Your EDI Resource

The Smart Money on EDI

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, May 02, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

7408506410_715acb5f6f_z.jpgPicture appears courtesy of Tax Credits.  This week's blog article was written by Art Douglas.  "EDI can save your company 99% of the costs of receiving Purchase Orders and forwarding Shipment Notices and Invoices."  That’s the claim made by the author of an article who knows about measuring that kind of thing.  I would add that in my many years in the EDI industry, I have seen many implementations that squander any possible gains by failing to find out the facts before deciding how to implement EDI.

Some time back I was hired to assist a large health care insurance company select an EDI system to replace their outdated system that was inexorably linked to their outdated coverage software.  We discussed their current needs, plans for the future, discussed managed file transfer, system integration, expansion of their EDI utilization – all the things you need to determine what you need to purchase.  Then we talked about security, redundancy, fail-over, backup plans – all the things the IT people want to know.  I prepared an RFP – Request For Proposal, and sent it out to purveyors of EDI software.  Three companies responded.  One put on an amazing demonstration, and submitted a quote for just under $300G, plus consulting costs.  A second put on an impressive demonstration, and submitted a quote for just under $200G, plus consulting costs.  The third respondent put on a personalized demonstration, and submitted a quote for about $50G, plus consulting costs.

I was notified at noon the day the final demo was seen, and the final proposal was received, that my services were no longer required. I was dismissed.  Their management would make the decision, unencumbered by any insight I might provide.

My contacts later informed me that the healthplan’s IT management had selected the most expensive solution. 

Two years later, the salesman who prepared the least expensive proposal contacted me to say, “Thanks,” because my former client had abandoned the expensive solution and purchased the least expensive.  That solution is still in use today, nine years after I was there.

The client had lost two years and $300,000 plus staff time and consulting costs on a solution I did not recommend, a solution that was ill-suited to their integration and EDI needs.

Later, I was hired to install an EDI solution for a medical products company which up until then had had no EDI capability.  As soon as I arrived on site, the IT manager called a meeting and began telling me how the solution would be implemented.  For example, he would require any trading partner to use FTP point-to-point with the client, no VAN would be allowed (too expensive), and no alternative communication protocol would be considered (must keep it simple).  The first year, only a single trading partner would be implemented.  I was tasked with training a programmer to “Run the EDI.”  The programmer was pointedly indifferent to the assignment, wishing to continue in his primary role as Developer.

Both these implementations failed – one initially, the second ultimately, because management refused to listen to the experts.

EDI is not an expensive undertaking, compared to implementing a full ERP system.  Return on Investment typically begins soon after the software is purchased.  But a successful EDI installation requires understanding of the industry, and understanding of the tool set.  There are an infinite number of ways to squander all the gain a company could potentially realize by stepping into pitfalls that are easily avoided just by listening to experts who have succeeded in the past.

A start-up company recently contacted me to consider being their EDI expert.  They had decided to convert from an in-house EDI solution that was integrated with their ERP to a hosted solution proposed by a leading provider in the EDI industry.  Management had decided.  They had no staff expertise in the area of EDI.  I fear for this company.  They are struggling to get distribution for their narrow market product line.  But any wholesaler or large retail chain would be forced to pay dearly for the right to establish an EDI relationship through the hosted solution.  If only they had asked an expert, rather than relying on the word of a slick marketing team and the decision of an executive who has never worked with EDI.

If your company is thinking about adding EDI capability, or modernizing your existing capabilities, do the smart thing, call an expert.  Heck, contact me.  Art Douglas.  You can find me on LinkedIn.  Or call my friends at the Aurora EDI Alliance.  Spending a little money now could save you a bundle down the road.  Really.

Click below for a great whitepaper on what well designed data integration can do for your business.

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Tags: EDI Technology, EDI software, EDI ROI, EDI provider, cloud, EDI expense, SaaS

Is Your Gentran Product No Longer Supported?

