Breaking News: GXS and Inovis Sign Definitive Merger Agreement

GAITHERSBURG, MD and ATLANTA, GA — 12/08/09 — GXS and Inovis, leading providers of business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce services and software solutions, today announced that they have signed a definitive agreement to merge. Inovis brings with it approximately 16,000 customers from a range of industries including retail and consumer products, financial services, transportation/logistics and automotive. The combined company creates a leading global provider of B2B e-commerce services and gives the company an even greater global presence.The merger of GXS and Inovis will further streamline customers’ global B2B deployments and provide them with a comprehensive range of B2B integration software and services-based solutions. GXS is a leading B2B e-commerce services provider with a strong focus on helping customers optimize their global supply chains through its software-as-a-service (SaaS) and software-based portfolio that includes B2B messaging services, supply chain visibility, product master data management and B2B Gateway software. Inovis is a leader among B2B Gateway software providers and has a strong portfolio of complementary software and services including managed file transfer, supply chain visibility, product catalog, B2B Gateway and multi-enterprise master data management software.

“Today’s merger announcement marks a turning-point in the B2B e-commerce industry,” said Bob Segert, president and CEO of GXS. “GXS sees strong potential for further growth in B2B managed services and B2B integration software. This demand must be met by a company with a diversified portfolio and global scalability. The combined company will bring together a leading provider of B2B services, GXS, and a leading provider of B2B software, Inovis, into one, giving customers an invaluable portfolio for all of their global B2B e-commerce needs. Over the next few months, we will be focused on supporting our customers, reviewing our broad portfolio and providing the most reliable and scalable B2B platform available.”

GXS and Inovis expect to close the merger in early 2010, subject to regulatory review. During the merger closing process, all services and solutions will continue to be supported and sold. The goal of any integration activity will be to provide customers with a well-informed, seamless, managed transition with no business interruption. The company’s goal is to give customers capable, reliable, high-performance solutions for all their B2B e-commerce needs.

“Both GXS and Inovis are industry pioneers with proven abilities to serve world-class customers,” said Sean Feeney, president and CEO of Inovis. “The complementary products of these two companies create significant value for customers that are seeking a single global provider for B2B e-commerce. Both companies share a passion for raising the bar on innovation and operational excellence and have the specific industry knowledge needed to help our customers achieve true, seamless integration with business partners located anywhere in the world. This merger is a big step forward in the evolution of the B2B e-commerce industry.”

GXS was advised by Barclays Capital and Citibank on the transaction. Inovis was advised by Kirkland & Ellis and BofA Merrill Lynch on the transaction. Further details on the merger of GXS and Inovis can be found here: www.gxs.com/inovis and www.inovis.com/gxs.

About Inovis

Inovis offers software and services that enable companies to do business electronically across their entire trading community. Each day, over 16,000 companies across the globe rely on the Inovis platform to reliably send and receive purchase orders, synchronize data and manage exceptions in order to lower supply chain costs and get products to customers faster. Founded in 1983, the company is based in Alpharetta, Georgia and has offices around the globe. For more information, please visit www.inovis.com, read our blog at http://blogs.inovis.com, send an email to info@inovis.com, or follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/inovis.

About GXS

GXS is a leading global provider of B2B e-commerce solutions that simplify and enhance business process integration and collaboration among trading partners. Organizations worldwide, including more than 70 percent of the Fortune 500, leverage the on-demand services on GXS Trading Grid® to extend supply chain networks, optimize product launches, automate warehouse receiving, manage electronic payments and gain supply chain visibility. GXS Managed Services, GXS’ B2B outsourcing solution, empowers customers with the expertise, technical infrastructure and program support to conduct B2B e-commerce with trading partners globally.

Based in Gaithersburg, Md., GXS has an extensive global network and has local offices in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions. GXS can be found on the Web at www.gxs.com, http://blogs.gxs.com/ and http://twitter.com/gxs.

