Over the years we have collected a list of mistakes people make when choosing an EDI integration solution. It is amazing to see the same mistakes made over and over again, year after year.
So what are those mistakes…well here are 10 things you need to think about when purchasing an EDI integration solution or what I call an E-Commerce platform because a system should do more than just EDI.
1. Your trading partner’s recommended solution is not the best bet in most cases. A trading partner will push a preferred solution because it serves their purposes not yours. In 20 years this has not changed. The selected supplier will push hard because it is an easy way to enlarge market share – the pressure sale around meeting a trading partners deadline.
2. Cost is not an indicator of quality, reliability, value or suitability. In EDI it is buyer beware. Not all solutions are the same. So make sure you are comparing the same thing when you look at quotes.
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.
4. Signing a long-term contract is madness. I often speak to people who have signed a three-year contract with a major VAN or EDI supplier only to find half their partners want to switch to AS2 six months after they signed. Low and behold they are paying for something they are not going to be using. Not too smart.
5. Choosing a system that does only EDI. Sound like an oxymoron? Well not really, today an e-commerce platform should do more than just EDI. EDI is just another data flow into and out of an organization. So why have one solution for each data flow. Consolidate things into an e-commerce platform that can handle EDI, web services, spreadsheets, XML, CSV files etc. If you are not then you are establishing islands of technology that in the long run will be more expensive to maintain.
6. Don’t succumb to the high-pressure sales pitch because you are under pressure to comply. Does the sales guy or gal just want to make the sale or are they knowledgeable enough to work with you to put together a solution that fits you company’s needs? If the sales rep is trying to make quota, run because their only interest is to sell you, not design something that fits your needs.
7. Make sure you understand the technology and the implications on your organization. Too often I see people make a technology decision with no understanding of how that system will fit into their corporate culture. Worse they try and fit the technology into their corporate culture without embracing change. Big mistake.
8. Plan and don’t procrastinate. Sound simple and yes we have all heard it. Too often we get calls from companies who have left their EDI decision to the eleventh hour. When they get into the process they don’t have the time to make a proper decision and price becomes the overriding factor. In six months or a year they have a solution that doesn’t fully work, or was poorly sized or better yet partially implemented. They have spent money and are now frustrated.
9. Make sure e-commerce and data movement is part of your corporate strategy and that you leverage the efficiencies of integration and automation. A web portal is great for 1 partner and 10 transactions, using a web portal for 10 partners and a 1000 transactions is sheer madness. Having a web store and integrating to a piece of paper is not leveraging technology.
10. Finally do your homework. Take the time to understand the solution, the provider, how the system can be expanded and how you can grow with it. Does the supplier have a growth path or a one size fits all approach. My business partner’s pants wouldn’t fit me and mine wouldn’t fit them so why should one solution fit all e-commerce needs?
All of these are common sense and well-described lessons that are not just EDI specific but you would be amazed at how often we see each and every one of these mistakes made when selecting an EDI/E-Commerce system.