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Evolution of Data and the Data Engineer

Posted by Shandra Locken on Wed, Jan 16, 2019 @ 08:30 AM

bigstock-Business-Team-Discussion-Team--119237426-1This blog is being reprinted with permission from OpenText + Liaison Technologies.  Article was written by Ehi Binitie. In the age of big data, most people understand the importance of gathering and using data to make decisions, drive business processes and understand what is happening throughout the entire enterprise. They know that people with very specific skills are essential to effectively capturing, managing and analyzing data for use, but the roles within the data team are not well understood – especially mine.

I am a data engineer. I work mostly behind the scenes to design and build the objects on the integration platform that house the data that must be captured, stored and made accessible to users. The architecture that I develop allows data analysts to access information in specific ways to analyze, create reports and provide insights that are used to drive business decisions. Simply described – data engineers are the designers, builders and managers of the information or “big data” infrastructure.

The role of data engineer has changed over the years. Before cloud computing was widely adopted as a solution for integration, information was housed in data warehouses that were difficult, time-consuming and expensive to expand when the business’ data needs changed. That began to change in the late 1990s when the concept of cloud computing expanded.

I joined Liaison, now part of OpenText, 14 years ago and was excited to be part of an innovative approach to data integration and management. By offering a cloud-based integration platform and a team of data experts to build and manage the service, we were offering a scalability and flexibility that met the data management challenges faced by our customers. Our capabilities to provide the same flexibility have expanded as we use new tools to manage the growing number of complex data sources.

One change that I’ve noticed is acceptance of “the cloud.” When Liaison first approached companies, there was a concern about the ease of accessing data once it moved offsite, the security of data and the reliability of the concept. Today, the cloud is part of everyone’s life, so these concerns no longer keep companies from looking at a cloud-based platform for their needs.

Another significant change in the way that data is viewed is the move from data-driven to data-centric. When I build a data-centric architecture, I can assure the business that the data will always be there in one location for multiple, task-specific applications to access. Applications can come and go as needed, but the data is always there. This future-proofs the company’s investment in the platform by providing the opportunity to add new capabilities as needed, without investing in a new way to collect or manage data.

Data engineers build the pipelines that transform and connect data from a myriad of sources – sensors, connected devices, social media and legacy systems – and ensure that the data is available in real- or near real-time to support insights that enable companies to effectively compete in their industry. Of course, we don’t just support the collection of data – we make sure that all users can access it regardless of the department, geographical location or application they are using to perform their analysis.

While all members of the data team are critical (in fact, I often say that data science is a team sport), I am biased toward my role.  Data engineers make sure that information is always available in whatever format to any user to help the company be competitive and successful.

Why not contact GraceBlood and find out about our Managed Services approach to "cloud" EDI services, as well as a new EDI visibility tool?  We work behind the scenes to allow you to do what you do best to maintain and build your competitive advantage without getting bogged down in the intricacies of day-to-day EDI.

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Tags: cloud, liaison technologies, big data analytics, data transformation, Managed Services

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

TBT - The First Question is, "What is EDI Capable?"

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 02:27 PM

34399736736_194bb0611c_z.jpgIt's Throwback Thursday (and May 4th, see pic) so to celebrate we are reprinting our most popular blog article.  Photo appears courtesy of Michel Curi.  

I get many calls each month from suppliers who have been told by their customer that they need to be EDI capable.  And their first question is, "What is EDI capable?"  Simply stated, being EDI capable is the capability to send and receive electronic business documents in a specific format based on established standards.  There are essentially two ways to accomplish EDI capability:  Outsource or buy your own software.

Companies who choose to outsource have about as many options as there are days of the year.  Between Web EDIhosted services, managed services, FAX-to-EDI, email-to EDI, and SaaS...the choices are almost limitless.  And the EDI providers who offer these services each add their own attractive features that make their solutions distinctive.  So depending on your priorities, the chances are good that you will find the perfect outsourced EDI solution.  

Buying EDI software offers many benefits if the volume of EDI warrants such an investment.  There are many things to consider when purchasing software and that's another blog article in and of itself.  But briefly, EDI software consists of a data transformation tool and an EDI communications vehicle.  Many EDI software packages have the capability of handling multiple data formats which is important in today's varied business environment.  You will also likely need VAN service and/or AS2 capability for communicating your data.  

So when the inevitable question, "What is EDI capable?" comes along, starting with this information will get you moving.  Just remember that being EDI compliant is not the end game.  It's an evolving business function and like everything else, must be periodically evaluated and updated. 