Posted by David McAlister on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

16467187412_72fd673cd9_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of theilr.  Are you one of the many companies finding yourself without support for your Gentran product?  You’re not alone.  McAna EDI, Inc., an EDI solutions provider since 1995, recognizes the need for Gentran customers to look for alternative solutions to their currently unsupported Gentran products.  Last year, many Gentran customers using older versions were notified they would no longer receive support for their software as of May 1, 2015.  Now, a year later, those companies are feeling the effects and looking for help.

Long term Gentran users likely remember Mercator, which like Gentran, was another IBM acquisition.  However, Mercator folks were a bit more fortunate since Mercator is still supported today.  At the time of the Mercator acquisition back in 2004, McAna EDI, Inc. was a reseller for that package.  We integrated companies like Odom’s Tennessee Pride, Alpha International (Big Wheel) and Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania to name a few.  The stumbling block was that IBM put a 6-figure price tag on Mercator, making the solution cost prohibitive for most mid-size companies.    

Flashback to 1995 – when I first chose Mercator, it was object oriented – a very powerful integration tool.  Their translator, Trading Partner PC, was the first Windows translator to be written for Windows.  Mercator, wanting to appeal to larger companies, wrote Commerce Manager to satisfy an enterprise server environment.  Trading Partner was then handed off to Emanio, who in turn sold it to DiCentral, who then renamed it DiTranslator. My task was to find another product that stood the test of time like Mercator, but with a more cost-friendly price tag. 

After researching various translators and integration tools in 2005, I found Softshare’s ECS and Delta package, now owned by Liaison Technologies.  Delta/ECS (E-Commerce Server) is a mapping and communications package as well as a glorified router that satisfies all the requirements of an EDI translator, while the whole of the product is an enterprise integration tool that does much more.  This package provides AS2, FTP, SFTP, HTTP and SMTP communication.  The customer can create as many AS2 connections as necessary saving thousands of dollars in VAN charges.  Most clients that we engage have reported that the software pays for itself within 1 year of implementation.  That is an amazing savings - a savings that will continue far into the future.

ECS is capable of far more than EDI.  The product is an enterprise level integration solution much like Mercator but with more bells and whistles as well as a lower price tag.  This is exactly what we’d been looking for!  Today we not only assist customers by remotely implementing EDI solutions but also other integrations to their websites and disparate systems.  For Incline Village General Improvement District in eastern Nevada, we are assisting them in integrating their ERP system as well as their (POS) point of sales systems via web services thru HTTP.  For Precious Moments, we integrated their web orders into their Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains (GP) accounting software.  With a powerful tool like Delta/ECS, the architecture is limitless.

Don’t wait to find out what’s available to you on a modest budget.  Imagine having your EDI solution on a virtual Windows 2012 Server with 64bit technology for Windows, SQL, ECS and Delta.  Those of you on Unix Platforms, as you may know, today’s Windows platforms are scalable when needed.  So whether you are running Gentran on Unix using Hewlett-Packard, IBM or Sun Microsystems OR running Gentran on Windows NT, 2000, 2003 or 2008, consider making that move to save on VAN (value-added-network) charges AND make your enterprise ready to streamline and automate your business processes.

Click below to contact us and look at alternatives to Gentran.

Gentran Replacement

Tags: EDI integration, EDI software, EDI ROI, EDI Implementation, EDI provider, EDI options, communication, EDI expense, EDI history, ERP integration, Liaison Delta/ECS

The Need for Speed: Software, Hardware and Everything In Between

Posted by Warren Spiller on Fri, Aug 28, 2015 @ 02:34 PM

17717649040_0a3ed69262_zPicture appears courtesy of Fritz van Eerd - Hockenheim.  When I started my software company in 1976, I bought a computer for development.  It had 48K of RAM (that’s ‘K’, not ‘MB’) and 12MB of disk space (that’s ‘MB’, not ‘GB’).   It cost about $70,000.00 (that’s 1976 dollars).  Today, my $600 lap-top is many thousand times more powerful than that first computer.

