Your EDI Resource

Electronic Trading Profiles for Fun and Profit

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 @ 07:26 PM

4427310974_05b9faae8a_m.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Opensource.com. This blog was written by Karen Blood of GraceBlood LLC out of Baltimore, a member of the Aurora EDI Alliance.  You have a website, perhaps a line card, business cards, other collateral for your business, yes? And you have or soon will have the capability to exchange business documents with customers, suppliers or other trading partners via EDI or other ways that significantly reduce the time spent by your most valuable asset, your people, as they handle daily business transactions. This new capability also improves accuracy, decreases cycle times and improves relationships with those same trading partners. You may have made a significant investment in dollars and experience to get to this point. You may have had to do it at the behest of a single significant trading partner. Well, that was the hard part and now you have an important new tool! One of the easiest ways to increase your return on that investment and increase your business’s profit is to add more trading partners or business documents.

That means it’s time to prepare your Electronic Trading Profiles.  What’s that you ask?  Well, we’ve talked a lot about documentation in our blogs and this is one more piece to add to your library.  What we like to do is prepare a one-page document for each client that identifies the contacts, the documents capable of being traded and the communication possibilities to do so. We recommend it be used by anyone at the company who is responsible for cultivating business relationships, including the company president, operations managers, buyers, business development reps, and customer service. It should be trotted out and shared with your company’s identified prospects for electronic trading amongst existing and potential customers or suppliers. It can even serve as a reminder and update of your capabilities to existing trading partners. It’s not necessary for your internal associate or the rep from your potential new trading partner to understand the details of the Profile, only that it means your company can help both parties realize more PROFIT. Typically, the Profile is passed along to the technical folks for comment and concurrence before an agreement to proceed is reached.

Here’s how to get started:

Consider your unconnected trading partners first as they are the easiest with your familiarity and historical data to analyze and rank for suitability also considering projected activity. Remember, it’s not usually high dollar value of the activity with that partner, as much as it is number of transactions that should drive your suitability ranking. This is a function of the much lower processing cost per transaction of electronic vs manual handling This is a tried and true tactic, and we see it in use every day by major retailers from AutoZone to Walmart. Other business factors may also refine the recruiting pool, including potential for increasing volume, risk of loss, appreciation for your leadership in such matters, and lots of routine transactions.

Expanding into additional markets with new partners might now be easier. Your electronic trading capability can be mentioned on your website and become part of your marketing resume. It makes you easier with whom to do business, and positions you as forward-thinking and efficient. Revisit old customer prospects for those that did not engage because of your lack of electronic trading capability. Consider adding new product lines from suppliers who previously shut you out because you weren’t EDI capable.

You can now model ‘Big Dog’ behavior. You may have suppliers who are not now EDI or otherwise capable nor likely to become so but who value your business. Perhaps a group of them would be willing to work with you via a web portal especially if there’s the possibility of an increase in your annual spend with them or an improvement in terms. From your supplier’s perspective, all activity would take place on the portal and be driven by your e-mailed notice of an order. Internally, with ERP integration, all activity would use your existing electronic capability, i.e. the portal is loaded with purchase orders generated by your own ERP. Then your supplier’s acknowledgement, shipment and invoice flow from their use of the portal right back into your ERP. 

These Electronic Trading Profiles are the key to all this fun and PROFIT!  Once launched, this very same Profile is a terrific jump start for the new Trading relationship to be well on the way to generating more Profit.  And speaking of jump starts, please fill out the form below to download a sample Electronic Trading Profile you may find helpful.