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Tags: automation, AS2, EDI basics, data transformation, Web EDI, SaaS, EDI Implementation, EDI software

EDI Software...Red or Blue?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Nov 04, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

EDI SoftwareWe published this blog originally back in 2012. It still resonates today, so with the upcoming election, we thought we'd post it again.  Much like our presidential candidates, EDI software, data integration packages and enterprise application integration (EAI) solutions make many promises but can they deliver?  And more importantly, are we holding them to their promises?  There are so many solutions available and for the most part organizations have the right idea when going through the process of choosing their solution.  Where they fail is in execution and post implementation evaluation.

I think what happens many times is that we have the best intentions.  We put together a team comprised of individuals from multiple departments.  Each department has their wish list and their pain points...what they would like to see from this candidate, er solution.  The team comes together and decides on a short list.  They see demos, they ask questions, they agree on their priorities and objectives.  They may even have debates.  At last a decision is made, money changes hands and they all look forward to that day when their lives get easier and those pain points are solved.  And then that day never comes.

The problem is that once the team is disbanded, there is no one driving the car!  Sure, the software gets installed and it's doing what it's supposed to do.  Yes the POs are coming in and the invoices are going out, but all that automation that was promised never happens.  Those "Wonder Twin Powers" that were supposed to change everyone's lives are never activated.  So what now?  A few years go by and everyone starts grumbling that the solution didn't do what it promised.  It didn't follow through on its claims.  So they start looking for a new solution and the whole thing starts over again.

My point here is that you can have the best EDI software on the market, the most powerful Enterprise Application Solution available but if you think it will save you by sitting on a server never to be thought of again, you are mistaken.  Whether you buy the "blue" software or the "red" software is not the point, as either color is likely just fine.  The point is whether or not you use your solution to its fullest capability and exploit its strengths.  It's easy to sit in your cubicle and criticize...but it's much more effective to work with your solution and help it live up to its potential.  

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Tags: data transformation, EDI integration, EDI Technology, EDI considerations, integration software, EDI Implementation, EDI options

Why We Love Liaison's Delta/ECS Data Integration Package

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Nov 06, 2015 @ 11:37 AM

Photo appears courtesy of Tony Hisgett. This week's blog was written by Aurora's Manager of EDI Services, Kristen Kearns.  Nowadays, there’s all kinds of products that have multiple uses.  My new favorite kitchen gadget is a flexible spatula/spoon sometimes known as a spoonula, that scraps, stirs, flips and is heat resistant.  Not any ordinary spoon from the dollar store, you need to pay a little more, but I use this spatula/spoon ALL the time.  Why am I talking about kitchen tools?  Just like in the kitchen, we all want an EDI software package that can do more than one thing, that is…more than just translate EDI data. 

For the purpose of the article, I will be writing under the assumption that the reader has an EDI background.  In our industry, we have to anticipate many complicated scenarios.  What happens if a trading partner wants to send you a flat file and they don’t have the capabilities to send X12?  Can your current  EDI software handle that?  What if they want to send you an XML file or you have to send them an XML file?  Can your current EDI software handle XML?
Having software that handles Any-To-Any translation is necessary in today’s technical world.  And right now, this is the number one reason why I LOVE Liaison’s Delta/ECS data integration package.
Just one example of what we’ve done with Delta/ECS included taking a traditional X12 EDI 850 Purchase Order that a trading partner sends to its supplier and did the following:
 1. Mapped that into an ERP database to automatically create orders.
 2. Created a human-readable text or HTML document that gets emailed to customer service personnel and various sales people.
3. Forwarded the raw EDI data to someone via email that they open with Liaison’s EDI Notepad (free download) so they can see the actual raw EDI data.  
And all of this is an event driven process that begins immediately when the 850 hits our system.  
On the flip side, we’re also taking spreadsheets from customers and transforming them into X12 EDI 810 Invoices to send to major US retailers.  Many of the retailers’ small vendors were not EDI capable and therefore didn’t have a way to create 810s for their customers.  We’ve been doing this for a number of years and the process works great.   So simple, so EASY!  It allows the big retailer to mandate EDI compliance in a way that is affordable and uncomplicated for the supplier.
Another example is a project where we took data from a client’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system for the Mexican government who wanted Sales Tax Data sent in XML format on a monthly basis.  All that was given to us was a sample XML file, along with the Section D Annex 24 specifications, which was a huge manual detailing the XML tags and requirements. The project was tricky because XML tag values, the XML header namespace and the file name of the submitted file all had specific requirements. Testing and debugging was further complicated because the XML tag names were all in Spanish. 

