Blockchain, edi and ecommerce, Supply Chain EDI, EDI Expert Insights, EDI Articles

Blockchain technology is poised to have a revolutionary impact on the way we transact business, particularly the exchange of business document transactions commonly referred to as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).

Traditional accounts receivable processes result in vendors and customers having their own set of truths about the transactions that occurred. Reconciling those transactions from two independent ledgers does not always lead both parties to the same conclusion.

This is where blockchain technology, also referred to as "the block," comes in. Mistakes, misunderstandings and other problems that commonly require weeks and months to unwind are detected during the insertion of the transaction into the Block. Sounds great, doesn't it?

There are nuances to the technology but understanding its strengths, weaknesses and interoperability with EDI and ERP solutions is key.

Read "Blockchain Technology Impact on EDI and ERP Systems" to better understand this groundbreaking technology, why its the future of error-free transaction processing and how you may be able to leverage it.

Download the Blockchain for EDI Brief

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics NAV EDI, Supply Chain EDI

Avoid EDI Risks By Leveraging the Native Capabilities of NAV

Microsoft Dynamics NAV customers have options when it comes to EDI or XML integration solutions. Understanding those options and how to leverage the native capabilities of Dynamics can help avoid expensive and complicated projects that can put your business at risk. 

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On-Demand Webinar Available: EDI Made Simple® for NAV

Learn how to avoid these risks by watching the On-Demand Webinar "EDI Made Simple® for Dynamics NAV" where you will:

  • Learn how to integrate your supply chain with Dynamics NAV without using custom code;
  • Gain an understanding of external solutions that eliminate invasive customizations;
  • Learn the cost of ownership in SaaS, on premise perpetual and transaction based models; and
  • Come away with actionable information that can turn EDI for Dynamics into a strategic advantage at your organization.

For immediate answers to your Dynamics EDI software questions, download the executive brief, "EDI Made Simple® - A New Approach to EDI." 

 Watch the webinar at your convenience, then let's discuss your move to Dynamics 365 and how we can help simplify the impact on your EDI application.

Dynamics 365, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics AX EDI Customers, Dynamics AX 2012, edI for dynamics 365, EDI Expert Insights

Considering a move to Dynamics 365 for Operations?

If so, are you prepared for the impact on your EDI integration? Data Masons are Certified experts in EDI for Dynamics AX and are best equipped to provide the critical information you need for migrating from Dynamics AX to Dynamics 365 and upgrading your EDI solution.

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During this on-demand webinar, MSDynamicsWorld.com and Glenn McPeak, Principal at Data Masons, discuss:

    • How the elimination of the AIF and public cloud impacts integration.
    • The expanded integration opportunities introduced in the Dynamics 365 for Operations platform.
    • How the Dynamics 365 cloud-based, entity driven integration model fits into the existing Data Masons framework based on the AIF and SQL Views oriented integration model.
    • New cloud deployment options for Vantage Point EDI.
    • The upgrade process, planning and budgeting for Dynamics AX Users running Vantage Point EDI.  

 Watch the webinar at your convenience, then let's discuss your move to Dynamics 365 and how we can help simplify the impact on your EDI application.

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics GP EDI, Dynamics NAV EDI, Microsoft Dynamics Community, Dynamics ERP Integration, Vendor edi, Supply Chain EDI, EDI Articles

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When a company is about to embark on an EDI project, whether it’s to implement a new EDI solution or improving an existing one, the effort can be riddled with complex and expensive errors. Get a quick snapshot of the most common EDI mistakes in this infographic and read the full executive brief for an in-depth discussion on how these mistakes can impact your business.

 

Read the full executive brief for details on each mistake and how they could impact your EDI project.

Get the "Top 10 Mistakes When   Selecting an EDI Solution" Brief

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics GP EDI, Exact Software Integration, Dynamics NAV EDI, Dynamics ERP Integration, EDI Articles

Buy-Build-1Choosing an EDI software solution for your company is a serious undertaking. The right choice results in a smooth and painless process with strong positive ROI. The wrong choice can have detrimental effects for years with poor ROI and ongoing operational and support issues. One key question we often hear is “Should we build it or buy it?”.

 Commercial solutions (the buy option), are usually the best option for almost all software decisions assuming the solution can meet the business requirements. Commercial solutions are typically the most cost-effective choice since you are spreading the cost of development and ongoing maintenance over a larger population of companies. Unfortunately, they don’t always appear lower cost as many costs of custom solutions are not factored into the cost analysis.

Custom solutions (the build option) are ideally perfectly focused solutions with little or no “bloatware” to add confusion and operational overhead. There is a percentage of businesses that can benefit from custom EDI solutions, it is extremely low as the future business requirements have to be clearly understood and relatively simplistic. In today’s business economy, with the emergence of omni-channel selling, increasing sophisticated supply chain activities and increasing expectations of business partners that want to eliminate human activities from business transaction processes – predictable and simplistic are not the norm.

