arrr, matey. prepare to be boarded…!

Ahoy, Me swarthy mateys and hearty wenches…  Avast and bear to smartly and prepare to be boarded.

Earlier today, I was talking with one of our EDITalk founders (John B) and somehow, I got stuck into “pirate speak”…  Did you know that there is actually an “INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY“…?  There is..!  So, arr, Me hearties and Me beauties, let’s search for some buried booty and find our fortunes and leave our lives to the fickle finger of fate…  So get your first mate into the crow’s nest and set sail for the South Seas to find our treasure trove of EDI booty!  Shiver Me timbers and set sail!

But wow… how about we start the “Talk Like an EDI Geek” day…?  Or the “Speak EDI-ese” day..?  Now how well would THAT go over…?  About as well as the grog coming from the bung hole…! 

What..?  You don’t know what a bung-hole is…?  Well, no, it’s not THAT…  On a ship, it used to be that stuff – food, drink, supplies – were stored in wooden casks or barrels.  The “cork” – or stopper – in the barrel was called a BUNG and then it went into a hole – called the BUNG HOLE.  I know it sounds worse, but it’s not.

Aye, Me hearties…  Get yer mind from the bilge gutter!

But  back to “EDI Guru” day.  Imagine what it would be like if you didnt’ have to explain EDI to people.  You know, give them the “basics” and tell them what it all means.  Imagine if you didn’t have to describe what it is we do – day in and day out – to those that don’t know…  no having to “dumb it down” to the level of a newbie user…  no having to break it to the level of a 2nd grader…

Ah, that would be nice, eh..?

And to have a day when EDI was … well … sexy.  Not boring, dull and plain.  And not confusing and overly technical and complicated.  A day of fun and frivolity and festive fanciful shenanigans.

Imagine how nice is would be to not have to explain what an 850 is; what the 856 does; how to use the 810 or the 832 or even the benefits of the 860 or the 820…  Imagine no posessions.. It’s easy if you try…  Sorry… Now the Beatles are fighting with the vast Pirate hoard for the booty of knowlege in Me noggin’…!  But the treasure and beauty of the EDI booty could be well understood by the EDI-novice.  No more having to walk the plank of EDI.

But – wow – think of it.  Simplifying the EDI process – and the entire SUPPLY CHAIN in the process.  Making it easy to “sell” EDI to the higher up muckety-mucks that pay the bills.  No justification of ROI or any of that.  Just simple understanding.

Of course, the next day, we’d be back to explaining what it is we do and what it is that EDI can do for our businesses – our supply chain.  We’d be back to being Poindexter – in the geeky get-up, complete with the broken-and-taped-together-glasses (think “Revenge of the Nerds“), giving details and data of what the 850 (and all the other documents we use!) can and will do for us. 

*sigh.

Probably easier to get people to drop their land-lubber status, grab a Jolly Roger and be a pirate for a day.

Arr, mateys, pass Me a tankard of grog and prepare to pillage and plunder with Cap’n Craig Redbeard on the great ship, the EDI Pearl, scourge of the seven seas!

Author: Cap’n Craig “Redbeard” Dunham – EDI Coordinator, Pirate Ship Captain & Grog Inspector
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/

Alphabet Soup…

I was reading another blog or two.. yes, it was over at the Inovis blog site.. Anyway, I’d taken a week of vacation and needed to catch up on My reading..

Over there, I found blogs about SaaS (Software as a Service) and GDSN (Global Data Synchronization Network) and more and more… Then I was thinking about EDI and GTIN and UPC and SKU and all the other acronyms and alphabet soups we all have in our lives and our jobs and careers.

But it made Me also think of another group of letters that used to be used in the MIS/IT industries – back when it was Computer Science – and it was GIGO.. Do you remember GIGO..?

Garbage in, garbage out….

I’m wondering how many of us deal with end users that seem to forget that the computers we use – no matter how fancy and new and no matter how much RAM we’re using or Ghz the processor can process at; no matter how many mbps/kbps we can download at, the computer is nothing more than a giant calculator.. It’s just taking the stuff WE input and processing it to get to the output we desire. It’s still all just strings of Ones (1) and Zeros (0) that we’re pushing through, getting to our final destination.. Bits and bytes in packets, being sent here and there and everywhere, doing the things WE tell it to do – with new and fancy or old and plain programs.

But the problem is, the data that’s put out is only as good as the data we put in.. Our output is only as good as our input.. If we put Garbage data in, we get garbage data back out. This ties back to the Global Data Synchronization in that if we’ve got bad data that we’re supplying to that network, well, then we’re going to be getting bad data back out. Garbage in, garbage out. But the point more of that GDSN posting (called Question of the Week) was also about some of the concerns of GDSN – such as how the “existing standards and processes” will not be used in this new network. So now we’ll have yet another source of information to access. And THAT thought led to another old acronym from the days of yore: K I S S.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Ah, now THERE’S and oldie and a goldie! But it still holds true today; as true as it was however many decades ago it came to life. The more sources you have for information, the more options you’re going to be able to consider, the more complex your information becomes and the more places you have for a potential break-down. Remember, though, how I said “POTENTIAL” in that last one. And the less and less instances you’ll have of the information being the same for Me and for you and for the next guy.