These example illustrate some of the flexibility that Delta/ECS offers.  I want software that can transform data, like Clark Kent-to-Superman!  And just like Superman, Delta’s mapping capabilities know almost no limit.  I once had a client that needed to send flat file information, but that data needed some complicated calculations before it could be sent.  Instead of writing a program to do that, we did it right in the map.  Thank you Superman, er Delta.
Another big reason why I LOVE Liaison’s Delta/ECS, are the many built-in communications protocols such as e-mail, AS2, AS3, SMTP, POP3, FTP, and sFTP.  Where else can you get all of these options, built-in for such a reasonable price?  We have clients all the time tell us that they looked at comparable software packages that were in the six-figure range!  And then if you need AS2, that is an additional module for more money.  Delta/ECS’ standard package has AS2 built-in and is WELL UNDER six figures.  If I have a client that needs to do all of these communications options, I have it all in one place.  And this has happened time and time again. A client needs AS2 and then they end up using the other protocols for sending and receiving data.
Ask us about Delta/ECS.  Better yet, ask our clients about Delta/ECS.  You will be enchanted.

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Tags: data transformation, EDI considerations, integration software, EDI software, EDI ROI, enterprise resource planning, EDI document, Liaison Delta/ECS, AS2

Who Wins the Popularity Contest? XML or JSON?

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Jul 31, 2015 @ 01:31 PM

6008686106_cf5ef5559f_oPhoto appears courtesy of the Auburn Alumni Association.  One of our Aurora EDI Alliance ERP partners asked an interesting question the other day.  He asked if he should start developing his maps to be sent in JSON instead of XML.  He felt that JSON was more popular than XML.  That started me thinking about this as we have been asked to do a lot of XML mapping lately, but not much JSON.

According to Wikipedia, XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format which is both human-readable and machine-readable. It is defined by the W3C's XML 1.0 Specification and by several other related specifications, all of which are free open standards.

Wikipedia says JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is an open standard format that uses human-readable text to transmit data objects consisting of attribute­value pairs. It is used primarily to transmit data between a server and web application, as an alternative to XML.

So why use one over the other?  A number of posts can found on the web touting the advantages of JSON over XML.  One posts calls JSON the "fat-free" alternative to XML due to its smaller grammar set (it is less verbose).  JSON also maps more directly onto the data structures used in modern programming languages.

Both XML and JSON are used in Ajax techniques. Ajax is a term for the ability of a webpage to request new data after it has loaded into the web browser, usually in response to user actions on the displayed webpage. As part of the Ajax model, the new data is usually incorporated into the user interface display dynamically the moment it arrives back from the server. For example when the user is typing into a search box, client-side code sends what they type to a server that will respond with a possible list of items from its database. These might be displayed in a drop-down list beneath the search box. The user may then stop typing and select the relevant string directly. When it was originally implemented, Ajax commonly used XML as the data interchange format. Now many developers use JSON to pass the Ajax updates between the server and the client as it is faster and more efficient. 

Numerous ERP packages (Oracle for example ) currently use XML for importing and exporting integration data.  Making a change to using JSON would take a lot of time and effort on their part.

So while the popularity of JSON is high (I have never heard anyone say they really like XML), XML is still used more than JSON.  However, to keep current, we all need to know both as JSON is being used by many developers when creating APIs and data exchange sets.

We would be interested in hearing from you if you have some thoughts in this area.

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Tags: data transformation, EDI integration, EDI Technology, EDI considerations, integration software, data integration, technology Harnesses the Power of Delta/ECS

Posted by Shandra Locken on Tue, Jun 09, 2015 @ 12:22 PM Delta/ECS Case StudyPhoto appears courtesy of Ronca-WW.  Last year we had the pleasure of with working with both and fellow Liaison reseller, Virtual Logistics, on a large integration project using Liaison's Delta/ECS integration package.  This is a great case study and truly illustrates the flexibility, efficiency and automation that Delta/ECS can bring to an organization. contacted us because they were growing rapidly and found themselves needing to re-assess their EDI environment. The standalone EDI translator they were using had been adequate up to that point, but as they geared up to move an ever-expanding vendor base into active electronic trading relationships, it was clear they needed a scalable and flexible solution to move their business to the next level.