Here are examples for some of the fields:

Current Messages Supported:  X12 850 PO inbound 4010; EDIFACT ORDERS inbound D12A; XML PO inbound; X12 850 PO outbound all versions; electronic-generated PDF PO inbound; etc

Third Party Network: Liaison Exchange Network; Kleinschmidt; etc

Interchange Qualifier & ID:  12/1234567890T for Test; 12/1234567890 for Production

Group ID:  1234567890 for Test and Production

AS2 section:  See your 3rd party coordinator on these details if it is a trading option

Additional Capabilities:  FTP; sFTP; Hosted Web Portal

Click below for a sample Electronic Tradiing Profile template:

Electronic Trading Profile Template

Tags: EDI ROI, e-commerce, technology, supplier enablement, supply chain, EDI onboarding, automation

Liaison Converge 2014

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 @ 01:25 PM

Liaison Converge 2014

We recently had the opportunity to meet up in Santa Barbara with some of our fellow Liaison resellers.  What a fantastic and valuable meeting!  Read on for some of the key take aways for the coming year.

Liaison Technologies is proud of their channel partner program, which is very evident in the great time they showed us in Santa Barbara last month.  First of all, the event was held at a swanky place called, "The Hangar."  This is essentially a big man cave.  The main purpose of this place beyond office space and a beautiful bar, is to store very expensive collector cars - the kind that Barrett-Jackson auctions off for small fortunes.  We couldn't touch the cars but they were stunning to see!  Our hotel was one block from the beach and the local wine tasting complete with charcuterie and cheese board was a nice touch.

"Networking with other partners in the happening town of Santa Barbara made the conference very worthwhile and enjoyable." ~ Faith Lamprey, President of Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc.

Day one covered the future of Liaison's products such as Delta/ECS (our bread and butter) and Community Manager, which is Liaison's hub visibility enablement tool.  One of the most exciting things in the works for Delta/ECS is the upcoming new and improved Web User Interface.  This allows data managers to view system status and make updates on mobile devices.  And by extension, this will be very useful to our customers who have a lot of non-technical users and need a user-friendly interface.  Other changes coming are updates to both Managed File Transfer and EDI Notepad, including more features around business validation services.  Liaison is also in the process of doubling their storage capacity to 183TB.  They are committed to making a significant commitment to their infrastructure to improve stability and performance.

"Great collaboration at Converge!  Gotta love Santa Barbara!" ~ David McAlister, President of McAna EDI

Another great session, presented by James Folmar and Sarah Dasko, their smart as a whip Sr. Software Engineers, was a crash course on APIs and Cloud Connectors.  The key take away from this session was that these tools allow simple connections for trading partners without integration capability.  As you can imagine, this opens up a whole new world for those smaller companies who need a bit more functionality.  Liaison's changes include plans to offer better control over users, security groups and server level options.

"It was great meeting with the other resellers and sharing ideas." ~ Warren Spiller, President of JRX Services

The future of Liaison's partner program looks very bright.  They have seen how valuable we are to their bottom line.  In fact, our revenue, as a group, is up over 60% since 2012.  Not bad for a collection of small companies that loyally stood by through many changes and one acquisition.  We, as an Elite Liaison partner, couldn't be happier with where this program is going.  The "sweet spot" where we excel, is that we each have our levels of expertise with different ERP packages and types of integration projects.  This allows Liaison to offer the highest level of service to their clients.  It's a win-win for the reseller, Liaison and most of all, the client.  Liaison currently has five different partner programs.  More info can be found here:  http://liaison.com/partners/become-a-partner.

"It was great to be able to meet and pick the brains of the people who actually maintain and update the Delta/ECS software package." ~ Shandra Locken, Sales and Marketing Manager for Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc.

One session I was involved in was about how partners can work together to win new business.  The idea is that if I get a lead, I am much more likely to close the deal if I bring in an expert in their industry and/or ERP system.  One perfect example is when I was referred to a non-emergency medical transport company.  This company uses HIPAA documents and we just happened to know a Liaison partner in California who had extensive experience integrating these documents with Delta/ECS.  This sale ended up being a multi-server deal and was a win not only for both Liaison partners, but also for Liaison AND the client.  The key take away for this session was that it's better to share and win, than to not win at all.  

