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.

EDI, TPR and what it all means….

In another online source for EDI bits of information, a question was posed about how to interpret a particular segment of a particular document and how the quantities were expressed – it was an 860 – Buyer Initiated PO Change – and how the question poster should interpret it….

Most of the responses to the post all suggested that he copy and post all of the segments and data from the document… others tried to guess at what the sender was requesting…. Then there was a lone voice that asked “ask the sender”… and I agreed.

One of the things that I’ve noticed in My years of EDI – both online – with groups and boards and discussion groups – and off – with My trading partners and vendors – is that most people tend to fall into one of two groups – Communication or No Communication. Some people seem to think that, with the advent of EDI communication, that we no longer need to communicate with our partners with “other” forms of communications – the phone call, e-mail, etc..

Sometimes it seems like people – EDI people – seem to forget what the P in TPR – Trading PARTNER Relationship – means.

PARTNER

In any kind of PARTNERSHIP – be it romantic, economic, business, school project, whatever – if you forget that you’re PARTNERS in the issue, then the relationship falls apart. And this ties in with another aspect of the Trading Partner Relationship – the RELATIONSHIP…..

There is a RELATION between the partners involved. I send out a PO to company A for product. They receive that PO and fill My order – maybe even generating their own POs for the “ingredients” to the product I’ve ordered – allowing them to sell off product (or, as mentioned, manufacture it) and makes money for them and keeps them in business. By receiving their products and selling it (I’m in the retail industry), it allow Me to make money and stay in business…. We benefit each other and help each other along.

But by sending those documents and transactions via EDI, it’s not eliminating the need to communicate – to have relations – between us – but it’s just another tool to help us in better communications and bettering our relationships….

What’s the slogan that Home Depot (or was it Lowes?) used to use:

“You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.”… or something like that…?

I say the same thing – if you have questions regarding a document I send you via EDI, please, ask…. I’ll see what I can do to find out the answer for you….

The other day, I got a call from one of our vendors – one of My trading partners – about a PO that they received via EDI and how a faxed revision – we can’t send revisions via EDI because of our internal systems – had a lower quantity. The vendor had created the shipment and sent the ASN from the original PO, but with the revised quantities, as the revision (via fax) had shown. But he had a question about what to do about the PO that was still in his system (he uses a web-based EDI solution) because his EDI system will still show the order as OPEN (based upon the original vs. shipped quantities) and what do to….

In his situation, I suggested he call the EDI provider and find out how to “close” the PO with the partial shipment. But, what he did, though, was CALL Me and ask Me questions about the order. He called the TRADING PARTNER and asked what he should do. And that’s what we all need to remember to do – COMMUNICATE with our Partners…

Without our partners, we fail.

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