentation, EDI Consultant, electronic data interchange, ERP integration