Author Archives: Jill Barlow

EDI Modernization Strategy: Five Decision Factors (Part 1)

Introduction: blog post is the first part of a series highlighting the five decision factors needed for EDI modernization strategy.

Understanding EDI Modernization

EDI (electronic data interchange) has been a data transfer method used to standardize message formatting by businesses for several years. One of the newer considerations coming into play, however, is EDI modernization, which extends B2B integration and automation capabilities beyond classic EDI to support modern business requirements.

Companies are changing the way they connect, automate business processes and exchange data, all which are evident in modern B2B integration. Its value is in expanding integration capabilities while reducing cost and complexity of partner onboarding and operations. On the other hand, classic EDI still remains essential, but is unable to fully provide modern B2B integration needs.

For this reason, there are some points to consider if EDI remains right for your business, or if you need additional functionality EDI modernization provides. Some key questions to ask whether it’s time for EDI modernization are:

  • How do a business’s value network and role drive B2B integration priorities?
  • What additional requirements apply to businesses that are large, fast-growing, or complex?
  • How can integration capabilities and assets be leveraged to increase value?
  • What factors apply when deciding whether to outsource infrastructure, trading partner onboarding, operations, and / or other services, or source them in house?
  • What strategies and trade-offs apply when adopting a new B2B integration solution?

In answering the above questions, understanding and prioritizing modernization objectives will enable businesses to create a strategy then execute it.

The figure below explains how features from traditional EDI differ from EDI modernization.

Figure 1

Modern B2B integration adds capabilities (black/dark text) that extend Classic EDI (red/light text).

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Managing Compliance Risks in B2B Integration Through Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Part 5

This blog post is the fifth and final in a series highlighting how to manage compliance risks for service level agreements for B2B integration.

How to Maintain SLA Conformity When Facing Capacity, Priority and Availability Risks

So far, we’ve covered a variety of threats to maintaining your service level agreement (SLA) compliance ranging from data accuracy to provisioning and risks to your conformity. If you missed our posts on how to address SLA risks you can view the series by clicking here. Otherwise, keep reading this final entry, where we’ll help you identify and address three additional threats: capacity, priority and availability.

Overall, it’s vital for your organization to have a compliance plan in place to account for potential challenges in the future. Insufficient planning for transaction volume growth, lack of process prioritization, and infrastructure services unavailability will negatively impact SLA compliance efforts. Consequently, transactions may exceed time allotments, while connectivity disruptions halt the flow of business. As a result, supply chain continuity is adversely affected and can lead to loss of business and value.

Scaling to Increase Capacity

As you know, software scalability can have a drastic impact on your long-term success. The overall workload capacity of integration middleware and how well it scales with demand affects the ability of a business to meet SLAs. Using a solution with static or flat-line capacity while trying to meet increasing demand can lengthen processing windows and degrade response times as excess capacity diminishes. When demand finally exceeds capacity, transactions are delayed, or even lost, likely damaging your trading partner relationships.

As your business grows, so does the demand for integration capacity. Scalable middleware systems offer the ability to add resources as demand increases. And as your team approaches the capacity limit of a processing node, you can purchase additional nodes online without disrupting your processes (see the figure below). This ability to handle rising demand increases the strategic value of the business to supply chain partners.Additional Nodes

Navigating Through Priority Challenges

On a micro scale, SLAs are at risk when all work inputs receive identical priority and all workloads are assigned identical resources. High priority and high volume workloads can create a bottleneck effect, while low priority and low volume workloads complete sooner than necessary. To prevent this, work with your team to ensure resources and workload prioritization are aligned with business goals. Continue reading

Managing Compliance Risks in B2B Integration Through Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Part 4

This blog post is the fourth in a series highlighting how to manage compliance risks for service level agreements for B2B integration.

How to Manage SLA Compliance when Facing Provisioning and Change

Like other topics discussed in this blog series on service level agreements (SLAs), we will look into another piece that should be considered for B2B integration: provisioning management and change control risks. Even once your business has implemented SLAs, check for updates and improvements to remain up-to-date.

As a condition for new business, trading partners frequently impose deadlines for delivering integration processes and changes. These provisioning activities include initial partner onboarding, new transaction enablement, and implementation of several ongoing changes. These include communications, data formats, validation rules and other integration details. Even when onboarding and maintenance agreements are verbal, missing deadlines can lead to partner dissatisfaction and sometimes lost business.

Overcome Provisioning Delays with Reuse

A reliance on low-level tools and skills will often result in provisioning delays. Programming and other forms of ground-up, manual specification are the least productive methods available for B2B onboarding and provisioning – and the most error-prone.

You can reduce delays by reusing and modifying previously created B2B processes, maps, interfaces and other deliverables. Even this kind of object-level reuse can be slow and prone to errors. Depending on the complexity of the B2B processes needed, dozens or hundreds of maps, business processes, adapters and other objects require skills that might not be available at reuse time.Managing Provisioning and Change Control Risks

The most effective remedy is to apply reuse at the project level, as depicted in the image above. Project-level reuse is superior to object-level reuse because it utilizes working projects that retain their original object connections. A design-time process that “understands” what must change manages the configuration process. By replacing manual configuration with automation, you reduce the opportunities for new errors that extend testing time.

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Managing Compliance Risks in B2B Integration Through Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Part 3

This blog post is the third in a series highlighting how to manage compliance risks for service level agreements for B2B integration. Read Part 2 HERE.

How Latency and Visibility Risks can Derail SLA Compliance

Now that we’ve discussed the basics of service level agreement (SLA) compliance, along with how you can increase the quality of your data through automation, it’s time to look at the risks both latency and complacency bring to compliance with your SLAs. As with data accuracy, many of these issues can be solved by selecting the automation solution right for your business.

Many businesses find their SLA commitments in jeopardy in part from large, intermittent delays. The large delays are due to lack of automation or the cumulative effect of many small delays due to errors and inefficient error resolution methods. Latency or delays in transaction processing must be minimized or eliminated altogether in order to guarantee repeatable, consistent and predictable SLA compliance. Likewise, you need quick and efficient visibility into business processes to speed up the error resolution process and prevent costly delays resulting in SLA nonconformity.
Visibility to status and results

The Strain of Manual Processing

When automation of non-EDI document processing is incomplete or absent, manual processes must fill these gaps. Unfortunately, these processes depend on personnel who can be unavailable at times, due to vacations, meetings, sickness, etc. Even with the proper personnel available, manual processes often entail tedious and inefficient data entry and multi-step data acceptances, opening the door for data errors. Continue reading

Managing Compliance Risks in B2B Integration Through Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Part 2

This blog post is the second in a series highlighting how to manage compliance risks for service level agreements for B2B integration. Read Part 1 HERE.

Managing Data Errors and Exception Risks

In our last post, we discussed the compliance basics of service level agreements (SLAs) and how you can better manage the risks associated with them. Now, let’s turn to one of the more crucial pieces of the risk management puzzle: controlling the quality of your data.

Successful B2B integration relies on the sending and receiving of transaction data that is complete and accurate. Without complete and accurate data, order fulfillment, invoicing, and other downstream business activities cannot effectively occur.

Can Accurate Data Streamline Transactions?

Data validation processes determine whether data sent to (outbound) and received from (inbound) trading partners is accurate and complete. When you use industry standards like X12 or EDIFACT EDI, validation checks ensure data conforms to standard content, structure, and usage. And when using XML, flat file, or other partner-specific formats, predetermined document schemas validate data, at a minimum. Continue reading