I bring this up to demonstrate the amazing improvement in data processing hardware technology that is ongoing today.  But many companies are not taking advantage of these very affordable hardware advances.  As software upgrades provide more and more capabilities, including processing speed, data integration and cloud services, they often need to be accompanied by hardware upgrades to take full advantage of them.

No matter how much processing speed is increased with new software, everyone always wants it to run faster.  What seemed like a great improvement in speed after the last update, now seems slow.  Some of this may just be the imaginary result of impatience due to increased business pressures, but it also may be very real.  New users may have been added, order volume may have increased, or the demands of the latest software upgrade may be outpacing the hardware capabilities.

I am currently working with a company that has been using Liaison ECS and Liaison Delta for their EDI communications for over 10 years, during which time they have more than tripled their number of trading partners, quadrupled their EDI volume, and doubled their users. The Liaison software has more than kept up with their EDI requirements, but their last hardware upgrade was over 6 years ago.  No wonder they are complaining about speed!  

The cost of upgrading the hardware is minuscule relative to their increased sales volume.  Furthermore, the upgrade process is painless compared to the benefits it will produce.

Review your hardware capabilities on a regular basis.  The cost in dollars and time of upgrading will surely fill the need for speed.

Click below to read a case study on how Warren helped a company with virtually ZERO EDI experience become EDI capable AND EDI efficient.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI Technology, integration software, benefits of EDI, technology, EDI ROI, EDI expense

On-Premise, Hosted or Web-Based EDI – Which is the Right Fit?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, Jul 02, 2015 @ 12:16 PM

EDI ChoicesPhoto appears courtesy of Dean Hochman.  This week's blog was written by Art Douglas.  Millenia ago, Og went into his cave looking for his deer-antler hatchet.  But alas, he was unable to find it, for he had many belongings, and a very small cave.  After hours of searching, the hatchet was discovered.  Later, Og pondered how he could store the hatchet where it would be easier to find.  At that moment, Og remembered his friend, Kow, who had a very large cave with many chambers.  The two friends struck a deal.  Kow would store Og’s weapons in one of his many chambers, so when Og needed them, he didn’t have to search for them in his own cluttered cave, he knew he could find them in Kow’s cave.  Moreover, should Og wish to share his weapons with others in the community, he only had to notify Kow of the fact, and Kow would share Og’s stuff with whomever Og has allowed.

In this way, cloud storage was born.

We have known The Cloud by different names.  When I was first in the industry, we called it Time Sharing.  More recently we have used the term, Hosted.  Regardless, The Cloud is pretty much a euphemism for Somebody Else’s Computer.

The purpose of this blog is to help you decide if EDI in the cloud is the best choice for your operation, or is there some other configuration that will serve you better.

Let’s begin by looking at the various configurations:

  • On-premise EDI.  Your company owns the hardware and software used to run EDI in-house.

  • Hosted EDI Solution.  Another company has the EDI system running on hardware at their own site, and the platform may be shared with other clients of the host, each client’s data kept separate from the others.

  • Web-based EDI.  Another company has a web site that allows you to read and create EDI documents, which are translated to and from EDI, and received from or sent to your Trading Partners.

Let’s look at three key aspects of each, to determine which model is best for us, or our clients.

  • Cost – both initial and on-going.

  • Expertise & Support

  • Volume

The cost of acquisition of the hardware and software to support in in-house EDI system can vary widely, from a few thousand dollars, to hundreds of thousands, depending on the decisions you make.  Cost is not always a predictor of success, in this case.  And big names don’t always perform best.  When calculating the cost, make sure you include the cost of the database software, networking, the hardware platform, and ongoing support in addition to the initial and continuing cost of the EDI software.  Also, make sure you understand what the initial cost includes, in terms of licenses, scalability, etc., and what expansion might cost you in the future.

For a hosted solution, there should be virtually no acquisition costs.  But expect to pay consultant’s rates for map development.