Understanding the real risks of a custom solution is critical to making the right decision. Download the brief to decide which is right for your company.

 Get the "Choosing an EDI Solution: Build or Buy?" Executive Brief

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics GP EDI, Dynamics NAV EDI, Dynamics ERP Integration, Supply Chain EDI, EDI Articles

EDI and ERP Integration Without Customization

EDI and ERP Integration: Three Keys to Automated Integration

Technology and business process automation are increasingly becoming strategic components of success for today’s digital economy. Whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor, retailer, 3PL or in the CPG, automotive or food industries, your competitiveness is often tied to two critical business applications responsible for managing your business, ERP and EDI. Successful implementations of these two key technologies can drive costs out of your supply chain execution and improve key metrics such as revenue per employee and cost per business transaction.

ERP systems handle finances, inventory, manufacturing and the business execution aspects of your operations. Your EDI system handles electronic interactions (transactions) with your supply chain (trading partners) including customers, suppliers, logistics organizations, banks and more.

With regard to handling the supply chain, ERP creates, receives, and manages these business transactions, while EDI transforms and communicates these transactions and instructions to and from your supply chain partners. ERP and EDI must be connected to achieve the maximum efficiencies of each. With a tightly integrated supply chain, integrated EDI will reduce labor costs and expensive errors as well.

Clearly these two systems should be connected, but the truth is that most companies are connected poorly or not connected at all. The principal challenge in integration is that while the information these systems handle (products, prices, delivery, etc.) is the same, the ERP context and format of the data used varies greatly amongst ERP systems (partners) and is very different from the data in your ERP system. This means the data must be cross-referenced, validated and formatted precisely to create accurate business transactions in your ERP system and in the ERP systems of your partners. 

The transaction integration gap is often solved by modifying the ERP to manage the transactions received and sent by EDI.  Common ERP based approaches include staging tables, and complex data “scrubbing” and formatting which can result in expensive ERP modifications that are invasive and inhibit updates to the ERP. These customizations are rarely well automated and require frequent manual intervention.

Integration Without Customization

There are three main criteria for achieving automated integration between your EDI and ERP systems without ERP customizations. 

  1. A strong understanding of the ERP system and the best practice approach to integration.
  2. Utilization of a processing platform that is flexible and combines knowledge of the data in the ERP platform so data is sent accurately to the ERP and follows the end user’s business requirements.
  3. Reduced user involvement with strong error trapping with alerts and automated error resolution wherever possible.

The Old Way

Historically, connecting EDI to ERP systems required the export of the information from a translator that would reformat data received from partners into a common format that could be imported into the ERP system.  The next step would be for the ERP system to do all of the “heavy lifting” – i.e. all of the error handling, data scrubbing and “cross-referencing” before attempting to create a proper transaction.  Outbound transactions require even more effort from the ERP system by expecting the ERP system to understand all of the partner and transactional relationships, and even provide information that is extraneous to the ERP (“turnaround data” usually received on the inbound transaction) back to the translator.  This unpredictable “turnaround” data usually has no native storage area in the ERP system and requires customization for storage so that it can be passed back to the translator at the correct moment.  Since the demands and needs of current and future partners are nearly impossible to anticipate, ongoing customizations are the norm for most ERP platforms. 

Organizations that undertake ERP customization projects for EDI integrations frequently report the same problems which include: 

  • Over budget ERP implementations.
  • Difficult and expensive ERP upgrades.
  • High ongoing cost of maintenance.
  • Transactions “falling through the cracks” due to the decoupled nature of Translators and ERP transactions.  This is caused by multiple points of failure in the solution and lack of transaction lifecycle audits.
  • Unplanned disruption of ERP production environments to meet external mandates from partners.

 The Solution

Full integration requires a strong and well architected connection between the EDI and the ERP data so that the business rules and validations can be performed at the time the transaction is processed. A system that understands the unique EDI and ERP processing requirements can stand between the two processes; the ERP data and the EDI trading partners. That system must be specifically attuned to the way the ERP ‘thinks’ so that it can pass information between the systems without undue burden on the ERP.  Additionally the EDI processing platform has to understand the relationships between partners and the ERP transactions to avoid customizations.  “Turnaround” data has to be stored in a manner that is flexible and accessible to the outbound transactions.

Taking full advantage of the opportunities of advanced supply chain automation requires experts who understand both the ERP and EDI. Many EDI shops don’t have experts in the ERP system that must reliably connect the EDI data nor the correct platform to make it work without ERP customizations. To be an expert in EDI to ERP integration, there must be a deep understanding of the implementation, maintenance and lifecycle development of the ERP so that transactions are handled correctly every time.

