B2B messaging: converting your EDI to ROI

Published on the 03/09/2012 | Written by Flow Software

B2B messaging

Why would you take two days to do something that could take five minutes? Particularly if it is not only faster but more accurate, costs less and significantly increases customer satisfaction...

Managing director of middleware provider Flow Software, Cameron Hart, sees a trend with more New Zealand businesses implementing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

“Those that have enjoy a significant competitive advantage, with some reporting they have reduced two days of data entry to just five minutes,” he says.

“EDI not only makes light work of the complex issues around dealing with multiple suppliers but also satisfies customers with high service delivery expectations.”

According to Hart EDI is also a great way for companies to generate customer loyalty.

“Once you, your suppliers and your customers have invested in becoming digitally connected it is increasingly difficult for a competitor to break into your EDI circle,” he says.

EDI can be approached in a number of ways: through bespoke development, engaging Value Added Networks (VAN) or deploying a middleware platform, with companies commonly deploying a mix of these.

Bespoke development is relatively expensive to implement but provides the most seamless integration.

It is particularly useful where real-time processing needs to be automated.  However, it can cause systems rigidity and may limit your ability to upgrade or change applications as your business needs evolve.

There is also risk in a small group of individuals holding the IP for your custom system because if a key person moves on, managing or extending the system can be difficult.

VANs sit outside your organisation and are a legacy method to communicate with external parties.

With the advent of the internet a VAN is less important than back in the days when modems were required and each party would need a bank of modems to support communication.

You pay a fee to connect to the VAN, then you and your trading partners pay transaction fees for each business message processed, so as the number of your transactions increases, so do your costs, which impacts on ROI as your business grows.

Middleware platforms like Flow provide a structured way for different applications and data formats to communicate, using a configuration rather than a bespoke development approach.

The middleware platform takes care of communication to your partners as well as translation into the data formats your partners understand, therefore replacing the need for a VAN.  A middleware platform can be deployed on internal servers or in a hosted environment.

Another benefit over the VAN approach is middleware can be used internally for direct system-to-system integration as well as EDI communication with your partners.

“As the world we operate in becomes increasingly complex we need to take every opportunity to work smarter and simplify what we do,” explains Cameron Hart.

“It is not about decreasing staff numbers, but engaging them in productive activities rather than rekeying information or passing pieces of paper.”

Flow Software has developed unique EDI technology based on a middleware platform that works with any application or data format and has a simple monthly licence fee, with no limit on the number of transactions and no transaction fees.  “We have worked closely with New Zealand businesses to develop Flow EDI,” says Hart.

“We aim to make EDI really easy and have a great local support network so help is always at hand.”

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