Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SAP's Network-Centric EDI, Part 2

This is Part 2 of this discussion. To read part one click here.

How does a network-centric EDI and B2B strategy work? What is required at the central Exchange that will provide value to the entire network of users? Let's discuss:

  1. A canonical data model - a design pattern used to communicate between different data formats. Instead of writing translators between each and every format, it is sufficient just to write a translation between each format and the canonical format.
  2. If the backend database application is a known entity, such as SAP ERP, then one ERP "profile" can be developed between the canonical format and SAP for each business process or message type. These are stored for reuse by other SAP users.
  3. Since one "Invoice" ERP file can be used to connect to hundreds or thousands of trading partners through the Exchange, any change to the backoffice environment only impacts the Invoice ERP Profile, not your trading partner community. This is a big benefit for change management.
  4. A repository of participating network members and their supported business processes and data formats need to be stored and available for query.
  5. Sophisticated analytical software applications need to be used to quickly analyze large numbers of complex data formats to identify the commonalities and differences between formats. Entire supplier or customer communities can be analyzed at one time for the purpose of identifying and documenting one "ERP profile" that will produce or consume all the data required to support your communities' business processes. For example, 100 customers want you to send EDI invoices. They all want different data formats for the EDI invoice. You will want to analyze all 100 data formats and create one IDoc or web service that supports the data requirements of all.
  6. Develop monitoring software applications that enable users to view and monitor all EDI and B2B transactions going through the system.
  7. Develop and operate a secure and world class data center that meets the requirements of IT departments worldwide
  8. Include managed services and SLAs that meet the needs of the largest and most sophisticated class of EDI users
  9. Develop this service using SAP technologies and SAP NetWeaver PI integrations in a cloud computing environment.
  10. Pre-integrate this network-centric EDI exchange with SAP's business processes
  11. Jointly develop EDI and B2B support with SAP for upcoming Enhancement packages
These applications, network strategies, SLAs, processes and methodologies enable SAP customers to take advantage of very powerful and sophisticated EDI and B2B solutions that leverage the connections of all members of the network. This new paradigm has the potential to change the economics of EDI and greatly improve the ROI.

If you would like to discuss this subject in more detail please email me.

For part 1 of this discussion click here.

Author Kevin Benedict

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