What they needed:

  • Flexible Mapping 

  • Event-Driven Processing & File Handling 

  • Advanced Process Monitoring & Notifications 

  • Map Management 

  • Comprehensive & Integrated Communications examined all the major players and quickly discovered that Liaison’s Delta & ECS package showed a great deal of promise. First and foremost was the sheer mapping flexibility - no format was out of bounds for Delta. Other solutions promised similar capabilities but by comparison they struck them as afterthoughts bolted onto existing traditional EDI paradigms. And then when they had the opportunity to examine the Delta interface itself there was very little by way of comparison. It was hands down the most intuitive mapping interface they had ever seen. 

An equally powerful factor in their decision was ECS. For sheer visibility, flexibility, and ease of use, it was impossible to find anything close to anywhere near the price point. It was apparent  that with ECS they really could achieve a truly unified operational environment, and bring a number of disparate processes (FTP comms, AS2, Web Services, XML, flat files) under one roof for the first time. Other packages offered similar claims but again, at much higher cost and with less visual transparency and ease of use.

Another key factor in their decision was Aurora Technologies’ and Virtual Logistics’ (VL) longstanding pedigrees in the EDI industry. The consultants from both VL and Aurora brought a wealth of experience and insight to the table, and their hands-on approach through the evaluative phase gave both the objective information and the confidence to know they were choosing the right solution. In the course of due diligence they reached out to a number of independent voices in the field and not only were reassured that Delta/ECS was indeed one of the best tools out there, but also that they were very much in good hands with Aurora Technologies and Virtual Logistics. Their own experiences have borne that out as well. 

Once got their installation of Delta/ECS up and started running production feeds, the benefits were tangible and immediate. With the Data Administrator they have a comprehensive real-time picture of the state of translation communications, errors and logging. This is all available in a single interface that is intuitive to read and comprehend. This alone has saved their EDI team countless hours of tedious research. And when issues do arise they have much greater visibility into root causes - whether it’s an issue with a communications channel, EDI compliance or data content.

The mapping capabilities of Delta have proven to be unparalleled. Their development times have been greatly reduced with the introduction of a much simpler approach to map management that allows them to unify disparate trading partners under the same easily managed maps. Basing new map work on prior work has never been easier. Creating maps for a variety of formats is much easier, and they are able to accommodate even the most exotic of outliers in their vendor base.

The alert and notifications process has likewise proven to be a great help in proactively identifying EDI issues before they become business issues. The ability to receive customized notifications on success and error based on log parsing is a great boon. They are also working on building out proactive monitoring jobs to notify them when expected files are not received in a specified timeframe. This feature is a distinct advantage.

Another key feature they are now able to take advantage of is the WebECS front end. Access to the Data Administrator functions via the web has greatly simplified day-to-day and after hours production monitoring. They are finally in a position to make information about their EDI process and order states more visible to stakeholders across the company. Management Reporting functions via WebECS are also proving fruitful ground for development. reports that Delta/ECS has proven to be a powerful, comprehensive solution with great room to expand along with their growing vendor base. 

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Tags: data transformation, EDI integration, e-commerce, integration software, EDI software, data integration, EDI ROI, EDI Implementation, Liaison Delta/ECS

Are Your EDI Maps Made of Straw, Wood or Brick?

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 @ 06:39 PM

EDI MapsOver the years as EDI consultants, we have done modifications to many maps-ones we created and ones created by others. We have seen a great variety of maps, from well thought out and well constructed to "what were
they thinking!" Once an EDI map is written, tested, and in production it should run with no errors that were caused by the map. (Please do not get me started on errors
caused by incorrect or missing data from the ERP system!) So why have we spent so much time "fixing" maps that are in production and have been running fine for a long time? All of the examples below are emergency
situations, which always seems to occur when there is a big rush order.

Maps made of Straw: The prime thing we see in these maps is that the original author of the map hard coded data that should have been retrieved from the database. Sure, you only sell to one department of a company today so why bother trying to find out where that data is on the database? And if it is not stored on the database, why be the squeaky wheel who insists that the data should be a field on the invoice file?

Maps made of Wood: Another "fix" we have done many times is to add segments for discounts and allowances. Again, the map had been working and now it does not cross-foot. What is happening in reality here is changes in business processes – these maps didn’t suddenly "break.”  But Management does not see it that way.  Another issue is 3rd party testing.  Management has had to pay extra to go through testing the EDI documents for a new customer.  They
expect the maps to work perfectly as soon as that testing is done.  It is hard to explain that testing with "Widgets" (rather than real items), is not the same as testing with real data.  In other words, this 3rd party testing is not truly testing the maps, it is really only testing the connection.  Unless you have built this post-testing phase into your budget, you will have issues defending the
additional time it takes to get a map running smoothly.

