Category Archives: EDI and B2B Integration

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

SLA compliance risk and why you should care

Service level agreements (SLAs) are a staple of customer and service provider transactions. You may view them as a necessity, but not necessarily as a permanent tool in your utility belt. Others may understand the basic premise of SLAs, but have no idea how to manage the compliance risks along with them. This post is the first in a series on this very topic, and will walk you through the factors to consider on how to better manage such risk.

SLAs establish objective criteria for assessing the performance of business-to-business (B2B) processes and operations, such as order receipt, warehouse transfers, and claims processing. On the buy side of a business, service levels measure the performance of vendors who provide goods and services. Conversely, on the sell side, they measure how well a business complies with SLAs established by its customers.

Several aspects of performance are measured with SLAs, including:

  • The accuracy and completeness of data exchanged between businesses
  • The timeliness, responsiveness, and visibility of processes that manage data exchange
  • How long it takes to provision new trading partners, transactions, and changes
  • How available and dependable B2B infrastructure services are

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Gathering Requirements

Requirements Gathering for Integration Projects

Requirements Gathering is a complex process with the purpose of defining a list of capabilities that we expect to meet, once the project is completed.  Given that very “business-y” definition, let’s explore the process of Requirements Gathering and how it relates to Integration projects.  In this blog, I will start to address the approach I use to gather requirements and then we’ll apply that approach in subsequent blogs to use cases.

Simply creating a punch-list of features/capabilities/behaviors is not enough to fully define the requirements of an Integration project. Just meeting the defined expectations of A, B, C and so on requires a much deeper dive into what is truly going on, both within the organization and externally with other integration partners (customers, vendors and industry consortiums).

The Requirements Gathering process usually starts when a project is created.  In formal organizations, this initiates with the approval of a project charter, identifying a project Sponsor.  In smaller organizations, this can be either a tactical (reactive) or a strategic (forward-thinking) effort directed by a department head or line-of-business manager.  Once the project is initiated, the scope of the project is usually defined and documented. Continue reading

11 Ways Food & Grocery Suppliers Use Data Integration as an Advantage

High transaction volumes, limited product shelf life, variable demand, thin margins, and competition from non-traditional outlets are just some of the endemic factors that drive Food and Grocery suppliers toward finding more efficient means of managing their operations.

Food Grocery SupplyBusinesses need the scalability, efficiency, and time savings to respond to unexpected demand, minimize time to market, improve vendor scorecard ratings, and achieve revenue and profitability targets with predictability.

To remain competitive, reduce process bottlenecks that lower costs, and quickly satisfy partner demands, Food and Grocery suppliers must eliminate expensive, piecemeal data integration technology and embrace a unified solution that makes important business goals easier to attain:

Achieve transaction visibility and traceability
Safety regulations, including tracking of products from foreign sources, requires timely access to supply chain data. A central integration platform provides real-time visibility and alerts so you can verify orders, shipments, and other events and respond more quickly to exceptions.

Reduce processing cycle times for perishables and other short shelf-life items
Streamline time-critical processes by integrating directly with ERP, warehouse management, and other applications. Turn around responses to partners in near-real time.

Implement demand-driven replenishment
Support VMI, JIT replenishment, and other demand-driven processes, by triggering replenishment from demand signals generated by RFID events or POS transactions.

Gain flexibility to integrate with trading partners on their terms
Connect with retailers, suppliers, and other trading partners using their preferred protocols and document types. A centralized integration platform makes it easy for others to do business with you by implementing custom integrations faster and with less effort.

On-board new customers and suppliers fast
A centralized integration platform accelerates delivery of application data and process changes, so you can engage sooner with trading partners.

Comply more easily with key partner requirements
Implement Order-to-Cash, Procure-to-Pay, and other B2B processes, including Ship Destination Quantity (SDQ) and other specialized transactions.

Broaden your reach to include less technically sophisticated partners
Easily integrate with small or off-shore partners that are not EDI-capable by exchanging spreadsheets, flat files, and other desktop office suite-compatible documents.

Integrate directly with internal applications
Support multiple methods to integrate with all your applications, including both commercial and in-house developed software, on-premise or in the cloud, with one set of tools.

Provide secure, on-demand data access to trading partners
Create web services that expose order status, shipment status, inventory availability, and other information, on-demand.

Synchronize your product catalog data
Synchronize catalog data with retailers using EDI, Global Data Synchronization, flat files, or third party catalog applications.

Gain capacity to handle large documents and demand peaks
Except high-volume data transactions, process very large documents and handle very high transaction rates.

Learn about how Food and Grocery suppliers use EXTOL integration software as a data hub to automatically manage the exchange of any internal or trading partner message, order, payment, or data transaction and eliminate risk of process bottlenecks, redundant tasks, and costly errors.

A Collaborative Partner is Key

This blog post is the sixth and final part of a series highlighting the best practices for planning and evaluation EDI-as-a-Service.

When utilizing EDI-as-a-Service, offerings vary widely in capability, flexibility and quantity – meaning it’s important to find a partner who has a track record of meeting needs like yours.

EDI is a time-tested service and runs largely in the background. Its invisibility, however, can often obscure its value and importance to business. In fact, it can encourage the false impression that EDI solutions, including EDI-as-a-Service, are commoditized and interchangeable.

If you aren’t meticulous in choosing the EDI-as-a-Service best for your business, the penalty can be severe. If a provider responds poorly or too slowly to application, network, system outages or other out-of-band exceptions, consequences can include transaction loss, case flow disruption and potential loss of future business. Continue reading

Last-Mile Integration and Switching Costs

This blog post is the fifth part of a series highlighting the best practices for EDI-as-a-Service in planning and evaluation.

EDI-as-a-Service providers offer unique advantages to your business that may not have been previously attainable. Before making the final decision on engaging in an EDI-as-a-service solution, it may be critical to quantify the value of last-mile integration to your business. You’ll also want to develop strategies to reduce or eliminate switching costs.

The Business Value of Last-Mile Integration

Without end-to-end automation, many companies with close-to-cost business models would be unprofitable. Because of this, it’s important to realize that with EDI-as-a-Service, end-to-end automation requires last-mile integration between the EDI service and operational applications and data. Continue reading