Many EDI service providers offer EDI compliance, but very few make the commitment to coupling those capabilities with expert ERP integration that avoids ERP customizations.  Only those organizations can support such end-to-end integration in the long-term.

To download this article in an easy to read pdf, download article here.

To learn how you can have a highly productive and profitable EDI initiative in your company, download our EDI Made Simple® Executive Brief

Download Now

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics GP EDI, Dynamics NAV EDI, Dynamics ERP Integration

From EDI Expert Glenn McPeak:

lessismoreIf you’ve seen AT&T’s commercials as part of the company’s "It's not complicated" campaign, you understand the idea: Bigger. Faster. More.

But that’s not the concept when it comes to EDI. In choosing a Dynamics EDI technology partner, a two-party approach is not better than one. Engaging multiple partners can cripple your business processes, while trying figure out who is responsible for broken mission-critical transaction flows or coordinating the addition of key processes.

The accelerating speed of business execution affords no time for finger pointing and researching the source of the latest breakdown. Beyond PO/Invoice processing, today’s interconnected supply chain requires real-time inventory, coordinating with transportation, such as request for routing, reading of POS details for the latest sales trends, and full connection with suppliers, especially in a drop ship operation.

Studies have shown...READ COMPLETE ARTICLE

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics GP EDI, Dynamics NAV EDI, Dynamics ERP Integration, Dynamics AX EDI Customers, Vendor edi, Supply Chain EDI

Glenn_McPeak

By Glenn McPeak, EDI and ERP Expert

When most small and medium sized companies talk about implementing EDI with suppliers, the first reaction is “No one is forcing us to do that so why would we want to?” The simple answer is the same reason large enterprises mandate their suppliers to do EDI: it saves money, which goes straight to the bottom line. If you think about EDI as a requirement, something your company must implement if you want to do business with larger organizations, consider the monolithic, error-prone way data gets into your ERP solution – typically via keyboard.

Of course you may be doing business with smaller organizations that may not have EDI capabilities. Did you know that they can be EDI-enabled at a low cost to them and zero cost to you? They can provide you will all of the information needed to integrate common business transactions into your system without data entry personnel on your end. At the same time you can improve communication between you and your suppliers by receiving detailed order confirmations and shipment notifications so you know when goods have left their facility and in transit to yours.

Not only can your company improve the accuracy and speed of communication with suppliers, but look at what some other companies are doing, such as USA Discounters and Swisher. They are leveraging EDI outside of any requirements because it affords them the opportunity to push their own supply chain costs back downstream. By passing these costs along to their suppliers, they reap the benefits on their bottom lines.

Like these companies, you can minimize error-related costs by opting to transact electronically with suppliers, carriers and/or public warehouses, eliminating unnecessary labor and paperwork. Take for example ASN management and integration: vendors can send you an ASN at the time of shipment that is integrated into your purchasing, inventory and billing applications. When the goods arrive, a single barcode scan can receive the entire shipment, including serial number and lot number registration – fully-automated integration with no manual intervention.

ASNs are one example, but combined with purchase orders and invoice documents, you can see a measurable cost savings across your supply chain. And while the common belief is that you need to be forced into EDI, EDI is gaining momentum in becoming a non-mandated technology option that delivers significant ROI, both on the customer and supplier side. One investment in the right EDI technology can satisfy your customers’ requirements and open the door of opportunity for you to implement more accurate and cost-saving processes.

Data Masons makes EDI Simple for companies of all sizes. Learn more in our brief:

Download the "EDI Made Simple -  A New Approach to EDI" Brief

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics GP EDI

From Glenn McPeak, EDI / ERP Expert:

Coming off of the Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013 sessions at Convergence, and anticipating the GP technical Airlift event in September, I’m with all the other professionals anxiously awaiting the expected product launch in December 2012.

One of Microsoft's key goals with this release is to position GP as a more competitive and flexible ERP solution for the SMB market. For these organizations, hopefully GP 2013 will transform their business practices by building a strong foundation that supports growth, increasing operational efficiencies and significantly lowering the burden on IT. But for organizations looking to implement GP 2013, it’s important to not only look at the new web client release and the other 150+ features, but also the other opportunities that come along with a new ERP platform implementation.

A critical step during any ERP implementation is to ask the question, “Do my ISV solutions align with Microsoft’s own strategy with the ERP?” I sometimes refer to it as the “like father, like son” approach. If the two solutions don’t align strategically, then I encourage you to take a look at other technology options, for both short and long-term success. When it comes to EDI for Dynamics GP specifically, it’s 100% possible to integrate a solution that aligns with Microsoft’s strategy – a “like father, like son” scenario that: 1) scales to support business expansion, 2) increases processes efficiencies and 3) eliminates unnecessary IT hassles.

To achieve this synergy between solutions, whether evaluating your current EDI technology or considering EDI integration at the time of ERP implementation, it’s critical to understand the most frequent approaches to EDI and their impact on your business:

1. Customization the client/partner develops a one-off, non-commercial solution utilizing a set of tools & custom ERP code.

