A logistics company recently moved from SAP to Dynamics 365 ERP to meet the growing demands of their business. Jason, their ERP manager relies on email and fax to continue the process of manual document exchange that he had followed in the old ERP system.
The recent introduction of new hires inexperienced in document processing has resulted in transaction errors which cost him more time and effort to rectify. He also wants to cut down on supply chain execution costs. As a result, Jason is considering EDI software implementation to automate the document exchange process.
If you are in a similar situation as Jason, you are not alone.
As businesses expand and the number of business documents (examples: purchase orders, invoices, advanced ship notices (ASNs), bills of lading, inventory documents) transferred between trading partners increases, it makes sense for organizations to consider implementing EDI software.
At To-Increase, we assist organizations globally with implementing reliable EDI solutions within their Dynamics 365 ERP. In this blog, we share the best practices for EDI software implementation that can be applied to any ERP platform. While we’d love it if you ultimately decided on Dynamics 365 Finance & Supply Chain Management, this article will be just as helpful to you even if you do not!
EDI software implementation: 5 Best Practices
1. Decide between outsourced vs. in-house EDI implementation
Analyze whether your company has the time and resources to make EDI a significant part of your business operations. If so, you might be able to complete an EDI implementation in-house. If not, outsource it to a reliable EDI service provider.
|Opt for in-house EDI implementation when:||Outsource EDI implementation when:|
|You want better control and visibility of your EDI integration||Integration isn’t part of your core business function|
|You can dedicate time and resources for EDI implementation and maintenance||You do not have the required expertise in EDI|
When you implement EDI in-house, you can purchase EDI software that can be managed by internal or contracted resources. Apart from the cost of the EDI software, you will need to factor in the license fee, infrastructure cost, and the cost of employing full-time resources for EDI.
On the other hand, in outsourced EDI, an external EDI service provider takes care of all the components necessary to set up EDI services.
In large organizations with a high volume of EDI messages, it is economical to maintain core EDI functions internally and outsource time-consuming tasks such as trading partner onboarding to service providers. This is called hybrid EDI managed service.
Depending on what’s best for your company you can follow a hands-on approach or outsource it.
2. Set up an EDI implementation team
Involve senior management team members in your EDI implementation project, at least at a high level. Include representatives from different departments such as Sales, IT, and Operations in your EDI project team. All the team members should understand the scope and benefits of the project and a project manager should be assigned the responsibility of setting up a project plan.
Consider the number of customers, suppliers, business partners, and the volume and type of EDI, based on your business scenario.
The plan must include a list of tasks, resources required (this will vary depending on your decision to outsource or manage EDI in-house), and estimated timelines for completing EDI software implementation.
3. Choose the right EDI solution provider
After you have secured the necessary buy-in from your key stakeholders to implement EDI in Dynamics 365 ERP, the next step involves evaluating vendors for EDI implementation. There are multiple factors to consider while evaluating an EDI service provider.
Spend some time analyzing the number of transactions you are doing and make a list of customers, partners, and third-party logistics (3PL) with whom you want to set up EDI connections. Zero-in on the right EDI software provider.
4. Perform a pilot test
After your EDI software is set up, select one to three trading partners to start EDI communication for test purposes. Decide on the messages to send (orders, invoices, and packing slips are a few examples). Then move on to the testing phase involving the key users.
Configure the mapping of your test messages. If you anticipate multiple messages to be exchanged with multiple business partners, then you may be required to enlist the services of a broker. Most good EDI solutions are scalable. If you are looking at a do-it-yourself solution, then your EDI service provider can work with you to provide training on setting up messages.
Send test messages back and forth and ensure that the EDI system is working well before you move on to the go-live phase.
5. Facilitate change management
Before implementing EDI, prepare your business users and internal team members on the change that the introduction of EDI will bring. Give them time to ask questions and make suggestions.
As with any task that involves automation, EDI implementation too may be seen as a threat to jobs. According to a PwC survey, six out of 10 people are worried that automation is putting jobs at risk and 39% think their job will be obsolete within five years.
Discuss how EDI software implementation can speed up their tasks, the positive changes it will bring, and the changes they can expect in their roles after implementation. Remember, open communication is an important factor in gaining the employees’ buy-in.
Ensure that an effective change management process is in place. After you have completed testing, instruct your sales, procurement, and other business relations of the change. Let them know that they will have to stop exchanging messages over emails and move over to EDI. You will also have to onboard your business relations.
Getting started with EDI implementation?
Now that you know the best practices for EDI software implementation, the next step is to talk to your trading partners and find out what their EDI capabilities are. The EDI solution you choose should fit both your trading partners’ as well as your requirements.
If you are just getting started with EDI implementation in Dynamics 365 ERP for your organization or for your partners, you’re probably going to have a lot of questions about implementation. The best thing you can do is write your questions down and do some online research. The related resource below should also help you find some of your answers.
Read more on EDI before you make a decision on implementation or download our easy guide to digitizing your supply chain with EDI for Dynamics 365 ERP.