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EDI, E-Commerce System Selection – Plan for Growth, know your needs !

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Global Connections

In my earlier post on the 10 things you need to watch out for when choosing an EDI/E-Commerce System I highlighted things to take into consideration, all very high level. I have been surprised at the interest the post has generated, the number of people who have read the blog article has surprised me.

In two subsequent blog posts I explored two of the issues in greater detail. This is the third in the list of ten – Understand your real needs and don’t just respond.

From my earlier post … point 3. Understand your real needs; don’t just respond to your trading partner’s demands. You may have one request today, but in two months you may have 3 more. Make sure you are not locking yourself into something you will regret in a year. Plan for growth.

Most people reading this will say, ya duh, that is pretty obvious. They are right, its common sense, but the truth is most people don’t plan they respond and react. Usually when they simply react they make mistakes.

Too often we see companies approach us for a quote because they have landed a deal with X company and they need a solution ASAP. You dig into things and they have no other partners – just the one, or so they say. You get them up on EDI and low and behold something strange happens, all of a sudden the floodgates open and they now need to add three more partners toot suite. The reality is those partners were always there its just when you asked the question the immediacy of pressure is what determined the answer.

So what should a potential buyer do?

I always recommend to people who are looking for a system that they do a 360 of their business. Don’t look at the EDI request in isolation but look at all the potential data flows in and out of the business. If they want to focus on EDI then I probe for the real number of partners not just the one that is creating the immediate pressure.  Invariably what comes out is that they have multiple trading partners, not just the one that is hounding them and they also receive orders in from various sources all of which could be automated using an e-commerce platform.

An Excel spreadsheet that comes in with orders can be translated and driven into an accounting system. A web store order can also be accessed and driven in, so why just look at EDI in isolation. Data is data.

Often the biggest mistakes we see are companies that respond by picking the trading partner’s recommended solution or the solution pushed by the third party tester. Over time we see four or five of these solutions in place. In the old days it was software installed at the company, today it’s a web-based solution. I call them translator graveyards. I’ll explore the translator graveyard in another blog post.

So what I always say to potential clients is step back, evaluate the data flows and select based on your global needs. Don’t just respond but rather plan for growth, in the long run it will cost you much, much less.

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