For Web-based EDI, you will probably not directly interface your application with the EDI system.  Instead, you will re-key all inbound and outbound data into the application, or the Web EDI system.  You may be charged for each data transaction, and for map development for each trading partner.

To implement and effectively utilize your EDI system, someone will have to configure it and create and maintain the mapping and business processes that are required in every EDI system.  For an in-house system, you will need to either hire somebody, or contract with an expert to take care of these tasks. You will also want on-going support on staff, or quickly available.  For a hosted system, or a Web-based system, the host should provide expert help with mapping, and configuration, plus support at a contracted rate.  The hosted cloud solution undoubtedly has staff skilled in many areas, but they may also be engaged helping other clients.

When selecting between the hosted or in-house solution, volume should be considered in terms of the capacity of each site to process the peak number of transactions in a timely manner.  Does the hosted solution have the throughput and storage capacity to handle your traffic level, as well as all the other customers the host services?  Does your own operation wish to invest the money to put together a big enough system to handle your volume?  On the other end of the spectrum, how many transactions do you handle in a day?  A week?  A month?  Are there few enough that the savings of using a web-based service will outweigh the cost of implementing a fully integrated EDI solution?

Og’s solution won’t work for everybody.  And today’s cloud has many features that Kow could never supply.  Carefully consider these, as well as other questions before committing to purchase EDI software, trust your data to somebody else, or step back from a full system for the advantage of the lower entry cost of Web EDI.

Art Douglas has been an independent consultant since 1983, and has been implementing EDI solutions around the world for over 15 years.

Click below to read a case study on how we helped a company with no prior EDI experience become EDI compliant with a complete, integrated on-premise EDI solution.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI Technology, EDI considerations, EDI software, data integration, benefits of EDI, EDI Implementation, EDI basics, EDI compliant, cloud, EDI expense, EDI document, ERP integration, electronic data interchange

Integration May Be Your 2015 Ticket to Success

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 12:10 PM

integrationPhoto appears courtesy of Todd Hryckowian.  Today's blog was written by David McAlister of McAna EDI.  In college my first computer program was punched out on cards without any hanging chads ;).  Today my LinkedIn photo is like many real estate broker pictures, way out of date.  This is not dissimilar to many business processes at way too many organizations.  As requirements become more complex, software and integration tools became more departmentalized.  The trouble comes when business processes do not evolve accordingly.  As early as the 90's we saw integration tools made available.  Prior to this everyone used application development tools for integration.  Just like in the garage, every tool has its purpose and for very good reasons. 

As a back drop for this article, integration tools historically satisfied 3 areas - Application to Application, Application to Web and B2B or EDI.  Some software providers focused on one area or the other, but seldom all 3.  The EDI industry has had its ups and downs with the market too.  Integration is a big decision and doesn't seem like a must when money is tight.  Hopefully though, when companies choose a hosted solution, they have fully understood the savings integration could have provided.  The cost effectiveness integration brings can be exponential, not to mention the opportunities that it allows your company to grow using your existing staff.

Now to fully round out the EDI portfolio for those looking at integration, I wanted to touch on Advance Ship Notices and barcode requirements.  We have supported a third-party product for the last 15 years that imports the orders (830/850s), as well as generates labels, packing slips, master bill of ladings AND exports the ASN and invoice back to your EDI translator.  This has proved to be a great product to satisfy many scenarios for integrating this requirement with your company’s back-end system and a great example of integration doing its job.

Having been in integration for the last 21 years, I took an interest early on to know the products in the market.  Even back in '95 I chose the pick of the litter.  The product that I originally started with has become very pricey and gave me another opportunity to find another product at a much better price point.  My goal in providing services has been to find best-of-breed.  Finding an integration solution that solves all three areas has been a priority for me. So from migrations to warehousing to online shopping carts to EDI, I get excited about employing the tool of my choice because it is best-of-breed.  It makes for enjoyable work rather than drudgery to get the job done.