All products and services mentioned are trademarks of their respective companies.


Slow down, you move too fast…

… or something like that…  The title comes from an old song by Simon & Garfunkle, a “folk-pop” duo from the 60s and 70s…  They gave us a LOT of hit records in their years together – and Paul Simon certainly had a string of hits after they split.  Art Garfunkle didn’t do as well, but he still stayed busy and active in the recording industry.

I always think of the old adage about “stopping and smelling the roses” when I think of that old song (BTW, it’s “FEELING GROOVY”)…  Which then leads to thinking about “tunnel vision”…  And all of this came up today because of a comment made to a previous post that fairly SCREAMS “sales pitch!” and … well, I’ve never been a fan of the heavy-hitting sales pitch.

Years ago, I actually was in sales – I was selling new (and used) Chrysler and Plymouths for a dealer in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This was in the late 80s and I only did it for a few months.  I had to get out of there because, while I love cars – I’m a certifiable car nut – I couldn’t deal with all of the high-pressure tactics that so many sales people used.  It actually kind of shocks me to think about how many of the same sales tactics and ploys are still being used in 2009 – over 20 years later!

It’s these “hard sell” tactics that got under my skin today.  Somebody read a blog and thought it would be a great opportunity to use a comment back on the blog to push their product – which is a service, really – as an outsourced EDI program.  Software As A Service (SaaS) has been buzzing around for the past few years and is really taking hold in any MIS/IT environment you can think of…  And it’s also always being pushed in the EDI world, for sure.  So many companies have been making many dollars on offering outsourced EDI processes….

And please don’t misunderstand me with this blog – I certainly know the value of SaaS – especially when it pertains to EDI – but what got to me was more of how some people don’t seem to think of how EDI is being used (or has been used) by a company when they “sales pitch” their solutions.

As I said, there are a great many companies out there that offer “outsourced” EDI solutions.  Some may be known to you, others may not.  There’s companies like SPS Commerce, DI Central, Red Tail Solutions, EDI Direct, Direct EDI, ACT, and more and more and more.  Even many of the “big VANs” offer some kind of SaaS EDI solution…  Inovis has their webforms product which, in a minor way, can compete with their own VAN services AND their software (TrustedLink)…

Outsourced EDI (aka SaaS) can be highly beneficial to many a company when it comes to EDI processes.  You could be a small supplier of (dare I use it again?) Widgets to a bunch of retailers – big and small.  By having a way to process EDI documents, you can sell to the big retailers (WalMart, Target, and so on) and also to the smaller and medium sized retailers (local chains and single outlets) that also are EDI capable.  Having an outsourced EDI program (SaaS) can elevate you up to play with the big boys, but still keep your overhead low and complexity down at your “small boy” level.

Take a look at normal  VAN services, for example.  Depending on your volume of data being transmitted, you can pay (easily) thousands of dollars a month for your VAN connection – to be able to send and receive your data.  Costs can range from just a few cents per KC (Kilo-Character) to maybe as high as 25 cents per KC…

Then there are the costs of buying and implementing an application.  A simple and yet exceedingly effective product like Inovis’ TrustedLink can cost you thousands of dollars – tens of thousands – to purchase and put into place.  Then there’s the aspect of yearly maintenance and licensing agreements and support – again, thousands to tens of thousands of dollars…  So, for a small business, that can be a BIG chunk of change… 

Based on just these two costs alone, SaaS EDI is making a lot of sense.

But here’s where the sales pitch can rub the wrong way.  Let’s say that, instead of being a small fry, you’re a really big fish in the world.  You don’t just make widgets, but you also make all sorts of other products and have multiple locations and divisions around the country … or even around the world.  THIS is where SaaS EDI can be less of a benefit for you.

