The Times They Are A Changin’

Another EDI Blog from this guy…?  Geez!  Why are we all feeling so special?!?

When I’d first written this blog – back in June – I was still working and “gainfully employed” and the change – just about a week ago – is something I could (obviously) plan for and anticipate – but you can only plan so much for this kind of eventuality in life…  But I’m doing OK and have been working on some possibilites to come…  

OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit with that lead-in, right?  But truly, if you’ve read the blogs I write, you may very well have noticed that sometimes I’m kicking ‘em out daily.  Sometimes, well… not so much…  Months may pass between writings…  A lot of it happens when an idea – INSPIRATION! – rears its head and other times, well, it’s just when maybe I’m not so busy and I’ve got free time to think.

Wait… Free time for an EDI Guy?  How can THAT be?  It’s not possible!! (now I’ve got even MORE free time!).

But I tell you, it is!  And there’s a reason that any EDI Guy (or Gal) can have some … free time … here and there to work on other issues and projects.  It’s all about planning and executing your plans and taking care of problems as they happen.  But more importantly, it may be that part of your planning process should be to anticipate some of the problems that you may encounter.

Some of you may know that I live in the Southern California desert communities; I live around the Palm Springs area.  Now, the job I do (well, was doing) is located about 60 miles away in Riverside, California.  Riverside is probably the most “eastern” part of the urban sprawl that surrounds Los Angeles.  Riverside (quick geography lesson here) is right up against some mountains and foothills in Southern California that are known as (I think) the San Bernardino Mountains.  I cross these hills and low mountains – up to about 2400 feet in elevation – twice a day.

Along the route I take (took) – Interstate 10 – I often see a lot of … stuff; a lot of debris litters the road.  Some of it is just bits and pieces of rubber from truck tires that have fallen apart or blown out, some that are from cars and SUVs.  But it always seems that after a long holiday weekend – like the recent Memorial Day weekend – I see a lot of “personal property” in the road side debris I see.  Things like cooler lids – and sometimes, complete coolers! – clothing, towels, tents, tarps, plastic chairs, and more, litter the shoulders (and the lanes – of the freeway.

On the drive in on the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I was really surprised by the amount of stuff I saw.  I saw rubber tubing, at least half a dozen lids from coolers/ice chests, and more.  But the best had to have been the two different water ski boots (one gray, one pink) and the ski tow rope that littered the road.

OK, what the heck is this guy talking about?  Well, it’s simple.

Somebody had spent the long weekend at the Colorado River or at some lake in the area – maybe even into Arizona.  I-10 stretches from downtown Los Angeles and heads all the way through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and keeps going until it ends in Florida at Jacksonville.  So it’s a long, long, LONG trip.  But, still, there are a lot of waterways to “play” on close to Interstate 10.

Now, bringing it back full circle – somebody didn’t pack up their gear too well for the trip home from wherever they spent the weekend.  They didn’t secure everything in the boat or in the back of the truck or on the roof or wherever and they’ve lost some expensive stuff…  I’m pretty sure the boots are probably 50 bucks a pair and the ski rope is probably at least 40 bucks…  And the cooler is probably another 20 bucks… And it’s all because somebody didn’t plan their trip right and didn’t think of the possible problems that could come up along the way – like windy conditions, bumpy roads, and the like.

EDI is a lot the same.  We can plan for all sorts of things – but it’s how well we plan for those bumps in the road ahead – those windy conditions – that will affect the end of our trip into EDI.  Those anticipated events – whether they do or do not happen – affect the outcome and the success of our endeavors – whether it’s a long weekend trip to the river or a new document being rolled out.  It can mean whether we need to spend money we hadn’t budgeted for or anticipated (like buying two new pairs of water ski boots and a tow rope) or whether we end up with everything we started off with and we have a successful journey behind us.

And there are a lot of issues that can pop up in an EDI roll-out – whether it is an entirely new program or just a single document; maybe it’s even simpler – just a change to an existing document. How well we can anticipate the questions and problems we may (or may not!) encounter will go a long way in keeping it a smooth trip.

Last year, we made a change to our 850 PO document and added a segment (or two) and some elements and additional data.  As part of the run-up to this revised document, I contacted as many of our trading partners as possible about the new information and data.  However, in some cases, maybe I didn’t have the correct e-mail address for the vendor and the notification bounced back.  Then I get an e-mail a week or two later from the same vendor, but a different person, asking about that new data and what it’s all about.

Now, a person leaving the company or changing positions is something I can anticipate for – and I was expecting at least some of these kinds of issues – but it’s nothing I could do much about, as I didn’t get a notification that Joe Smythe was no longer there and Janet Dough was now the contact.  To equate that to the road trip return, it’s like knowing the possibility exists that you could have a tire blow out, but there’s not a lot you can do until after it happens.

But there are things I can plan for and anticipate.  I can plan for a vendor using different codes in the SAC02 element than what I send and I can anticipate what they’re going to use and set up the mapping spec of the 810 to populate the data into the correct fields in the AP system I’m using.  I can prepare for additional information that they may send that I don’t use and include it in the mapping spec, even if I only ignore the data based upon that information (like a PID segment in the 810).

So by planning for more than just what we want; planning for what we may encounter and some problems or issues that may arise; by doing this extra checking and preparation, I may be able to not have to come up against some expensive changes later on.  If I was that boat owner, I won’t have to spend a couple of hundred dollars to replace things that I hadn’t put away properly because they got lost on the way home.

got plan?

