Hello to all! The turkeys are gobbling and the bears just coming out of hibernation, ready to attack bird feeders across the land. The last vestiges of snow and ice are holding on for dear life. I can’t believe I have to mow the lawn in a couple of weeks. By that time, the black flies should be really hungry and I can look forward to a few less pints of blood!
But I digress. The theme of this column for the past two issues has centered on the elements necessary for a successful EDI program such as ownership, organization, etc.
Since this edition of the newsletter is devoted to vendor case studies, I thought it would be an opportune time to write about evaluating new B2B/EAI/EDI platforms.
There are many criteria to consider when deciding upon a new platform. I like to break these up into two separate categories: (1) general criteria which apply to almost any company (2) criteria specific to the company evaluating the platform.
General criteria include measures such as price, customer support ratings, ease of use, etc. Vendor viability, strategy, R&D and financials should also be examined when evaluating new solutions.
More specific criteria would pertain to how the new software might interface to a particular ERP system, the need for add-on modules for specific functionality, the ability to implement granular security, etc.
One of the major mistakes made when a new purchase is made is not calculating the total cost of implementation – or significantly underestimating that cost. This is a far different measure than the purchase price. One of the major variables that can affect total cost is the availability of independent or third-party resources. If a company is going to be dependant upon the vendor for installation, configuration, mapping, etc., the company could find itself paying as much as $250/hr. for work that could be done less expensively by non-vendor resources. Past estimates of high-end solutions have concluded that implementation costs can be 3x to10x the purchase price of the software itself.
Speaking of high-end solutions, there has been a major shift in software over the past couple of years. What we might consider to be traditional EDI software is now more powerful than ever. Vendors have been developing much more robust offerings with Workflow, Business Process Modeling and Business Activity Monitoring capabilities. Add to this the different communication protocols we need to support and initiatives like Data Sync and you will quickly realize we are talking about a far different animal than we “grew up” with in the 1990s. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile. EAI, B2B and EDI are all blended together. This makes for an interesting challenge as companies now have the option to consolidate their e-Commerce and internal integration activity onto a single platform.
In the next column, we will examine in detail the factors companies need to consider when evaluating their next generation platform.
Enjoy the spring.
Wayne Marshall is the President of the New England eCommerce Group (NEECOM) and also the Vice President of Professional Services for EDI Specialists, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.