To a major retailer – like a WalMart or Target – or to a major manufacturer/supplier – like Mattel or Nike – these costs are very small potatoes.  They already have good sized MIS/IT departments and can easily afford that big outlay for the EDI platform AND the monthly VAN costs AND whatever other costs come along.  Oh, and they can easily manage it all “in-house” and have it all easily integrated into their ordering and accounting and warehousing (and whatever other) applications they use.  It’s more direct-connect EDI – retailer to supplier – with just the VAN service in between. 

This is not to say that SaaS can’t be used in the same way.  But it can surely slow down the process just a bit and it also takes a lot of control away from you – as a big guy.  As a big guy, you’ve got more at stake and more reasons to keep it in-house and not oursource your EDI.

A few years ago, a good pal of mine that works for Disney, related to me how Disney decided to “outsource” their internal help desk/tech support functions.  Now, for those not in-tune with “the House of Mouse”, Disney will generally make a lot of changes to their applications – including naming them after Disney characters – and train their people how to use “their” systems, their way.  So instead of using, say TrustedLink, the EDI person knows it as “Minnie” … or “Daisy” … And their version of Oracle or SAP may be called “Goofy” and “Pluto”.  Imagine the trouble when tech support guy Bob at “TechSupport R Us” gets a call from Walt at Disney, telling Bob that he’s got a problem with “Mickey” or “Donald”…

Oops!

When I first started with the retailer I was working for, I started off in the tech support office, helping users do what they  needed to do – use the system.  And it would often amaze and bewilder me how many of those users didn’t actually KNOW what they were using.  They’d submit a job or run a process with some variables.  But, when they were trained to use the process, they were told “oh, don’t worry about those questions, just hit enter” and they’d page through a number of variables and parameters that were defaulting to the proper response for the job.

But, just like Walt at Disney having issues with Mickey, the users didn’t know how to answer the questions that Bob may have asked.  Because Walt didn’t know the answers.  And Bob didn’t know how Walt used the program.

This can also happen when you start working with SaaS and outsourced EDI – and other applications.  You can save some money and maybe even some hassle, but you then may get into a situation where the company you’re getting that Software as a Service from doesn’t really know or understand how you’re using it.  And you may not understand exactly what that software is doing.

With that retailer I was working with expanded the EDI program to include the 810 invoice, there were a number of vendors and suppliers that used “outsourced EDI” to receive the PO and send back the ASN.  And now they’ve got a new document to send – the invoice.

Where the trouble came from, however, was in how that SaaS solution was packaged and maybe – just maybe – some of the users didn’t understand about what they needed to put into a certain field so that the retailer would be able to process the inbound 810 properly.  Maybe in the field marked “description” – they’d put a description of the product they were shipping instead of realizing that they were on a page devoted to “terms” and should have (instead) put a description of the terms of payment of the invoice.  So you saw “widgets” instead of “Net 60″….

This is where SaaS solutions can fall apart and not be right for everybody.

And that’s really what my problem with the sales pitch was about – that here’s an offer being pushed and yet the pusher doesn’t even know what the problem really is.

When I was selling Chryslers all those years ago – I made it a priority to know what the customer was looking for – an economical commuter – and steer them towards a Plymouth Colt or Sundance, rather than trying to push them into a fully loaded (and quite the gas guzzling) Chrysler 5th Avenue. 

It’s also kind of like what I do here – when I’m writing and blogging – in that I kind of know the target audience – people that are in the EDI world – and I talk about EDI issues and problems and concerns, rather than trying to talk to you about how to grow perfect Peonies or resplendant roses or telling you how to bait that hook to catch the biggest mackeral or trout in the lake.

It’s all about knowing your audience and not making some wild pitch and moving way too fast for your intended…

EDI 101-B – Standards and Syntax

EDI 101 – part II – The Basics of Standards and Syntax

So, you’ve decided to come back for more, eh?  Glutton for punishment, I guess.

This time around, we’re going to cover the concepts of the “STANDARDS” and also the SYNTAX and the Content of your EDI Document.  Now, again, I’m coming from a background in retail and using the ANSI/ASC-X12 standard.  And we use version 4010, which is, arguably, a few versions behind, but that’s not truly important.  I know that UN/EDIFACT and TRADACOMS have their own standards and documents, but, again, I’m just dealing with what I know – X12.

