Business rarely stands still, but the current and anticipated rate of change is almost unprecedented – the only certainty is that things will get more complicated. With this in mind, advocating the widespread adoption of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) may surprise some. They may regard it as a decades-old technology, requiring major investment, understood only by a few IT enthusiasts. They may see it as only being economic for a few ‘top of the chain’ companies and their major suppliers exchanging large quantities of very similar messages?
But they would be wrong. EDI is moving onto the Cloud as a managed service or Software as a Service model. Not only does this make EDI affordable and manageable to firms of all sizes and capabilities, but it also future proofs one of the most important business capabilities: the timely communication of accurate information in a usable form to partners that need it.
As a managed service EDI future proofs in a number of ways. First comes its neutrality towards standards and protocols, be they old favourites such as Odette or EDIFact, newer standards such as PEPPOL (in the public sector) or the open standards being developed. The service manager or VAN provider ensures that all these formats, upgrades and developments are mutually translatable, and the cost of that is amortised over many thousands of users. New business partners enjoy the same reassurance. That is particularly important as the pioneer generation of in-house EDI specialists, who understand both IT and business processes, are hitting retirement age and not being replaced.
Even in B2B, the trend is towards customers placing smaller orders, and in greater numbers, often directly rather than through a dealer or wholesaler.
EDI users also look to be future proofed against the consequences of growth, both in the size of their overall business and, more pertinently, in the volumes of business data to be handled. Even in B2B, the trend is towards customers placing smaller orders, and in greater numbers, often directly rather than through a dealer or wholesaler. The volume of orders and invoices, carrier bookings, manufacturing or warehouse instructions and advance shipping notices grows at least in proportion. A firm that cannot handle these increased message volumes efficiently will find its growth stifled.