"The new marketing initiatives by Liaison for the mid-market channel and Delta/ECS products was like a breath of fresh air." ~ Roger Curtis, President of Sitcur: eBusiness Solutions with Integrity

We are already looking forward to Converge 2015.  One of the great things about Liaison, and this is something I always share with clients, is that they actually listen to their resellers and clients.  If we make a request for a new bell or whistle, more often than not, we will see it with the next build update.  We have asked for years that they enhance the Athena Web EDI tool and they have answered that with more export capability and a beautiful supplier enablement tool.  Lastly, we recently asked for some new marketing tools and better ease of lead registration - less than one month later, we have what we asked for.  The future looks so bright, we gotta wear shades!  Especially if we are in beautiful Santa Barbara.

Click below to read a case study on how we partnered with Virtual Logistics to help Quibids.com move their business to the next level!

Download  Case Study

Tags: EDI integration, EDI software, data integration, supplier enablement, Liaison Delta/ECS

A CEO's Guide to Supplier Enablement

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 @ 01:02 PM

189042557 47bbcf522b zPhoto appears courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas.  You've been doing EDI for years.  You've got a phenomenal software package (extra points if it's Liaison's Delta/ECS).  Your top 30%, 40%, even 50% of your supply chain is connected through EDI document exchanges.  You have eliminated most manual processes.  And through the use of EDI, you have built strong trading partner relationships.  Yet, you have tens or even hundreds of suppliers who are still receiving orders from you either via email or even FAX.  At some point your business stopped pursuing EDI deeper into the supply chain. Common reasons cited include costs to the supplier to become EDI capable, internal costs to setup and manage a new EDI trading partner, effort is required to educate and convince the suppliers to adopt EDI, and finally, there are more pressing projects needing focus and attention.  But as your company extends EDI further, the cost per transaction to handle non-integrated data rises. There has been a lot written about supplier enablement in recent years, including a lot of discussion about bullying practices.  This blog will not go in to all of that.  I simply want to talk about why hub organizations need to consider onboarding their entire supplier community.  

Wikipedia describes the benefits of supplier enablement being, "...reduced supply chain costs, improved invoice tracking, reduced procurement costs, reducing or eliminating non-value added (manual) processes, and improved communications."  Many hubs do not fully invest in a supplier enablement program for fear of alienating their suppliers, which is a valid concern.  But I say, "Go big or go home."  You're not fully realizing the benefits of EDI or data integration when 50% of your suppliers are still doing business with you over email!  The key to selling EDI onboarding to your supplier community is making them understand the benefits to them, as well as offering them affordable and user friendly options.  Below I have outlined the most basic benefits of EDI implementation for both the hub and the supplier.  

Benefits to the Hub

  • Business Analytics - Manual processes leads to bad data.  Not only does bad data cost money to fix, but bad data can persist once it has been imported in a system, and that bad data can play havoc with analytics, just like a cancer. Nathan Camp of Liaison Technologies wrote in a recent guest blog, "Allowing the company leadership to make informed path decisions, allowing sales and marketing to target emerging opportunities, and providing procurement with a complete picture of purchase history and buying power is all dependent on access to clean, trusted, and fresh data."
  • Lower Human Capital Costs – While most research organizations tag the manual process for non-integrated business transaction processing as between $18 and $35 depending on the transaction type, I’d like to take a much more conservative estimate. Let’s say you pay a part time employee $12 per hour to process data. Add in a few dollars per hour for office space, utilities, and equipment. It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes for a paper document to be reviewed, entered, and filed by a skilled data entry person. That leaves a per transaction cost being somewhere in the $4 to $5 per document range. If your company processes over 5 documents per month, I have a solution candidate to discuss with you.
  • Less Errors - Wherever there is human intervention, you introduce errors, both with outgoing POs and incoming invoices.  The average human error rate in data entry is 3 to 5%.  It takes 3 times as long to identify and resolve these errors.  Venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz shares in his blog what physicist Stephen Hawking told him, "The cost to fix a data error at the time of entry is $1. The cost to fix it an hour after it's been entered is $10. And the cost to fix it several months later is $100+." 
  • Better Visibility - EDI provides you with quantitative details so you can identify your strong suppliers and weed out the weak ones.  Real-time visibility into your supply chain helps you plan for unforeseen events such as out-of-stocks or shipping delays.