For each industry that uses EDI and the standards, there are different forms that can be used.  The book on My desk for the X12, v 4010, is the size of a dictionary.  And it’s printed on that same super thin paper in tiny little type-face.  And it’s almost 1800 pages of that tiny type.  But not every document is used in every industry that may use EDI and use the X12 standard.  Some are strictly for retailers; some for real estate; some for insurance, for banking, for hospitals.  Some of the documents MAY be used across the industrial lines, but some are very specific and specialized.

 Within that X12 standard, there are literally HUNDREDS (at least 300 by My count) of documents that can be traded – from the 850 Purchase Order, the 810 Invoice, the 860 PO Change, the 852 Activity Data to the 262 Real Estate Information Report, the 255 Underwriting Information Services and 249 Animal Toxicological Data.

Wow…  Who knew?

With TRADACOMS (the Standard used in the United Kingdom for most retailers), there are a couple of dozen.  I’m not sure how many documents are in use for the UN/EDIFACT standards, but I’m sure there are a few.

For each document, there are then a series of hierarchy loops – levels, basically – of the information structure.  These levels – the hierarchies – lay the data out in a defined pattern, so that you can have similar data “grouped” with similar data.  Within those levels, you will have the SEGMENTS and the ELEMENTS we touched on last time.  And you can have segments in multiple levels and even repeated within a level, as needs require.

Still there and with Me?   Good.

When you come to the hierarchies, they’re going to – GENERALLY – follow a structure or a pattern.  Kind of like the e-mail analogy I used last time, where we had a TO, FROM, SUBJECT, BODY and CLOSE, the hierarchies will follow a similar kind of pattern.   For example, an 856, the ADVANCED SHIP NOTICE – or ASN – will follow a particular pattern.  A very common pattern is called SOPI.   SOPI stands for SHIPMENT, ORDER, PACK, and ITEM.

The SHIPMENT hierarchy is all about just what it says – the SHIPMENT information and data.  In this hierarchy loop (or level), you’ll find information about the ASN Number, shipment date information, some ship to or ship from information, a bill of lading or tracking number and more.  You can specify the kind of container that is being used (corrugated cardboard) and the name of the shipping company, the weight of the shipment, the number of cartons, and so much more information about the SHIPMENT.

Following SHIPMENT, you’ll generally find the ORDER hierarchy loop.  This contains information and data, as it pertains to the order information.  You’ll find some date references – order date, ship date, arrival/anticipate date, the Purchase Order Number, maybe vendor identification (number, etc.).  Again, this hierarchy loop is all about the ORDER information.

Next up, you’ll generally have a PACK loop.  Most times, this is a pretty small bit of data.  In the ASN spec I use, it’s all about the marks and numbers – the carton label number – for that box.  That’s pretty much it.  In here, however, there could be any data that refers to the packaging of the products ordered.

Then we’ll see the ITEM hierarchy loop.  This is where you’ll find all the data, as you guessed, about the ITEM being shipped in the ASN.  Widgets…  Shoes…  Apples…  Whatever…  This is all about the goods being ordered and shipped.  Everything that’s in that shipment should be listed on the ASN and this is where the item specific detail goes: colors, sizes, quantities, UPCs, SKUs, the works.

Within each hierarchy loop, there are a number of SEGMENTS that contain the elements and the data.  Each segment has a name – an identity.  Within the ASC X12 standards, it’s generally a 2 or 3 character code that identifies what data should be contained in the SEGMENT.  For example, there’s the TD1, TD3, TD4 and TD5 segments.  This is where you would – generally – find the information pertaining to the CARRIER DETAIL.  Things like who the trucking company is, any routing transit time, special handling, hazardous materials information and more.  Or there can be the SN1 segment.  This is all about the item detail – the shipment.  This segment is where you put in the information – the details – about the item being shipped.  Here’s where you can have UPCs, Item Numbers, SKU numbers, Item Descriptions and more – as long as it’s all about the item being shipped.