The above is with all due respect to the Milk Advisory Board and their advertising campaigns.  But, the other day, I came across this wonderful bit of news online… And I thought – wow…  Take a read…


 Bank Robber Hires Decoys on Craigslist, Fools Cops

By Caroline McCarthy, CNET News

In an elaborate robbery scheme that’s one part The Thomas Crown Affair and one part Pineapple Express, a crook robbed an armored truck outside a Bank of America branch in Monroe, Wash., by hiring decoys through Craigslist to deter authorities.

It gets better: He then escaped in a creek headed for the Skykomish River in an inner tube, and the cops are still looking for him. “A great amount of money” was taken, Monroe police said, but did not provide a dollar value.

It appears to have unfolded this way, according to a Seattle-based NBC affiliate: Around 11:00 a.m. PDT Sept. 30, the robber, wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a blue shirt, and a respirator mask went over to a guard who was overseeing the unloading of cash to the bank from the truck. He sprayed the guard with pepper spray, grabbed his bag of money, and fled the scene.

But here’s the hilarious twist. The robber had previously put out a Craigslist ad for road maintenance workers, promising wages of $28.50 per hour. Recruits were asked to wait near the Bank of America right around the time of the robbery–wearing yellow vests, safety goggles, a respirator mask, and preferably a blue shirt. At least a dozen of them showed up after responding to the Craigslist ad.

“I came across the ad that was for a prevailing wage job for $28.50 an hour,” one of the unwitting decoys, named Mike, said to the NBC station. As it turns out, they were simply placed there to confuse cops who were looking for a guy wearing a virtually identical outfit.

Authorities eventually found the getaway inner tube (a getaway inner tube!) and suspect that accomplices may have picked up the robber in a boat. According to the NBC affiliate, police hope to track him down by figuring out who posted the Craigslist ad in the first place.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark was not immediately available for comment.

Now, My thinking of “WOW!” was because of how – well – how much thought and effort this guy did in setting up this crime….  I mean, he planned his escape route, put out an ad to “hire decoys” so that he’d blend into the crowd and not be caught…  Kind of like “The Thomas Crown Affair” – the remake – in which he blends in with the crowd and nobody suspects that he’s got a multi-million dollar piece of artwork rolled up in his briefcase.  Instead, he looks like any regular art patron, stopping by on a break or between meetings…

And it’s that kind of planning – and forward thinking – that can mean the success of any project we’re considering or working on – whether of criminal intent or just something simple and easy as EDI.

“Simple and easy as EDI…?  Did he really just say that…?”

Yes.  Yes I did.

But on the planning front, how good or bad our projects turn out can easily be related to how well planned and thought out our project is.  Do we have plans for possible flaws in our plans?  Do we have back-up contingencies?  Have we thought of any possible negative impacts or issues that may occur?

Or are we just going up to the armored car and saying “stick ‘em up!” without any kind of plan or escape route….?

EDI is not something we can just do “off the cuff” without thinking and planning and follow-through.  We can’t be the Elle Woods that Professor Callahan thinks said “I think I’ll go to law school today!” (from the movie “Legally Blonde”).  We have to be the Elle Woods that actually THINKS about what we’re doing and PLANS for what we want to accomplish.  We have to but some work into it and think it through.

True, in “Legally Blonde”, Elle does change her plans – from merely trying to recapture her boyfriend – to truly learning something and becoming more than what she seems on the surface.  And while EDI may never be THAT exciting, well…  It did show, however, how Ms. Woods was able to change her plans and her goals and still have a successful outcome – even if her original plan was no longer a viable option for her.

Think about the first time your company decided to “go EDI”…  They had these grand notions of … well, doing whatever it is that they had those notions to do.  But, along the way, there have been changes and additions; problems and hurdles; solutions and outcomes; and your EDI program is where it is today.  We learned some lessons, sure.  But we had some basic and solid plans to begin with.

And it’s that planning that probably had a lot with how successful the EDI program we’re working has been.

For example, when I started with EDI with My current job, it was a small program.  We traded only 1 document (the 850 PO) and had about … 30 trading partners.  Not a huge program… Especially for a fairly large retailer.  At the time, we had more than 300 stores in 10 states… True, we’re not Wal*Mart or Target or Costco – but we’re not Mom & Pop Store, with only 1 or 2 locations in one town, either…  “OH, Spud!  I’m a chain!” (from “Steel Magnolias”)…

But now, we’ve got well over 800 trading partners; we’re processing the 850, 856 and the 810; and about 85% of all the POs we write are sent via EDI.  We send and receive a few thousand documents per month.  And we’re pretty successful at it, too.

And we got there by planning…  But also a bit by … well, having good trading partners.  Just like our bank robber (above) probably had some good accomplices that he’s splitting that bag of loot with.  People that met him at the river and took him to their hide-out…  And even the “un-witting” accomplices that answered the ad on Craigslist and showed up in the requested outfit.

Planning and forethought can really make – or break – anything we do.  And it’s also true that all of the planning in the world may not always work out as we … well … planned … but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Hmm… “I think I’ll go to law school today!”  Or, rather, “I think I’ll tackle some EDI today!”  Yeah, that’s better!

Got plan?

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