Strategy to Modernize Your EDI Solution

It’s a new year. This is the year you’re finally gonna do something about your aging EDI solution. It’s likely this decision came down from above. “They” want to gain a competitive advantage, which could mean anything from decreasing partner on-boarding time to scrapping the whole ERP/platform/EDI suite in favor of something that’s better suited to your enterprise.

So… where do you go from here? Depending on your situation, your options could be anything from “Do nothing for now” to “Full replacement ASAP”. Carefully enumerating the options (like on a whiteboard) is a really useful exercise and will help you make a sound business case for your decision. But, in order to arrive at viable options (which management loves), you have to first know what this is going to impact.

Building Your Impact Analysis

In most cases, there will likely be software changes – possibly additions, updates and/or replacements. What is the impact of bringing new software in? You have to look at hardware requirements, training, loss/gain of capabilities, the learning curve, stability, integration and new skill sets to name just a few. Trickier though, will be the changes to business practices and processes. Now you’re talking about changing people’s daily routine – a not too easy task. What if your current EDI solution is not meeting the needs of your enterprise? Well, now you’ll have to deal with new software, new business practices, as well as fixing your corporate dysfunction. You finally have a good excuse for cleaning up all those messes.

Define Project Goals

Again, depending on whether or not the “decision” was handed down from above, you may or may not be clear about what the goals of the new system are. Clearly enumerating, categorizing and prioritizing the goals of the new system is another useful exercise (again on a whiteboard). It will help you nail down the right strategy for your enterprise. Scalability and reliability will probably be high on the list. Obviously, an integrator needs to translate the data.  It should also foster agility and productivity – in development and operations. Enterprises need to do more work with less people; they simply cannot afford to have people performing automatable tasks.

Building on what you discovered in your impact analysis and goal definition, begin to put together options for modernizing our EDI solution. When you arrive at a decision, it may be “do-nothing”, a hybrid of new and existing solutions, or a brand-new platform. The important thing is to do what fits your enterprise.

Balance and Risk Mitigation

After you’ve reached your decision, if it involves anything besides “do-nothing”, you are welcomed into the splendid world of “unknowns”. There’s likely to be some of “Oh, I forgot about that”, or “We didn’t know enough to ask that question”. Don’t worry – it’s to be expected.  Two keys to success are balance and risk mitigation. For risk mitigation, incremental roll-outs of new software and processes are desirable because they are less risky than “big-bang” (everything at once) roll-outs. Unknowns, errors and risk are best managed in small bits; plus incremental roll-out gives you the opportunity to refine your process over time. For balance, start with your core competency and add new skills/features later.

Don’t Go It Alone, Consult With an Expert

Additionally, partnering with a trusted and experienced vendor can make all the difference in the world. Great vendors know this process like the back of their hand – they’ve seen it all and will share their proven methodologies with you.

You’ve got the mandate, now do enough analysis and research on your existing environment and future needs. Work up some options for management; once a decision is made, implement the solution with agility while minimizing risk. “Fortune favors the prepared mind

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