The SEGMENTS are further split up into DATA ELEMENTS.  This is the nitty-gritty detail of the shipment.  This is where your content really comes into play.  And the STANDARDS also come in here, as the STANDARD lays out what SEGMENTS fall into which hierarchy loops or levels and what elements and data can be included in the segment. 

The ELEMENTS are all about the actual detail of the shipment: quantities, PO numbers, costs, UPCs, item numbers, carton sizes, and more, are all displayed in the ELEMENTS in the SEGMENTS.  This is the level where you really need to have a keen eye for details, as there may be any one of a dozen possible elements to use to identify the data being sent.

Let’s assume you’re working at the ITEM level and the LIN (Line Item Detail) segment.  And you’re trying to get across a VENDORS STYLE NUMBER or designation.  There are a number of choices – looks like 4 in the copy of the X12 Standard I use.  You can use VA (Vendor’s Style Number) or you can use VC (Vendor’s Catalog Number); or how about VP (Vendor’s Part Number), VN (Vendor’s Item Number) or even VU (Vendor’s Basic Unit Number).  Hey!  That’s five!  Of course, then I also see XA (Preferred Part Number), the MG (Manufacturer’s Part Number) and more and more and more.

In this same SEGMENT, you can also have all the information related to OTHER numbers and information related to the item being shipped – the UPC, the SKU, and so forth.  Truly, however, this qualifier (known as the Product/Service ID Qualifier) could be for use in many documents and many segments.  It could be used for financial records, medical records, educational records… 

This can be where many people who create EDI translation documents have to be really careful.  Since there are a lot of codes and qualifiers that could be used to relay the data and information you’re trying to get across, you need to be sure of what you and your trading partners will recognize.

In a previous blog, I talked about the concepts of EDI being replaced by XML; how there’s the DTD/Schema that tells you want the data being transmitted is.  Well, that DTD/Schema basically functions as the formal “STANDARD” of the document, even though there isn’t any formal STANDARD with XML…  The only “RULE” in XML is that you have a set of tags around each bit of data you’re sending.  The DTD/Schema then tells the receiver what it is that this TAG means.  Think of the TAG as the ELEMENT QUALIFIER in the SEGMENT of an X12 document.

Even with all of the potential for confusion that can be found in any of the standards, having that standard and set of rules makes EDI something that’s not exceptionally difficult.  It can be easy to master, as long as you pay attention to the details and work with your trading partners on the documents you’re trading – from syntax to content – to be sure that the data you’re trading – sending back and forth – is clean, reliable and usable.

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here:
http://editalk.com/contributors/

Tim, the Tool Man says – “MORE POWER!”

If you were alive and watching TV through the 90s, you probably saw – or at least heard of – ABC’s long running “Home Improvement” – starring Tim Allen – and giving a start to Pamela Anderson (Lee) – whose career nearly EVERYBODY should know.  It was a show about “Tim ‘the tool man’ Taylor” and his family.  Tim was the “host” of a TV Show called “TOOL TIME” – a fictitious handyman show that was sponsored by the equally fictitious Binford Tools.

But one of the things that Tim was ALWAYS looking for was “MORE POWER!” from his tools – and just about everything else in his life.  Tim’s tinkering with tools would often lead to disastrous results – with an over-powered tool that did far more than it should and was usually pretty destructive.

The other day, I wrote a bit about the power of DETAILS in our EDI world.  But this morning, I was reminded that – even with all the details in the world – we’re nothing without the tools to use them.  And how our actions and all the details we can monitor and provide, how they’re for nothing if the users don’t use the tools we provide them.