It is easy to get caught into the hosted solution trap and end up with monthly expenses that can add up significantly, especially when adding Value Added Network charges to pass data between your trading partners.  We have one account who could pay for the software in one year by just the VAN charges they pay!  It is easy to be so busy running a business not be able to see how efficiencies can be well worth the transition.  I have encouraged folks to embrace it early on so that the hosted expenses could be used to invest in an on-premise solution.  Another reason integration doesn't always get embraced is because of acquisitions and high turnover.  We supported Odom Tennessee Pride sausage for over 10 years before they got bought by Conagra.  This happens all the time in the manufacturing/distribution industry.  Another account has seen four IT directors in the last 15 years!

Based on the tick of the economy for next year, business is supposed to be great.  Just as we do for New Years Eve, consider reflecting on what your company is spending to support a lack of integration even down to employee over-head, cash flow improvements and potential loss of business.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us veterans.  We are passionate about our work and love sharing our knowledge to help your business to be successful.  Learn from our one-on-one experience from past accounts and know that we have your back when you need it the most!

Click below to see how we helped Alimed, a medical supply company, optimize their EDI processing with state-of-the-art integration tools.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI Technology, EDI considerations, e-commerce, integration software, EDI software, data integration, EDI Implementation, EDI basics, EDI options, EDI expense

New Year, New EDI System

Posted by Warren Spiller on Mon, Jan 05, 2015 @ 11:23 AM

Liaison's Delta/ECSPhoto appears courtesy of Mark Harkin.  I am currently working with a Microsoft Dynamics developer to replace a legacy application that my former software company developed almost 25 years ago.  I have been single-handedly supporting this application for a large marketing and sales company for the past 12 years.  The legacy application was written using character based Progress and over the last 12 years, whenever the customer needed a new report or program change, I would be the only person with the ability to implement them.  About 2 years ago, the customer's management team and I decided that this was an untenable situation, and I took on the job of designing the new application and managing the project from start to finish. 

Since the vast majority of data exchange for the company involves EDI, using both AS2 and VAN based communications, it was a no-brainer from the start that a key element in the new system would be the integration of Liaison's ECS/Delta.  We also had to face the challenge of some very complicated and constantly changing reporting needs which, as I mentioned earlier, previously required me to write and modify Progress programs.  The company does not have its own programming staff, and they did not want to be dependent on outside developers every time a new reporting requirement came up.  

We evaluated several report writer programs but found them either unsuitable or too expensive for the their reporting requirements.  Liaison's Delta/ECS easily answered this need in both functionality and value.  We produced a series of Delta maps to extract data in different formats from the main SQL Server database, which includes millions of order records and other data, and linked those maps to an MS Access user interface.  The result is that company-employed non-programmers can generate reports, queries, and spreadsheets with minimal training, and with huge dollar savings for the company.

The company's management team, the developers, and I are all extremely pleased with the new system, which we plan to put into production this month.  The moral of the story is do not be afraid to retire legacy systems - as doing so can improve your efficiency with better automation, increased reporting capabilities, and sharpened communication between departments.  Happy New Year from the Aurora EDI Alliance!

Click below to watch a video on how Thinking About EDI "Outside the Box" can make you a rock star within your organization.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI considerations, EDI software, data integration, benefits of EDI, EDI Implementation, EDI expense

Common Misconceptions about On-Premise EDI Software

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 11:36 AM

on-premise softwarePhoto appears courtesy of William Warby.  I have a customer using a web-based EDI solution and they are just too big for it.  They are currently weighing their options.  But it got me thinking, how many organizations are out there using a solution that is really not working for them?  Reasons why might include perceived complexity, cost concerns, integration limitations, and lack of technical staff.  This article will focus on those four objections to making the move from web-based EDI to on-premise EDI software.

I will start with cost since that is probably the most common reason I hear for not wanting to put in on-premise software.  This is where I tell them to think long term.  For the sake of comparison, let's say they are paying $300 per month (under 10 trading partners), they could hypothetically have on-premise software that would pay for itself inside of two years (not including mapping).  Meanwhile, they would save valuable time (time = money) not having to rekey everything into their order processing system, have a system that is seamless and automated, which can only help their business in the long term.  