Maps made of Brick: These are the maps where the map author took the time to hard code as little as possible, did a careful review of the mapping specifications to ensure all segments are coded properly and tested for as many situations as possible. Granted, you cannot anticipate every situation and you cannot guarantee that your trading partners will adhere to their own standards, but focus on what you can control and take the time to integrate the map as closely as you can to your ERP system. This will result in a map that has a solid foundation, and will avoid some of these pitfalls described above.

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Aurora Team Biography Series: Kim Zajehowski

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 @ 02:12 PM

2765623465_6150edb742_oPhoto appears courtesy of SharonaGott.  Next up in our Aurora Team Biography Series is Kim Zajehowski, Aurora's Manager of EDI Hosting.  Kim is one of our very talented EDI integration extraordinaires here at Aurora.  She helps me close leads like a superstar with her comprehensive yet easy to understand software demos.  I had the opportunity to ask her some questions and here is a little bit of what she had to say...

She graduated from Bryant College (Bryant University) with her Bachelors Degree of Science in CIS (Computer Information Systems) in 1988.  EDI came very early in her career because her employer had purchased some EDI training.  A quick learner, she was designated as the EDI Coordinator.  As the EDI coordinator, she became responsible for converting a PC based antiquated EDI server to an AS/400 based product known back then as Premenos EDI/400 (now TrustedLinki).  She supported any EDI upgrades and handled Walmart EDI requirements on a regular basis.  She helped design, program, test, and implement a new EDI front end process AND managed to add more trading partners along the way. During that time, she also went back to school to receive her MBA with a concentration in Computer Information Systems in 1992 from Bryant College (Bryant University).

Soon after, she found herself working as the EDI Manager for a pharmaceutical company in Massachusetts. In that role, she would soon lead an EDI initiative to migrate their antiquated PC system to a more robust iSeries TrustedLink product interfacing with Prism and JD Edwards. She was also involved in a software/hardware search for a companywide Internet solution and administering firewall restrictions.  Her longish commute was well worth it, as she loved working there. Alas, after being acquired by another company, the operation moved to Pennsylvania and Kim found herself searching for another opportunity that would allow her to be closer to her family.  She knew Faith (Aurora's President) from past NEMUG (New England Midrange User Group, the local iSeries User Group) meetings and presented her with a resume and credentials.  Faith decided it was a good match and she's been with Aurora ever since.  With 14 years of consulting behind her, she's had the opportunity to be involved in many different projects and has become a very well rounded consultant because of it.  Don't tell her this but we love her.

In our circle of colleagues and clients, Kim is known as the “EDI Queen” or “AS2 Queen” in our field.  She has a knack for understanding not only EDI, but connectivity from AS2, FTP, firewalls, PCs, and VPNs.  She also knows the PC side of things as well and has helped many friends out on PC related questions and training.  Kim considers herself a glorified geek in Aurora's kingdom.  Her clients would say that she is really good with connection issues and researching problems.  They would say that she works hard to solve their issues and is determined to figure things out.  Kim loves learning new things, applying what she has learning and sharing that knowledge with others.  She has a good work ethic, which I personally can attest to as she usually answers my myriad emails within a few minutes.  In addition to her day job, she also teaches part-time as an adjunct professor at a local college, which she really enjoys.  How does she find the time?

On a personal level, she of course loves spending time with her family.  Kim grew up in Rhode Island and still resides there - she says this is where her roots are.  A lover of the outdoors, Kim enjoys hiking, going to the mountains and visiting waterfalls.  She has fallen prey to the latest fitness craze - Zumba.  And she adores her son - going to amusements parks, building things with Legos and playing with their kittens are just a few of the things they enjoy doing together. She volunteers at her son's school for many events and class trips, as she likes being part of his world. Charities and causes that are close to her heart include anything having to do with animals (local shelters, ASCPA, Humane society, Animal Rescue League) as well as the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen.  She has lost several family members to the disease and prays for a cure.  When asked how she wants to be remembered, she says, "Good mom, good sense of humor, fun to be around, hard worker," in that order.

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Tags: data transformation, EDI considerations, integration software, data integration, benefits of EDI, EDI compliant, EDI education, enterprise resource planning, ERP integration, electronic data interchange, Liaison Delta/ECS