This concept of TOOLS and how we should use them was pushed to the forefront of My head this morning, on My drive in to work.  Here in California, we have a newly enacted law that requires the use of “hands free” devices for your cell phone when you’re driving.  Doesn’t matter if you use the phone’s built-in speakerphone abilities (if applicable), a wired headset that plugs in or one of the wonderful Bluetooth devices – whether an ear piece, a clip-on speaker or the one installed in your car (if you’ve got it).  I know that a lot of the “high-end” car companies offer this option in their models.  Lexus, Mercedes, Jaguar, BMW and more have a Bluetooth “kit” built into many of their cars.

Well, this morning, driving on I-10, making My way from Rancho Mirage (home) to Riverside (work) – about a 50 mile trip – I was being passed by a recent generation Lexus LS – the top of the line sedan.  After the Lexus passed Me, I noticed that she started slowing down and … jiggling … a bit in her lane.  When I pulled alongside (she’d slowed by about 5 to 10 MPH), I could see that she was doing something with her arms – moving them around quickly.  Then, a half-second later, into her hand comes her cell phone.

Now, we all know that cell phones are tools – and can be very good tools; very useful when used properly and to our benefit.  Of course, like a 3 year old with a hammer, sometimes tools are abused – like when some … youthful … person is texting messages to their pals – all the while driving down the road at some speed and (obviously) not paying attention to the details of driving. 

But here’s a great instance of a wonderful tool that’s not being used.  The Bluetooth (or other hands-free device).  If that driver in the Lexus had used the device she’s got – and chances are, she’s got SOMETHING to use her phone hands-free – she wouldn’t have had to fish around in her purse or a pocket or wherever her phone was and her attention to the details of her driving wouldn’t have suffered.  She wouldn’t have nearly swerved into My lane.

There are a lot of other tools we can use in our EDI daily lives, too.  And there are great tools we can provide to our users – those accounting clerks and supervisors, those buyers, those warehouse receivers, and all the others.  We can provide them with EDI Invoices, EDI Purchase Orders, EDI Shipment Notices.  We can provide them with records and forms and documents and other forms of data that can be used by them to help make their jobs just a little easier…

We have other tools in the shed that can be used to great benefits by us, our users and even our trading partners, vendors and suppliers.  We can offer solutions for nearly any question or problem – from changing a PO automatically in the system (the 860 in X12-world), provide activity/sales information (the 852), and more.  All of these tools can help us – and our users – to make work easier, better, and – very importantly – more accurate and with less errors.

We can use the 832 – Vendor Catalog – or one of the outsourced catalog website (Inovis and SPS Commerce both have them) to download and – even – automatically update our product management system with the latest and greatest information from our vendors and suppliers – size runs, color availability, UPCs, style numbers and more.  We can keep our systems up to date with product information and changes.

Another example is that it’s often important for a retailer to provide some kind of reporting to their suppliers and vendors as to how a certain product or line is doing in their stores.  These days, it’s become even more important for a buyer and a seller to work more closely together and “fine tune” the product mix in the stores and carried on the shelves and stored in the warehouse.  Retailers are having to pay more attention to their bottom line and the big picture and keep inventories to a more controlled size so they’re not saddled with left-overs come the end of a selling season.

In house, we have a reporting system (called The Eye) that can help our buyers look at trends and see how products are doing, based on sales history and comparisons of different sales periods – whether weekly, monthly, yearly or for a specific advertised sale.  However, because of the large number of products we carry – over 10000 active SKUs and many thousands more that may no longer be carried and in stock – and the large number of stores – over 400 in 10 states – tracking all of that history creates some VERY large databases for The Eye to keep track of.  So we limit some of the levels of detail available to be viewed – we don’t track each item, for example, to the store level, but keep track of the classes.  Or at the Style level of merchandise, we only can see how well that style is doing over the entire chain.

Kind of limited tools.  These tools need “MORE POWER!”

Additionally, our buyers may want to work more closely with a vendor rep on some products or lines and need to provide them with the information on how Widget X is doing in our chain and what we can do to maximize sales and limit overstock levels and all the rest.  And there are many ways that we can get that information – tools we can use – to share that with our suppliers.

