Photo 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.’”