Communication with suppliers, vendors, and other trading partners is an essential aspect of commerce, and electronic data interchange (EDI) is a very common set of standards that enhances and expedites partner communication. If you don’t use EDI or a similar digital solution for sharing information across your supply chain, then your organization’s supply chain isn’t operating at peak efficiency, and you should look for a suitable solution right away.
There are many factors to consider when you’re shopping for EDI solutions. You’ll want a system that’s secure, simple to use, dependable, and capable of processing large transaction volumes. It should support common EDI standards and protocols, as well as non-EDI standards to communicate with partners that haven’t subscribed to an EDI service. You should choose a solution that provides a simple way of converting files between your preferred document formats and those used by your partners. The solution should also integrate with your internal ERP, CRM, PLM, or other business software to provide a seamless and efficient user experience.
However, it is just as important to evaluate the technology provider behind each EDI solution. Even if you choose the most efficient, user-friendly, and scalable EDI platform on the market, poor support from your solution partner can lead to unexpected challenges and hidden costs during implementation, long wait times for technical support, and higher operating costs. Problems like these can sour the user experience for an otherwise excellent EDI product.
Here are a few points to consider while selecting and EDI solution partner for your organization:
How familiar is the solution partner with your particular industry? Providers with a detailed understanding of the way your industry works will take less time to onboard your vendors and partners, and the finished product will mesh more easily with your existing day-to-day business operations.
Flexible and Responsive Implementation
To what degree does the provider accommodate customer requests, and how promptly do they respond to questions? If your business requirements change, do they show flexibility and make changes to their implementation plan? Solution providers that are too rigid can sometimes leave you with a solution that would have worked well for you a few months ago instead of one that suits your needs right now.
Support: Full-Service versus Fire-and-Forget
Some solution providers take a very hands-off approach once the EDI system has been implemented: they deploy and configure the solution and provide initial training, but you have to handle all partner onboarding, monitoring, and maintenance by yourself after the solution has been rolled out. This can be disastrous if your in-house IT staff run into issues a few months down the road.
From employee training and partner onboarding to maintenance and performance monitoring, choosing providers that offer a complete range of support services is essential. Even if you decide to take a largely self-serve approach to managing your EDI system, it pays to have a contingency plan. Knowing that your solution provider can step in if you experience difficulties will give you peace of mind.
When you’re evaluating your options for digital supply chain communication, you must consider both the immediate cost of implementation and the long-term costs of operation associated with each solution provider. Poor post-implementation support can lead to business-impacting downtime, so don’t be tempted to save on deployment costs by choosing a less reputable implementation partner. Be sure to ask for references, testimonials, case studies, or other kinds of endorsement from previous customers.
To identify your specific supply chain communication needs and learn more about PartnerLink, an ERP-integrated digital platform for communication with EDI and non-EDI partners, please contact Visionet Systems to schedule a complimentary consultation session.