Lack of technical staff being a stumbling block to on-premise bliss is a big myth.  Most software vendors and resellers also offer professional services so that you do not have to have ANY technical staff whatsoever.  When my company sells on-premise software, we give our client the option to have us train them to manage the software and do the mapping or pay us to do it.  In the latter, we act as their technical staff and they only need to pay the bill.  That being said, if you put that much trust into third party for your EDI management, make sure you get references.

The complexity issue is one that is not so cut and dry.  The reality is that you can construct your solution to be a simple POs (EDI 850) in, Invoices (EDI 810) and Ship Notices (EDI 856) out scenario OR you can have multiple systems communicating with each other that include marketing automation (Hubspot, Marketo), webstore (Shopify, Magento) and ERP (SAP, Ross) - in one beautiful streamlined solution that will wow your customers (whether you are B2B or B2C) and competitors alike.  The key is finding the right tools and the right architects to help you build a solution that will help you meet your business goals.  The bottom line is complex does not necessarily mean difficult.

The last misconception is not so much of a misconception as it is a hurdle.  There are certain accounting systems (the kind you can buy in a box at Costco) that are just not integration friendly.  By "integration friendly," I mean there is no clear file format accessible to bring data and out of your system such as XML or flat file to integrate with a powerful package such as Laison's Delta/ECS.  Some of these turnkey accounting software packages do have relationships with EDI solutions providers for integration options, but you are left with very little options.  Don't back yourself into a corner.  If you already have, like many before you, at some point you will need to invest in a real ERP system.  This will open up your world to countless possibilities when it comes to data integration.  

As you can see, having on-premise integrated software does not have to be a pipe dream.  The right tools, the right help, and the right mindset can make that dream into reality.  Gone are the 6 figure integration packages of 20 years ago.  Today, on-premise integration software is accessible to even the small-to-medium (SMB) business.  Even if you don't want to host it in your facility due to hardware requirements, etc., you can always install your licensed software on servers in the Cloud through channels such as Amazon's Web Services or Rackspace.  There are so many different ways of achieving data integration greatness in today's market, there are really no more excuses why anyone should be excluded.

Click below for a whitepaper on what getting data integration right can do for your business.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI considerations, e-commerce, integration software, EDI software, data integration, benefits of EDI, EDI ROI, EDI provider, EDI options, enterprise resource planning, EDI expense, ERP integration

The 4 + 1 Ways Software Maintenance Protects Your Business

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 @ 01:01 PM

Guest blogging for the Aurora EDI Alliance is Nathan Camp of Liaison Technologies.  Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver.

software maintenanceI am asked by companies using our software what their annual maintenance plan really buys them. This question often comes up during the maintenance renewal process as they look at their system running smoothly, with no major projects or migrations planned, and no sweat on the IT director’s brow.

Wikipedia defines software maintenance as, “The modification of a software product after delivery to correct faults, to improve performance or other attributes.” This means that technical support of the software code is a separate function. With this definition in place, I will make the statement that all software, whether delivered through on-premise installation, through software-as-a-service (SaaS), or built in house, must have a software maintenance plan in place. Whether you pay an annual fee, or the software maintenance and upkeep costs are tied into your monthly services plan, or it’s simply your IT teams’ salaries, you should be deriving benefits from your services and service provider.

Most of these benefits are basic and commonly understood. I will highlight four of these most common benefits.

(1) Maintenance Keeps Your Software and Services Up to Date for Support

Every major piece of software usually has some indexing system to define different versions as updates are released. These versions correlate to a master list of software modifications, and can quickly help a support technician know if an issue identified by the client has been resolved in a more current version of the software. Often, software versions will be broken into two classifications: minor builds and major releases. Minor builds add incremental corrections and small enhancements. Major releases often involve many more sweeping changes to the look and functionality of the user interfaces, and deeper changes affecting performance and new capabilities within the software. Supporting two or more major versions is often a daunting task, and requires a multiplication of ongoing technical training and information repositories. Most software companies will provide support for a limited time on older software to allow you time to upgrade your software. If your solution provider allows you to linger in older versions, you should expect that your maintenance and support fees will be higher to offset their costs.

