Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Relationship Management for EDI, B2B, and XML Integration

It is important to understand how critical certain information is to the EDI and B2B processes when you are automating the extended suppy chain. Automated B2B processes are more than the exchange of standardized transactions through EDI, B2B or XML. It's about developing strong business relationships prior to the EDI transactions and then managing the relationship and B2B exchanges on an ongoing basis. It's about a complex set of collaborations and communications between the various parties and the coordination of their activities to accomplish a successful B2B exchange. It's about supporting these complex relationships and exchanges by the tens of thousands reliably so that business continues to move at the speed of the Internet. Did I use enough buzz words to make Dilbert proud of me?

The following list identifies some of the most important intellectual assets (high value data) that relates to your business network or trading partner communities. These knowledge assets need to be identified, documented, aggregated, organized, stored and managed in order to successfully implement, manage and support B2B and EDI exchanges.

  1. Document the internally preferred industry B2B and EDI standards (X12, Edifact or Edifice using AS2, VANS, etc.), EDI implementation guides, XML schemas and web service interfaces by business process and trading partner
  2. Document the associated business process and work flow
  3. Document vendor and service provider contact and account information
  4. Document the employees, consultant’s and/or contractor’s that were involved in this specific implementations and their contact information.
  5. Document your trading partner’s EDI or B2B transaction set(s) or XML schemas
  6. Collect and store your trading partner’s business documents including trading partner agreements, project schedules, security requirements, relevant business agreements, NDAs, etc.
  7. Create, maintain and publish to a collaboration website a task list (specific to each trading partner’s implementation)
  8. Document internal problem escalation processes
  9. Document vendor information and contact information for supporting EDI and B2B solutions. What is their helpdesk number, email and what is your account number and issue number?
  10. Identify and document related servers, hardware and networks
  11. Document the owner(s) of the business process on both ends
  12. Document the name and contact information of the security and communication personnel in the IT department. Will you be using X12 over a secure VAN or AS2?

All of these unique pieces of information need to be gathered and stored in one location, a secure collaboration site, that allows your EDI and B2B team access. This information is the life blood of EDI and B2B exchanges and departments. Most companies have no centralized repository for this information and it is dispersed on various spreadsheets, databases, paper documents, emails and the laptops of employees, contractors and consultants - chaos reigns! No wonder the EDI and B2B teams in so many companies can't seem to implement more than 10-15% of their trading partners.

Effective EDI and B2B managers will not only have a centralized repository of all of this information and data, but live and manage by it.

Google sites is one option, and can easily be created for secure collaboration and the price is right, free.

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