If we want to do just the EDI route, we can use the 852 Product Activity document.  By creating this document and trading it with our suppliers, we can provide them with a snapshot of how well the product(s) are doing in our stores and provide them with the appropriate data that they need – and data that we can see, too – so that we can come to a better understanding of our needs and how they can help us to meet those needs.

We could also just send paper reports – or e-mails – to the rep and do it that way, as well.

There are also a number of 3rd party sources that we can use to give access to that data.  Tools that we can provide to our suppliers and that we can use with them to better understand how well a product is doing.

We recently started using Edifice as a 3rd party provider for POS Activity data reporting to our vendor community.  Every week, we compile reports on how well products are selling – or not! – in our stores and the stock levels we have and send the information – via FTP – to Edifice.  They then work with that data and create reporting that our vendors and suppliers can access (if they subscribe) to view that very same information.  Additionally, we can view that same reporting that they’re viewing, so that our buyer and the company rep can be looking at the exact same numbers and data.  They can be comparing apples to apples instead of grapes.

It’s a great tool.  And it’s got “MORE POWER” than our in-house system because Edifice can give the detail down to the size and color – the individual item or SKU – and also down to EACH store in our chain.  And the reporting compares this year to last year, and can also compare seasons and months and a lot of other points of interest.

Right now, about 2 dozen of our suppliers are subscribed to this reporting from Edifice.  And our buying department can see that exact same data.  But here’s where it all falls down – like a house of cards in a strong breeze.

Remember My tale about the Lexus driver and how she didn’t use a great tool – her Bluetooth (or similar)…?  Well, it was a case of not using a tool that can make life better.  Well, the same can hold true for this kind of Activity Data reporting – it’s a great tool – but only if the buyer – and the supplier – can open up that tool box and pull it out!  And, of course, they have to use that tool, too.

That’s really something we all can relate to in the world of EDI.  As I’d mentioned earlier, we have some great tools in our shed that we can provide to our users.  We’ve got some great ways of trading data back and forth with our vendors and suppliers – some great tools – but it’s getting our users to actually use those tools that will suddenly reap the benefit and the rewards from that hard work.

MORE POWER, indeed.

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/

“I’m Too Sexy for … EDI?”

With all due respect to Right Said Fred, I’ll take a bit of their song and use it…

But, let’s face it – EDI isn’t sexy. It’s not glamorous… We’re not going to get many invites to black-tie-and-beaded-gown-red-carpet-fancy events. There are no EDI “Oscars” or “Emmys” or “Tony Awards” or anything like that. There’s just data. And details. Lots and lots of details.

And they do say that “the devil is in the details”…

And do I know a thing or two about details! I’ve often been told that I sometimes put in TOO much detail. When I was taking some creative writing courses in college, one teacher was always fascinated and enthralled by the amount of details I’d provide in a story and another always warned Me about too much detail – to let the reader create the image in their mind, of their experiences. If you’ve read much of My work on EDI Talk (or My latest blog over at Inovis), you’ll know I do tend to go into some details – and, yes, sometimes get a bit off track with them…

Now, where were we…?

OH! Yes. Details. And not the men’s fashion magazine!

Truly, however, it is just those details and our attention to them that can make or break our EDI career. How well we provide those details to our trading partners in our outbound documents and how concise we can make our EDI Document specs, the better documents we can receive from our trading partners in return.

In a lot of ways – whether related to our work, our homes, our personal relationships, our cars, whatever – if we do not pay attention to the details, we can lose track of something that can – and usually and probably will – create havoc a bit later on. Take the driver on their cell phone… They’re so into that conversation, that they seem to neglect the details involved in driving… So they don’t stay in their lane; they run that red light or stop sign; they sideswipe some car on the road or cause some other kind of accident.

True, it doesn’t happen all the time. But the opportunity is there for disaster. That recipe has at least an ingredient or two and just needs a few more to be complete.