With SaaS delivery, the software provider can often eliminate their support of multiple versions by simply upgrading all of their clients at the same time to the new version. Code changes must be thoroughly pretested prior to release to ensure that the new changes work across the entire community. The SaaS provider must also have contingencies in place to quickly roll back and restore previous versions if the new versions cause unexpected issues for their active users. Some single-tenant SaaS solutions may allow you to retain different versions than other users, but this results in the same support burden as on-premise clients that do not upgrade.

(2) Corrections and Enhancements

Whether we pay for commercial software or have downloaded freeware for our personal use, we expect the software to run correctly. Your investment into a maintenance plan is largely there to fund fixes for things that aren’t working as well as add enhancements to make things work better. It can also fund the creation of new ways that make the rest of your operations more efficient.

(3) Version Upgrades Included

Most major software companies actively encourage their clients to stay current by offering free upgrades to minor and major releases of software. The software stays fresh and consistent across the user base, and everyone benefits from fixes and enhancements. Often, leap-frog ehancements of significance are released with major versions.

(4) Staying Current with Evolving Standards

In the world of EDI data integration, ANSI X12 and EDIFACT provide new versions of their standards about once every year and a half. These new standards can impact the form of data, the types of data, and the breadth of information available for exchange. Liaison Technologies for example, simply makes these new dictionary standards available in our products as they are released from the governing organizations. The same can be said for emerging data formats. As I mentioned in a previous blog, Liaison Delta recently introduced support for JSON. This new data format is now equally supported along with XML, EDI, database, and data files. It is a pretty significant feature that was included for no additional cost to our active clients.

I know there are several other reasons why maintenance plans are a great idea to maintain, but I want to highlight a reason we all often overlook.

(5) Security Compliance Audits

If you were thinking this before you read it, you are a superstar.  It is likely true that you are concerned with emerging threats and/or you are responsible for running vulnerability audits and scans of your systems. You also know that software systems are usually not built from the ground up as a single system, but are based on specific programming languages, and can include core building blocks of code from other software companies that can drastically reduce development time, increase capabilities, and respect intellectual property rights. Customized code is added on top and the whole software architecture is tied together to make up the new, unique solution.

The software as a whole must continue to evolve across the entire range of components to protect against any of the building block systems going out of date or a new security threat invented by those that would do harm. As your security policies evolve in your company, this can result in a software or SaaS system being flagged for an audit check when vulnerabilities are uncovered. As an example, I have seen some software tagged as at risk because it was using an older version of Jetty. In order to eliminate the security vulnerability, the software development team responded by quickly updating the Jetty component into a new version release. But that vulnerability is only alleviated if the clients apply the software updates to their system.

Your business customers or suppliers may also implement their own risk reduction processes that can affect you as well. Target Corporation ( is setting up an AS2 connection to one of our newest clients. The client created a self-signed certificate and sent the public key to Target. Up until recently, MD5-based certificates were accepted for exchange. But now, Target has requested that SHA1 certificates be used instead. For Liaison’s clients, our ECS developers anticipated this change, and had already been developing a new version of our certificate generator that will soon give our clients the choice of either MD5 or SHA1 formats.

There are many other reasons why a commercially available software package or service must retain a maintenance plan. The same is absolutely true if your organization builds your own software systems. If you have built your own system, then you too are required to ensure that your systems evolve to drive new benefits, eliminate issues, and shelter your company from vulnerabilities. You, like us, must apply consistent R&D to grow and nurture your software.