Result: Reliance on a tool set, not an all-in-one solution¸ which creates long-term compatibility and upgrade pitfalls, and challenges scalability to support business expansion.

2. Web-based application – accessible via Internet connectivity and typically requires a lower initial investment than other technology models.

Result: Often requires manual data entry using web-forms and/or websites to make EDI work end-to-end. Long term cost of ownership can be extreme when factoring in transaction fees, manual entry labor and errors resulting from the duplicate keying of information.

3. Commercial ISV solution built inside Dynamics – solution is built with full integration inside Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Result: GP platform integrity is jeopardized by database and code changes to accommodate each and every EDI request. Compliance mandates and new partner integration can force unplanned customization and/or GP version upgrades which can disrupt ERP activities, delay new business relationships and trigger potentially costly fines.

4. ISV solution leverages the native integration framework of the ERP platform while providing all of the EDI transaction functionality outside the application

Result: Eliminates unnecessary ERP customizations to enable EDI integration and compliance while simplifying daily use and ERP update/upgrade projects.

The first three approaches have their obvious challenges, especially the customization of Dynamics GP. Applying service packs and version upgrades will be a challenge plus, the addition of other necessary solutions can be compromised. Only the fourth option – an ISV solution built outside Microsoft Dynamics - aligns with Microsoft’s strategic focus in releasing GP 2013 as a more agile platform to drive real value into your business execution.

Some business challenges are truly opportunities to help improve your company’s competitiveness. Integrated EDI is a perfect example – taking something that could be a daunting question mark and turning it into a huge labor and cost saving win! By selecting a well-architected solution that tightly integrates your business relationship transactions without customization – you can be a big winner. The long-term relationship between your ERP and EDI solution will only thrive if you walk in your “father’s” shoes and embrace the strategic value proposition to which Microsoft has committed themselves with GP 2013.

EDI Expert Insights, Dynamics NAV 2013, Dynamics AX EDI, Dynamics GP EDI, Dynamics AX 2012, Dynamics NAV EDI

From ERP & EDI Expert Glenn McPeak:

With Microsoft’s theme of power, agility and simplicity around the release of AX 2012, doesn’t it make sense that Microsoft’s ISV partners follow suit in supporting upgrades to the upcoming GP ‘12’ and NAV ‘7’ releases as well? While these releases may offer new functionality and opportunities for user organizations, the need to meet EDI requirements will be nothing new, but how you meet them can be a new cost-saving opportunity for your business.

EDI has been around for some time, but it has grown dramatically in regards to its importance and breadth in business relationships. Today it is quite common for larger organizations to mandate EDI capability as a pre-requisite for new suppliers and business partner relationships. While a few years ago most companies traded only a few documents, such as purchase orders, invoices and ship notices, today there is a significant amount of documents that can drive labor efficiencies, ultimately leading to the more critical competitive advantage.

EDI enters the process a major player because these documents also require more flexible and comprehensive software applications. And with upgrades on the horizon for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, GP ‘12’ and NAV ‘7’, the need for more flexible and comprehensive software applications doesn’t mean that you have to expect complicated ERP customizations to support EDI. In fact, it’s the opposite – migration to the latest platform is the opportunity to shed unnecessary ERP customizations.

When considering an upgrade, it’s best practice to work with your VAR and ISVs to analyze all customizations and create a precise plan to manage your code and data upgrades. It’s a given that some customizations will still be required, but when it comes to accommodating EDI you can forget about customizations. These types of customizations are an unnecessary hassle and without them you can avoid EDI roadblocks that can potentially disrupt your business and delay your upgrade project.

While evaluating the code customizations currently required to accommodate EDI mandates, it’s important to understand the three most frequent approaches to integrating EDI with Microsoft Dynamics:

  1. Customization – the client / partner has decided to develop a one-off, non-commercial solution using a tool such as BizTalk or Gentran with custom ERP code;
  2. Commercial solution within Microsoft Dynamics – (i.e. built inside Dynamics by an Independent Software Vendor) –solution is built with full integration inside Microsoft Dynamics AX; and
  3. ISV built outside Microsoft Dynamics – solution is built outside of Microsoft Dynamics but leverages the native functionality and integration framework of the Dynamics platform.

The first approach has its obvious challenges, especially since BizTalk will be essentially going away as we know it. The second option – using a commercial solution fully-built inside Microsoft Dynamics – can also run into challenges, such as how patches and version upgrades are managed and how does the solution coexist with other solutions/customizations that are necessary to the business?

Neither option follows Microsoft’s theme of “simplicity.” Only by using a well-architected solution that tightly integrates EDI without customization can you avoid the unpredictable costs in development and updating from one Microsoft Dynamics version to another.