True EDI Integration versus Basic EDI Mapping

We recently added 2 new EDI integration clients that compared our integrated EDI solution to other larger EDI providers that claim they have “ERP Integration”. Both of these companies did significant due diligence and quickly realized the difference between the true EDI integrated approach we offer and the advertised “EDI integration” which is really just very basic mapping without regard to how the ERP system is being used.

Processing incoming EDI into a flat file and then processing outbound flat files from the ERP system to EDI without validation and understanding of the sources of data required from the ERP system is not actually “integration”. It may be advertised as integration, but in most cases, the provider does not have any understanding of how your ERP system works, how you are using it, and how the data gets into the standard ERP flat files. That leaves the burden on you to be the expert on your ERP’s EDI offering and/or requires you to hire a consultant to provide the interpretation and to work through testing and implementation which can become extremely time-consuming and costly.

Once you go live with this type of “integrated” EDI solution and have an issue, you then need to figure out who to contact, track down where the problem resides and get the appropriate resource involved. I’ve just watched this scenario play out with a client where I am providing the “ERP EDI Consultant” role. They have a 3rd-party EDI/mapping service and they have tools that were developed internally (by someone no longer there) to move files around, etc. I reluctantly agreed to provide assistance, training and support on the ERP EDI side, however, as I anticipated, without having access to and control of all of the moving parts related to their EDI, it is difficult to diagnose and resolve issues in a timely way.

We have always taken a turnkey approach to EDI integration and we have in-depth knowledge of the ERP systems we integrate with so we can provide insights and best practices to truly integrate EDI and make it work seamlessly. We handle EDI Communications, data translation, validation and integration to and from the ERP system – we provide a single point of contact when you have a question, change or problem with EDI.

We can also tailor inbound and outbound processing and integration with our SQL-based system. We can validate and look up information real-time from ERP systems instead of relying on a flat file for all data to be mapped.

One example of our truly integrated approach is a client of ours who receives orders for configured items. We are able to pull all of the configuration characteristics from the incoming EDI, then compare those characteristics in realtime to the ERP system’s existing configured items. If we find a match, we assign the ERP system’s preconfigured item number and pass it in through EDI. If we don’t find a match, we assign the next available preconfigured item number and direct the end user to set up the configuration on the audit report. This has significantly streamlined order processing from their customer and as more configurations have been built, the system now typically always finds an existing configuration that matches the incoming EDI. All of this is done without any customization to the ERP system.

So while these big EDI providers may advertise “ERP Integration” and may offer what appears to be inexpensive trading partner setups, there is a significant amount of hidden cost, which does not stay hidden for long, for the amount of effort, time and expense you will incur to truly make their solution work with your ERP system and for ongoing support.