Benefits to the Supplier

  • Faster Payments - EDI cuts the order-to-cash cycle dramatically.  What used to take weeks now happens in a matter of days, leading to better cash flow.  This is the life blood of your supply chain.
  • Competitiveness - Being EDI capable makes you that much more competitive in the marketplace.  Give yourself an advantage and level the playing field with larger competitors.  
  • Improved Customer Relations - Exchanging business documents with your customer via EDI makes you easier and cheaper to do business with.  EDI leads to better business relationships.
  • Paper Reduction - Implementing EDI with your customer leads to less paper usage, therefore less waste and less need for storage.  This leads to a significant cost savings. 

Why hasn’t your company done more with EDI?

The usual answers are as follows:

  • "It costs the suppliers too much."  This used to be true. 15 years ago, entry level EDI solutions could cost $1,500 or more just to get setup. This is no longer the case. Based on the “Benefits to the Hub” cost analysis above, EDI solutions now cost less than  what it costs your business to process 10 non-EDI transactions per month
  • "Suppliers refuse to do EDI."  Of course they don’t want to change the way they do things. But if your organization helps provide them with an alternative solution that can nimbly move them to EDI compliance, and ultimately EDI integration later, their willingness to adopt increases
  • "EDI costs our business too much to add new trading partners."  If you have EDI software, it should be relatively easy to add new partners that follow your EDI specifications. If you use a VAN service, the costs to transact data should now only cost pennies.
  • "We don’t have the resources to train suppliers on EDI."  That’s not a problem if you work with a resource that can reach out to your suppliers to educate them on the benefits of EDI, and how the solution you helped broker for them can be used
  • "We are content with the amount of EDI we transact – 80% of our business is conducted via EDI."  As we saw above, the last 20% of non-EDI transactions adds up quickly. In today’s ultra-competitive landscape, your competition is going to cut their costs and eek more margin out of their profits. EDI is often simply an overlooked piece of low hanging fruit, if you have the right tools.

For hubs that are looking to extend EDI to their entire trading partner base, Liaison's new tool, Community Manager, makes the process of outreach, onboarding, data validation, and monitoring much more fluid. Supplier enablement managers can monitor if a supplier is receiving and viewing received transactions without a phone call or e-mail. One of the most useful features is that you have the authority to move your suppliers from test to production status right within Community Manager.  You decide which documents to enable, what the message flow is and you have the ability to add, remove and/or edit trading partners.  Stay tuned for more on this hot topic.  In the meantime, if you'd like to see a demo of Liaison's new Community Manager tool, click below.

Request Demo Now

Tags: data integration, supply chain, benefits of EDI, EDI Implementation, EDI onboarding, supplier enablement

Liaison Unveils Community Manager

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 @ 11:04 AM

supplier enablementPhoto appears courtesy of Sarah Ackerman. Supplier enablement just got a heck of a lot more fun with the unveiling of Liaison Technologies’ Community Manager.  As a hub organization, can you imagine being able to see what's happening with your trading partner community at a glance? Liaison Technologies, always on the cutting edge of integration and supply chain solutions, has created a tool for hubs to manage their community from one convenient place.  Community Manager uses a Software as a Service (SaaS) approach to allow hubs to monitor and manage their customer/supplier enablement programs.

For the spokes, Liaison's Athena solution is provided as a perfect solution for the smallest companies which would not otherwise pursue an EDI connection to the hub.  Athena can be accessed from any device with an internet browser, including mobile devices.  Modeled after a basic email interface, Athena makes the viewing, creation and exchange of EDI documents virtually effortless.  Athena's reply-to feature and simple web-forms makes EDI as easy as answering an email.  In addition, carton labels (GS1-128/UCC-128), email alerts, and Athena's reporting capabilities allow users to quickly summarize a variety of EDI activities, such as all sent or received or rejected documents within a specified time period.

