Top questions to ask prospective EDI vendors

by | Oct 17, 2017

Considering that typically more than half of a company’s revenue is transacted via EDI, EDI operations are a critical business function. But many firms have only limited staff to handle such IT functions, often requiring them to look for third parties to manage their EDI operations.

So if you’re not outsourcing all or part of your EDI already, you are probably investigating your options. Here at SPS Commerce, we field a lot of questions every day to help dispel some of the myths of outsourcing. Here are some examples of questions to ask to full understand your options when considering outsourcing EDI:

Real business relationships

The first step is to do some discovery about a potential EDI service provider’s network. We recommend asking questions such as:

  • How many business relationships does the provider have? Be sure to define relationship as more than a paper document. It should include frequent communications and personal connections.
  • Can they pick up the phone and reach out to a person at these accounts?
  • Can they e-mail them on your behalf?
  • Are they communicating on a regular basis with your trading partners so changes are proactively taken care of?
  • How many outsourcing relationships do you manage with my trading partners? (e.g., how many suppliers’ EDI do you manage that transact with JB Hi-Fi or David Jones?)

Supporting all EDI formats 

Especially if your company has global sales, you don’t want to worry about the different languages business partners speak in their EDI departments. You need to ask questions such as:

  • How do they handle various EDI format standards like X12, EDIFACT or Tradacoms?
  • Can their staff handle the mapping for all the formats and transactions you need today and in the future?
  • Do they have 24/7 support and monitoring for when things go array or you have questions?

Comprehensive mapping services

Mapping is where tough questions are most needed. If a provider says they will do the mapping for you, it feels like a done deal.  Unfortunately, too often issues arise later in the relationship when their definition of outsourcing doesn’t match yours. To be sure you are well aligned and know who will manage critical aspects of the process we suggest the following questions:

  • Who will make changes to EDI maps to keep them up-to-date with new trading partner’s requirements?
  • Who is in charge of knowing when a partner needs to make a change to the map?
  • Is there an additional cost changes occur? If so, what are they?
  • How long does it take to make changes to EDI maps? (often, you can’t afford to wait)

Understanding managed services

Caution must be taken to ensure you understand all potential costs of a ‘managed services’ provider.  A specific example in outsourced fulfilment EDI would be vendors charging additional service fees for updating a trading partner’s maps in addition to the monthly service fee. Matt Cook, a veteran of IT projects in supply chain, puts the cautionary tale of managed service providers in perspective. You can read more from Matt in his book, Escaping the Software Money Pit: A Winning Roadmap for Managers and Executives.

Here is his checklist of questions for managed service providers:

  • Who works directly with my trading partners: you or the vendor?
  • Who answers phone calls and emails from my trading partners?
  • Who responds to incident reports?
  • Who does all those mapping changes to meet new trading partner requirements?
  • Who manages trading partner requests for new transaction types?

Cook states: “More than likely, in a ‘managed service’ arrangement, not only will you do all of those things, but you will also pay separately for work above and beyond your normal monthly running fees.” It’s a buyer-beware situation where the customer pays a la carte.

The bottom line: We find that most companies discover true value in an all-inclusive EDI service based on true outsourcing, relying on the experts with no surprises – which is what SPS Commerce delivers. 

If you would like to learn about how SPS Commerce solutions can help with or learn about any of our cloud-based solutions, please visit the SPS Commerce website. You can find the answers to your questions, or receive a free demonstration.

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SPS Australia Blog Team

The Australian SPS blog team combines the experience and insights from dozens of colleagues to deliver news, how-to guides, reports, and more.
SPS Australia Blog Team