The daily newspaper and the evening news always have stories of issues or disasters or problems – and oft times you can see that if somebody had just paid attention to a detail or two, the situation may never have gotten out of control. Remember the bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007? How about the plane exploding just after take-off in Madrid in 2008? These disasters – and may others – may have been prevented if somebody had just paid attention to the details.

Years ago, I was taking a Carribbean Cruise. 10 wonderful days aboard the SS Rotterdaam, in the Holland America fleet. I was living in Northern California at the time and had to fly to Fort Lauderdale to meet the cruise. And, of course, the travel agent couldn’t seem to find space on a non-stop flight and so I had to swap planes in Dallas-Fort Worth. At the time, DFW Airport had 2 sets of runways – one for all Eastbound flights and one for all Westbound flights.

So, here I am, all snug in My 727 as it’s zooming down the runway and beginning to lift off. Now, if you’ve ever flown on a 727, it’s an experience, as they tend to build up all of their speed on the ground and – seemingly – LEAP into the air, with a quick and very angled climb. Only then, after they’re so many feet into the air, do they begin to level off. Back to My flight, the nose was lifting and you knew it was just a second or two before the back wheels would lift and we’d be in the air…

Just a milli-second before the rear wheels left the ground, a warning light flashed on the dash and the pilot put us back down, stopped us and turned us around and headed back towards the terminal. He told us, as we were heading back, about the light and how he wanted to get it checked out so to be sure it was nothing.

An hour later, we all find out that the bulb socket is what caused the problem and it wasn’t related to the systems it covered. Never did know what system it covered… But a new socket was installed and the light bulb replaced.

Of course, now that we’re an hour later, there’s a stormfront moving in from the west and the Eastbound runway is backed-up with other planes on their way out. Luckily, our pilot talked to a tower controller and got permission to fly out Westbound – where there was far less traffic – and turn around and head east. We were up and flying again in minutes, rather than sitting on the tarmac, waiting in line to take off.

That pilot was paying attention to the details. Because of his attention to details, we were only marginally late in arriving in Florida, but we also all arrived safe and sound. Never knew if the warning lamp COULD have been a big issue and could have resulted in a disaster. But because of a detail oriented pilot, disaster was averted.

Hmmm… where was I…? RIGHT! DETAILS…! DISASTER…! Aversion therapy…

WHAT?

But truly, it’s those details that keep us going. By getting the right information to our vendors and suppliers and customers, we can avert disaster. Or, in the very least, we can avert some problems and issues that could arise later on.

One of the things I’ve always mentioned – in blogs and comments here and on other sites – is how wonderful EDI is at helping to curb errors and mistakes. You don’t get keying errors from an AP clerk or a Customer Service clerk that types in the wrong information and your order for 100 widgets becomes 1000 widgets. Or the invoice for $568.00 becomes 5680…  You miss the errors where somebody wasn’t paying attention to the details and “Oops!” – an error happens.  Hopefully somebody catches that error, but…

And what about the details of our translation specs..?  They matter a lot too.  It makes much more sense if we put an “order quantity” (from the PO1 segment of an X12-850 Purchase Order) into the correct field in our ERP, rather than just put it any ol’ place.  It matters that we pull the total dollar value of the invoice – the amount we’re looking to get paid for the productds or services we’ve rendered – from our accounting application and put that in the TDS segment of the Invoice (or similar, based upon the standard you’re using!) so that when the customer gets the invoice, they pay us the right amount.

Those details matter. Those details can be the difference between “No problemo!” (Terminator 3) and “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” (Apollo 13). 

Those details make it so we have the right information in our systems and can do the right thing with that information; from filling an order to creating that order; paying an invoice to setting up items to be ordered to be put on that invoice.  Details are truly important cogs on the gear wheels we use in every day life.

Details are not sexy. 

Details are plain, dull and ordinary. 

But details matter; details get the job done.

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/