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5 Tips for Success with Electronic Data Interchange

Milan Shetti

March 17, 2023

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a fundamental means of communication for organizations that execute a high volume of transactions and communicate critical business information with trading partners, customers, and electronic marketplaces, ensuring greater accuracy and timely communications between partners.

While it sounds straightforward, there are still some pitfalls for organizations to be aware of when implementing EDI. Here are five tips for ensuring success on your EDI implementation journey.

1. Have a clear strategy for what needs to be communicated

Start small and implement EDI one piece at a time – even if your ultimate goal is to digitize all business communications. Pinpoint what type of data is most valuable to be exchanged electronically and start there. For instance, if your company is losing customers due to a lack of visibility into the order delivery process, ask your shipping partner to provide an EDI document that shows delivery status, which can be translated into human-readable information for your customer service team. Harnessing EDI to help one team and getting a “win” is a sure way to build momentum.

2. Avoid complexity

Simplify, simplify, simplify. EDI should be as simple as turning on the lights. Once you establish the EDI flow and tooling that works for you, don’t feel pressure to add new bells and whistles either. Some organizations get caught up in the newest innovation when, in reality, EDI has stood the test of time since its introduction in the ‘70s.

Be selective about how you choose to modernize your EDI workflow. Not every process is outdated just because it’s been in use for a long time. If major EDI enablers like Amazon or Walmart are still requiring an EDI process, it’s probably because it’s still effective. Conserve energy and resources for updating what really matters.

3. Build a contingency plan

If we’ve learned anything since the start of the pandemic, it’s to expect the unexpected. Your EDI plan needs to be flexible and adaptable to changing business needs. Remote work and new e-commerce models, which both accelerated over the last couple of years, aren’t going away and only increase the importance of EDI. A flexible and scalable EDI solution is the foundation of a contingency plan, so you’re ready next time you’re asked to do things more quickly with fewer resources.

4. Train broadly across your team

The simplest systems are still complex to those who don’t use them every day. For EDI to be seamless, you need to make sure everyone on your team understands your chosen system — even if their role isn’t EDI specialist. Cross-train them on how to keep the process running so you always have someone available who knows the process, even if the expert is on vacation or leaves the company. If you don’t have the bandwidth, consider outsourcing EDI to a third party that can manage it.

5. Relax – and have fun

Have a sense of humor and a positive attitude. There will always be a learning curve with every new EDI request or project. Frustration and lack of patience only lead to more errors that slow the process.

With the disruptions companies are now facing, EDI is experiencing a renaissance and has become a key element of cross-business collaboration. As you approach your implementation, just remember: it doesn’t need to be difficult!