Click below to download a free case study on how we helped a medical supply company to optimize their EDI operations.
Download AliMed Case Study

Tags: EDI software, benefits of EDI, EDI ROI, EDI basics, EDI expense, SaaS

Why You Should Upgrade Your EDI Software

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Dec 07, 2012 @ 10:09 AM

EDI software upgradeHaving just recently been through the process of selling software upgrades, we have presented every conceivable reason why this a good idea and have heard every conceivable objection.  I myself am guilty of not upgrading!  Every time I touch my iPhone I get a message that I haven't upgraded to the iOS 6.  That being said, I thought it might be helpful to others who are either selling upgrades or considering an upgrade, to offer up a few good reasons why upgrading your EDI software is an important endeavor.

In my opinion, the most important reason to have the most recent EDI software version available is support.  You don't want to be two versions behind, encounter a problem and find out that your version is no longer supported by your EDI vendor.  I have seen this happen numerous times.  In order for a company to save a few dollars, they do not take advantage of an upgrade and end up spending more later in support hours.  And upgrading more than one version is likely to cost more money and headaches than if you had just upgraded when the new versions were released.  Upgrades are meant to be done in a prescribed's almost always easier and more cost effective to follow that sequence.  Don't make this mistake.

The next best reason is compatibility.  What happens when your 32 bit server crashes and your EDI software version is only compatible with 32 bit.  Good luck trying to find a 32 bit server because they are pretty much obsolete and oh wait...the last EDI software upgrade supported 64 bit systems but you didn't upgrade.  You just made what could have been a minor mess, a much bigger one.  If you had upgraded your EDI software, you could have just replaced your server with a 64 bit machine and your newly upgraded EDI software would support that change.  Now you have to not only replace your server, but you also have to upgrade your EDI software at the same time.  Ooops.  

Many companies have the attitude of, "If it works for us, why change anything?"  It's the old If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It mentality.  Here's the deal...the longer you go without upgrading, the more you leave yourself vulnerable to threats to your business.  That threat might be bugs that could be resolved with the upgrade.  Or something more ominous like the crashing server scenario mentioned above.  Either way, upgrading your EDI software will ensure that your software is running at top performance.  What would your clients think if you start having problems with your EDI transmissions because you didn't upgrade?  They may think you don't care enough about your business to keep your essential tools up to date.  They will wonder where else you are cutting corners.  Don't be that guy.  Contact your EDI vendor and upgrade.  Today.  

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Tags: EDI Technology, EDI considerations, EDI software, technology, EDI provider, EDI expense

The Danger of Low Cost EDI Solutions

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 @ 01:57 PM

low cost EDI We get incoming leads all throughout the month and I can always tell which ones will not close based on the questions I get.  Most of our prospects ask all the right questions, "Can you meet the requirements of my trading partner?"  "Is integration possible?"  "How long before we can be in production?"  But there are a few who are only concerned with how much money they will have to spend and only want low cost EDI.  This is a dangerous proposition because the old adage that you get what you pay for is alive and well.  It is far better to look for COST EFFECTIVE EDI rather than just low cost EDI.

There have been several times that our prospect went with another provider because their solution was the cheapest.  And then a few weeks later some of those prospects come back and sign up with us because they spent the last few weeks on hold with the provider's call center or their customer's deadline came and went...and they still were not in production.  In some cases, you will not be able to get your money back and you are either stuck with a sub-par provider or you will end up spending more money than if you had went with a more expensive and reputable EDI service provider to begin with.  Here are a few tips to make sure you are getting the best EDI service, regardless of price...

1. Get references and always follow up on them.  Ask questions like, "How responsive are they to your concerns and issues?"  "How quickly were they able to get you into production?"  

2. Make sure you get EDI documentation from your customer including mapping, guidelines and EDI contact info.  Do not rely on your EDI provider to have the most current information.  Your customer will hold YOU responsible for problems, not your provider.

3. Be responsive to your EDI service provider's questions and communications.  Most EDI service providers ARE reputable and will provide good service, but they can only do so if they can easily reach you.  

4. Above all, weigh your options carefully.  Low cost EDI solutions may save you some money up front, but could cost a lot more in the long run.   


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Tags: EDI basics, EDI provider, EDI expense