Think of the last time you were in a Starbucks (or fill in your favorite haunt for coffee and other hot drinks). The person in front of you may have ordered a venti, half-caf, half-fat, non-fat, sweet coffee with ice space. Then you get up there and order a grande iced choco-latte espresso, extra foam. The person behind you orders a tall hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. And so on. By the end of the day – maybe even just the hour – there have been more versions of hot coffee sold from that coffee shop than there are cars available at the local car dealer!

Whatever happened to the day of the only choices for coffee were with or without sugar and with or without cream? Regular or Decaf?

In a previous post, I mentioned how Chrysler had used a program of limiting the options for a few car lines and it added up to a far simpler car to build, sell and deliver. This can also be held to our lives in EDI or GDSN or GTIN or _____ -whatever alphabet soup of an acronym you’ve got going on.

While having more options is always nice when you’re hitting the auto mall, and you want this but not that, it’s making it more difficult for the factory to turn out that car and can lead to mistakes. Years before I got into MIS/IT and EDI as the job, I was a manager of a car rental agency in Northern California. Our rental fleet averaged a little over 100 cars on a regular basis. Because of all of these options, however, we did have a bit of confusion – and this can tie directly back to My mention of Chrysler above and in the other post.

We had as our “mid-size” cars the current year Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant sedans. Now for those that are less than eighties-era car saavy, the Aries and Reliant were virtual twins. The only differences were the texture of the tail-lamps, the grill insert, the wheel covers and the names on the trunk lid and dashboard. Other than that, they were nearly impossible to tell apart. Same colors, same interiors, same options.

Now imagine you rented one of these cars. Actually, let’s drill down into the data a bit more – you rented a white Plymouth Reliant from the rental car outfit I managed. Now, not being a car nut, you probably just see the Aries for what it is – a rather plain, simple and average 4 door sedan. Now, you go out to the parking lot to discover that your Plymouth Reliant isn’t around, but a Dodge Aries is. What had happened to this one car in our fleet – and, thankfully, only once – is that it was built as a Dodge Aries. It was labeled a Dodge Aries. But the rental agreement, the registration, the VIN, our key tags and more, all label the car as a Plymouth Reliant. Some of the different trim between the Aries and the Reliant was also garbled in the production – we had an Aries grill, but Reliant tail-lamps; Aries wheel covers, but Reliant badging on the dashboard; Aries nameplate on the trunk, but Reliant on the registration. Confused? So were some of our rental customers. Of course there were many others that just saw the car as a white 4 door sedan of a certain size and never noticed the errors.

But this was a case where too many options – even simplified and scaled down options – as it was an “America” trim level of the car – can cause confusion. Remember the Starbucks visit above? Think about how many times you get the right drink, every time. And then think of the possibility of getting the wrong drink. The reason Starbucks has this down to a nearly perfect science? They lable EACH and EVERY cup they sell with a name and a size and a type of coffe and any options you add. Who is going to do this with GDSN and the other bits of data we flow with every day? What about all possible errors that don’t get noticed, don’t get seen and don’t get caught or corrected?

Chances are, we all have our EDI service provider – whether Inovis, SPS Commerce, ICC, DI Central, TrueCommerce or _______ – but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some kind of connection to our provider’s competition. For example, I’m an Inovis customer. I use the InovisWorks network, Inovis Trusted Link i-Series, and the Inovis Catalogue. But then again, I’ve got a few dozen trading partners that use SPS Commerce and some on TrueCommerce and DI Central and ACTData and so on… So I’ve also got some relationships with those other EDI providers.

But now, imagine how difficult it could be for Me to do My EDI transmissions if I had to send this PO to this provider, these other few to that provider and this other set to these guys over there. Suddenly, with too many options, life becomes complicated. I have to manage all of these different sources I’m sending information to. Then, when I’m getting the ASN back, again, I’ve got to manage all of these sources of data on My inbound side. Then I go on vacation – like I did last week. Now somebody ELSE has to manage all that information and get it in and out of the system while I’m away.

I am the EDI Department for My employer. We’re a fairly large retailer (over 350 stores in the Western US and have over 700 vendors up and running on EDI) with sales in the high hundreds of millions of dollars anually. One of the reasons we can keep just Me, Myself and I doing all the EDI processes for the company – with thousands of POs sent out on a weekly basis – is that I kind of subscribe to the KISS way of thinking. Why make it more difficult and complex to trade documents back and forth? Why make it harder to do My job?

In My job, I also deal with with the GIGO aspects, too. If our buying department puts wrong data into our system, it often comes to My desk to find the issue and get the correct information and fix it, or get them to fix it.

We keep adding new acronyms and strings of letters together as we keep moving forward in our lives – personally and professionally. At what point do we begin to say “ENOUGH!” and drop some of those letters trailing our names and our lives..? I wanted to end this blog with a little quip from some old “Schoolhouse Rock” or commercial jingle or something – having to do with the alphabet. But My mind is so muddled by all the acronyms in My head, all I can think of is Shirley Temple belting out “animal crackers in my soup”..! Another dated reference..

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