Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a very powerful tool for use in business and can greatly streamline communication between entities when implemented properly. The successful use of EDI, however, is not guaranteed by a successful implementation, but through the ongoing learning and understanding of the business processes being handled. Below are some areas to consider when working with EDI.
No. 1: First and foremost, understand the expectations of the trading partner you are dealing with and how their business requirements will impact your company. Have those business processes been mapped out and can they be executed through manual interactions in the system? The manual processing of the required documents (transaction sets) will help in understanding what parts of your system you will need to have data populated in and assist in troubleshooting issues down the road when the data is being passed between systems directly.
In addition, be aware of important contacts within your trading partner's organization that are responsible for EDI. They will be able to provide quite a bit of information and assistance with understanding their documents and requirements.
No. 2: The next item is having a good understanding of and ability to review the data being passed to and from your system. Knowing what data you are accepting and passing back to your trading partner will assist in making sure that everything flows smoothly. Having tools in both the corporate software and provided by the trading partner to review data will help validating and troubleshooting data related issues.
For example, in EnterpriseIQ's eCommerce/EDI module, the user has several areas in which data can be viewed. The EDI Maintenance module allows the user to view the inbound data once it has been parsed. In addition, it is possible from these screens to view the raw inbound data that was used to generate the parsed document. At the lowest level, the raw EDI data files are stored and kept in history folders for review if needed.
No. 3: Another thing to consider is using tools within your system to assist in monitoring your EDI process. Within EnterpriseIQ is the eServer module - a powerful add-on that allows for automated processing of EDI transactions. In addition, it can be set up to monitor specific conditions that can then generate alerts to responsible parties.
For example, eServer can be set up to alert users to inbound data that may represent new information not currently in the system (new ship to address, item number, etc). The online help files outline a number of actions that can be used to help manage the flow of data within the system.
Building a good understanding of the capabilities of your EDI system, the data you are working with and the expectations of your trading partners goes a long way in making the electronic supply chain move smoothly. Having this knowledge also increases the responsible person's value within their organization as they are able to keep this data flowing efficiently.