Using EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is a prerequisite when it comes to efficiency. Today it is almost impossible to be competitive without EDI. In general, there are two ways to implement EDI:
- building a direct connection
- using an EDI operator.
First option, building a direct connection only works if you have a few trade partners. It is also quite costly, as you need to build the channels, do the mappings, test the documents, keep up the infrastructure, ensure the security of data transfer and troubleshoot in case of problems.
Second option is to use an EDI operator for exchanging e-documents. EDI operators are professional service providers, whose main expertise is to ensure smooth and secure electronic data exchange.
Today there are over 500 EDI operators in Europe, so choosing the right one can be challenging. Asking the following 5 questions from yourself will help you make the decision:
1. What do you expect from an EDI operator?
Think about your company’s needs. Would you be satisfied with the simplest and budget- friendliest EDI service or do you need some advanced functionality? More professional EDI operators offer not only document transportation, but are able to consult you with your business processes.
On top of converting formats and transporting documents, they have built various verification and validation systems. For example, these systems are able to block (and notify about)
- duplicate documents
- invoices with missing reference to orders
- incorrect data format
More advanced EDI operators also offer guidance and help with partner onboarding. Remember, you cannot use EDI alone, you need your partners to use EDI as well. The more of your partners are using EDI, the more value you are getting from the service.
Best EDI operators also have good self-service options. Creating and updating your user accounts and checking document traffic logs in case of disputes are just an example of additional functionalities you can have.
2. Is reliability and security important to your company?
Most likely you expect your EDI operator to provide services to you for longer than a year or two. When choosing your partner EDI operator, consider the likelihood they will be operating long-term. What is the size of their team? Are there well-known experts in the team? Is the company leader in their area, participating in conferences and professional committees?
Next, what is the track record of the company from a technical viewpoint? Exchanging orders and invoices is a business critical process for your company. You cannot afford the system to be down often or for long periods. So, check whether there is data about EDI operator’s service level (SLA)? Do you think they invest enough into their infrastructure and technology to provide you with faultless services?
Besides being reliable, your new service provider should also be secure. Investigate where and in what conditions they keep their servers, how their channels are secured and if data is duplicated. This will tell you if and how fast they can recover service during a potential system failure.
For a background check, consider looking into their annual reports or subscribing to their newsletters. This will give you insight into how much they invest into R&D and new services.
3. What kind of partner network does the EDI operator have?
The value of EDI is increasing with each new partner using electronic document exchange. Make sure that your EDI operator has a wide customer base in your industry. In case your company has partners abroad, check if your new service provider has roaming connections with other operators.
In case your company operates in multiple countries, find out where the operator has their offices. It is always easier to cooperate when the support is localized both in terms of language as well as in local particularities.
4. Are other customers satisfied with the EDI operator?
Most accurate response comes from companies already using the service. Consider asking for feedback from a company that uses the same business software as yours and the EDI operator you are about to pick. Ask about their experience: both the implementation as well as daily usage. Find out if they have experienced any issues and how the operator’s customer support handled these situations. It could also be an opportunity to find out which advanced services the reference company uses that could create value for your company as well.
5. How easy is it to connect to the EDI network of the operator?
Consider asking EDI operators if they have any partnerships with business software providers. For example, Telema has a Certified Partners program that makes integration with them fast, convenient and cost friendly. If your company is using some other software that is not supported by default, find information about EDI operator’s integration experience. Ask for evidence of complex integrations and special projects that have been successfully finished.
These 5 questions should help you in choosing the right EDI-operator for your company. If there are still some questions that were not answered, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to give the answers.
Read more about EDI Supplier and its benefits.