For the hubs, Community Manager makes the process of outreach, onboarding, data validation, and monitoring much more fluid. Supplier enablement managers can monitor if a spoke is receiving and viewing received transactions without a phone call or e-mail. This changes the dialogue from, “Did you get my purchase order?” to "Hey Bessie Clothing Supplier, I see you have not reviewed PO #1234."  One of the most useful features is that you have the authority to move your suppliers from test to production status right within Community Manager.  You decide which documents to enable, what the message flow is and you have the ability to add or remove and edit trading partners.  This powerful tool is currently being used by a company with 28,000 suppliers.  Can you even imagine the control and visibility this company has into its supplier community?

I haven't even gotten to the best part.  With a commitment to add a minimum number of suppliers within the first year, this tool comes at no additional cost to the hub!  Yes, you read that correctly.  The maps will need to be written of course, but this is a minimal investment for the impact of having this kind of visibility into your global trading partner community.  Oh did I neglect to mention that Athena is available in 12 different languages?  Forget huge testing fees, forget long contracts...easing your suppliers into a well-built, low-cost solution that you have some control over is invaluable.  Convincing your suppliers to be EDI capable is tough and accomplishing that without damaging the relationship is a delicate process.  As a pair working for you, Community Manager and Athena can help you accomplish that goal.  If you would like to see a demo of either Athena or Community Manager, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Request Demo Now


Tags: supply chain, EDI compliant, EDI onboarding, SaaS, supplier enablement, Web EDI

Aurora EDI Alliance's Greatest Hits Volume 1

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Nov 08, 2013 @ 11:07 AM

Aurora EDI Alliance Photo appears courtesy of Phillip Pessar.  After two years of blogging, we feel that we have earned the right (unlike some top 40 artists out there) to put together a Greatest Hits of our most popular blogs. This list of ten blogs is a countdown to the most viewed blog article on our site.  The list might surprise you...it certainly surprised us!

10. Top 7 EDI Considerations

9. Is EDI Dead?

8. Target Canada EDI Implementation

7. Walmart EDI: What Suppliers Need to Know

6. Macy's Begins Requiring RFID Tagging of Items Nationwide

5. Five Ways to Calculate ROI for EDI

4. What is a UCC-128 Label?

3. Cloud Based EDI:  What Does "In the Cloud" Really Mean?

2. Doing EDI with Amazon.com

1. The First Question is, "What is EDI Capable?" 

What this list shows us is that our readers are largely looking for basic EDI information, particularly information about establishing EDI relationships with the big retailers.  While we do like to write about high level technical topics like JSON and the Internet of Things (IoT) for our technogeek fans, we promise to also always include basic information like these topics included in our list.  We hope these articles have been helpful and if there is a topic that our readers would like us to write about, by all means let us know!  We are happy to accommodate.  

Looking for more information?  Download our free eBook, EDI 101 - everything you need to know to get started down the EDI path.

Download Free  eBook: EDI 101

Tags: EDI Technology, EDI considerations, EDI software, EDI Implementation, EDI options, EDI education, supplier enablement, RFID tagging

Cloud or On-Premise EDI Integration? A Unique Approach to Selection

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 @ 05:50 PM

Guest blogging for the Aurora EDI Alliance today is Nathan Camp of Liaison Technologies.  Photo courtesy of Mikhail Koninin.

maninrainOrganizations of every size are evaluating every piece of technology to determine whether they retain or expand solutions with on-premise software and hardware, or move the functionality up to the “Cloud.”

A major tile and masonry products supplier based in Los Angeles, CA, with dozens of stores across the US, had such a decision as they looked at their EDI operations.

This company was using Oracle JD Edwards for their ERP system, and they had decided to keep this system in house running on Oracle servers. While they had an enterprise-class ERP system, their revenues and therefore budgets were also still directly tied to a very tight home improvement market. Cost, delivery capability, control, and growth were constant considerations as they looked at IT resources. In order to stay in business, this company knew they had to expand their markets in big home improvement chains. And that made one choice an absolute must: find a new EDI integration system. Since JD Edwards typically uses staging tables for data integration, both on-premise and Cloud delivery models were options.

