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Before I learned to spell EDI, I thought it stood for Everyone's Doing It.  Now many years later, I sometimes forget that there are others still learning to spell EDI.  So for all of you looking for general information and EDI education, this article is for you.  

What is EDI???  Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of business data in standard formats.  Information is organized according to a specified format agreed to by both parties, allowing a "hands-off" computer transaction that requires no rekeying on either end.  All information contained in an EDI transaction set is, for the most part, the same as on a conventionally printed document.  No EDI education is complete without also mentioning there are different standards depending where you are in the world such as X12 (US), EDIFACT (Europe) and Tradacoms (UK).

Why should I do EDI?  The main reason most people start doing EDI is because one or more of their customers or suppliers pressure them to become EDI compliant.  However, the good news is that there are many immediate and long term benefits to doing EDI.  One of which is custmer service improvement by strengthening the link with your Trading Partners.  Also, implementing EDI means reduced errors, improved error detection, increased efficiency and increased information integrity.  Furthermore, EDI means less manual data entry which leads to less clerical work.  This in turns results in more productivity, faster response time and increased competitiveness within the marketplace. 

How should I do EDI?  This question is not so easily answered and depends on many variables.  Below are some factors to consider and their priority will vary considerably, depending on your unique requirements.  

Transaction Volume:  Approximately how many EDI transactions (Purchase Orders, Invoices, etc.) will you be sending and receiving each day, week, or month?  Do you expect your volume to increase substantially in the next year or so?  Is the EDI solution robust enough to meet your company’s needs, now and into the future, but not expensive “overkill?”

Staff Requirements:  What personnel, and level of experience, will be required to administer the EDI solution?

Compatibility:  Will the solution meet all of your trading partners’ EDI requirements, as well as your own?  Does the EDI provider have experience in your industry, or with your trading partners?

Integration:  Do you intend for EDI documents to be seamlessly integrated into and out of your current order processing and/or accounting software?  If so, does the EDI solution have this capability, and does the EDI provider have experience with your software system?

Implementation Time and Cost:  Does the proposed solution include everything you need for a quick and painless implementation?  Software, installation, trading partner setup, training, maintenance and support?  How long should it take to be fully operational with EDI, and how much will it cost?

Support:  How will ongoing support be handled?  Does it require on-site visits, or can it be handled remotely?  What days and hours is support available?  Are there any added costs?

Technology:  Will the EDI solution be adaptable to changing standards and methods of communication?

Routing:  How will your EDI documents be routed to and from your trading partners?  If a Value Added Network (VAN) is required, what are your options?  Is direct communication over the Internet available?

References:  Who are some other companies with requirements similar to yours that are using this EDI solution?

Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc. specializes in EDI implementation and data integration solutions.  For more information, please contact Shandra Locken, at or 800-404-9182 x25.

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