Many IT directors are faced with that conundrum today: “To Cloud or not to Cloud, that is only one of my 1,400 decision e-mails sitting in my inbox.”

While Cloud and mobile continue to be the darlings of media, the software industry is providing signals that on-premise is not dead nor quietly drifting off into obsolescence. In a recent post by Pete Barlas of Investors Business Daily, he cites Gartner’s research that says, “By 2016, global revenue from public cloud software services is expected to reach $210 billion, up 60% from the $131 billion expected this year, says Gartner. The research firm expects total software revenue of $369 billion in 2016, so public cloud software would be nearly 57% of the total vs. 43% this year.” And Barlas correctly summarizes, “That, of course, still leaves a lot outside the cloud.”

Turning back to the tile distributor in Los Angeles, they had the following critical factors as their main consideration factors:

  1. They absolutely needed to satisfy the EDI needs for Home Depot, Lowes, and other home improvement giants.
  2. They needed a flexible solution that could work with JD Edwards via database connectivity.
  3. They demanded that their new EDI solution must perform complicated pricing and unit measure look-ups and conversions to transform internal costs and product units into the appropriate values required by each retailer.
  4. Large product catalogs also needed to be compiled from the JD Edwards database on a regular basis, and posted on a secure FTP server for immediate customer pickup by customers using the Retail Flooring Trade Association RFMS system.

With this list of requirements, the tile distributor began the search for solution providers. They knew that they needed to evaluate solutions covering a broad spectrum of delivery methods. In the end, they whittled the list down to a Cloud integration service provider and an on-premise solution. And here is where this company did something that most others haven’t considered. They decided to have a live competition between the two solution options. The Home Depot integration project was given to one solution provider, while Lowes was given to the other solution provider.

This unique solution to choosing a new vendor provided the tile distributor with four practical take-a ways:

  1. Could the solution provider easily connect to the JD Edwards staging tables without disrupting too many internal systems nor compromising security?
  2. Could the solution provider actually deliver what the sales person had promised?
  3. Were budgetary objectives met?
  4. Was the system adaptable to be managed by either internal or external resources on an as-needed basis?

While the results might surprise you (on-premise software won the day), what should impress you is the creative approach to the solution process. This tile distributor recognized the absolute strategic importance of this decision, and they systematically determined the best course for their business. This required duplication of work efforts across two competing solution providers, cash outlay for the professional services provided in the proofs of concept, and the critical analysis that this exercise needed to quantify the cost-to-benefits of both products.

While this customer ended up evaluating on-premise systems compared to Cloud delivery, I argue that the same approach can be taken in on premise versus on-premise or Cloud versus Cloud. This approach does not have to be taken for every decision because many IT purchasing decisions can be more obvious.

But when faced with a more difficult capital investment decision which could lead to substantial hidden costs, a little upfront sacrifice is worth it. Without the exercise of the proof-of-concept trail, the supplier would not have uncovered the new costs of working with this particular Cloud provider that demanded the client adhere to its canonical file structure, which then made it necessary to add a second data translation map between the “converted” EDI file and JD Edwards. Yes, this is a common, hidden pain point that is highlighted as point 1 in this blog article.

On the positive side, because this tile distributor was able to find success and a strong working relationship with the Aurora EDI Alliance, both this company and the solution experts continue to look for new opportunities to expand the ways to use the middleware solutions beyond just client EDI. In fact, the tile distributor is now looking to work with the solution provider to run a supplier enablement program and offer a multi-lingual Web EDI product to tie their international based suppliers directly into their EDI system.

Click below for a case study on how the Alliance helped another company, AliMed, make their EDI operations more efficient using the Delta/ECS tools.

 Click Now for AliMed Case Study



Tags: EDI integration, data integration, cloud, enterprise resource planning, cloud computing, electronic data interchange, supplier enablement, JD Edwards, Web EDI