Home > Knowledge Base > Choosing the Right EDI Provider

A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right EDI Provider and Team

Highlights

  • It is not easy to choose the right EDI provider and team because may not be core to your business
    • Having an external team that becomes your outsourced EDI department can really help remove the EDI burden if you are a small business or just starting out
      • By the end of this guide, you will learn everything about the direction you should take as a supplier ready to do EDI

      Introduction

      Choosing the right EDI provider and team remains a huge challenge for companies all sizes because well rounded EDI professionals with deep understanding of business processes are hard to find when compared to EDI mappers or analysts. Your IT staff may or may not be trained in EDI and that’s ok however, you need to assemble the right team when a buyer or trading partner mandates you to comply with their trading partner requirements. This team could be external EDI consultants like EDI Support LLC or internal resources depending on how big is your need and how central is EDI to your business. You have to make such decisions very early on even before you have a contract from a buyer who wants to buy your product(s). Most small companies or startups don’t even know what EDI is and cannot make these decisions without external help. That is ok as long as you know who can help you navigate through the capabilities of various EDI providers, select which EDI software is best for your business, implement the software and trade EDI documents with your trading partners.

      What is an EDI provider?

      An EDI provider is a company that provides an EDI software and service (on premise or cloud) to help suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, wholesalers, ecommerce companies and others trade documents with their buyers or trading partners. There are different types of EDI providers depending on the software solutions and packages they offer that we discuss below. Typically, a supplier like your company would reach out to multiple EDI providers and evaluate whether they are the right fit by asking some questions which we discuss later in the article below. After choosing the provider, you will onboard your trading partners on to the EDI platform with the help of the provider, test and run your EDI program sharing your EDI documents with the trading partners.

      Types of EDI Service providers

      1. On-premise EDI Software
      EDI software that is owned in-house and operated from a company’s own server and infrastructure is known to be an on premise EDI solution. The company retains complete control over all aspects of their EDI system including administration, monitoring, backup and recovery, upgrades, security, access and data integrity. To build an in-house solution you’ll need a translator (EDI software package license), a network and a server and a full-time EDI trained staff that manages your EDI operations.
      1. Managed EDI Services

      Software is typically provided and managed by an outside entity that has all the tools and resources to handle complete end-to-end EDI implementations and support known as a managed EDI service provider. This is the most common model that companies all sizes use today because it frees company’s time to focus its resources in revenue-generating activities. The company using a managed EDI service has full access to the software at all times but does not need to take care of operations-related activities. Managed EDI services mostly offer a cloud-based software these days.

      Managed EDI Service companies should handle everything from the beginning of the EDI implementation project- communication with trading partners, managing map updates, onboarding new trading partners, testing, production along with continued monitoring support. As a best practice, your company/your tech/EDI team should be closely involved with the managed EDI services team for a successful implementation.

      1. Cloud-based EDI Solutions

      Cloud based solutions are web-based that enable businesses to transact EDI documents between each other without the need of an on premise infrastructure. There is an online portal assigned with login details to access the cloud EDI application through any browser. These types of solutions are easy to manage, more secure and are fairly easy to provide updates. There are no license costs involved but only a monthly/yearly flat rate that covers support.

      Things to consider when choosing the right EDI provider

      When choosing the right EDI provider among many different options consider different aspects like-

      1. Company size, Infrastructure and business goals

      Depending on how big your company is, how many trading partners you have currently and your 5-year business projections, you should choose either an on-premise or a cloud solution. Most companies starting out with 1-2 trading partners and low volume of transactions usually like an easy interface with minimal monthly investment and go with a cloud portal which they can access from anywhere and hire an external EDI expert to help them run the transactions. Mature/mid-large companies with millions in revenue and limited EDI staff usually go with a robust cloud platform that can handle thousands of transactions and multiple trading partners or if they have EDI knowledge on staff and their infrastructure supports an on-premise software, preference is given to on-premise software like OpenText ECS & Delta that is installed physically on their systems.

      1. Number of trading partners and volume of transactions

      If you have multiple EDI trading partners ready to trade thousands of transactions with your company, then having a robust EDI platform with broad capabilities like Boomi makes most sense. If you have a few trading partners and just starting out, even then, Boomi works well as the Boomi Atmosphere grows with your company’s increase in transactions as you secure more business. There are other cloud based EDI software providers like eZcom or Edict Systems that work well for small to mid-sized companies.

      1. Backend ERP systems that need to be integrated with the EDI software

      Some managed EDI services will not offer you API or file based integrations with their EDI software due to lack of expertise in that area. If you have an accounting, ERP or a WMS platform that needs to integrate with your EDI platform, you should be asking these questions whether they have the talent and resources to help you integrate or not.

      1. Affordability

      Cost of EDI platforms is a huge factor among small to large companies to determine which EDI provider they should go with. For a small company starting out their EDI journey, they usually want an easy to use web portal to send some EDI documents to 1-2 trading partners and are not looking for broader capabilities. These companies can only afford a small monthly technology fee. Large companies on the other hand need a robust platform to manage multiple trading partner connections and complex integrations.

      1. Human resources (trained EDI staff-internal or external)

      A huge factor in your EDI decision making is the EDI expertise that you have either in-house or external. You cannot be relying on your EDI provider to do everything for you including project management, talking to your trading partners, look out for changing trading partner requirements because today, there are not a lot of EDI providers that will give you unlimited support. You have to define what you have internally and what you need from external partners in advance to make your EDI project a success. If you do not have an in-house team, here are things to do and not do. But if you do, an EDI provider you choose can work with your internal EDI staff to implement EDI.

      Questions you should ask EDI providers when shopping or evaluating for one

      1. Could you give us the demo of your EDI platform and walk us through your EDI setup and implementation process for a Trading Partner X?
      2. How long does it take to get your clients on your internal project schedule for EDI Onboarding?
      3. Who handles the new Trading Partner testing?
      4. Does the Testing include integration with my ERP when I have one?
      5. Is there an added charge for Integration with my ERP?
      6. How long does it typically take to go from testing to live with a trading partner?
      7. How long does it take for a map to be corrected once we are live?
      8. Do you host the EDI platform or is it on AWS or Azure?
      9. Do I need EDI knowledge on staff?
      10. Can I make EDI map changes or does the provider only one that can do that?
      11. What is the customer service SLAs (Service Level Agreements)?
      1. Does Customer service work from emails and live phone calls?
      2. Issue response times
      3. Issue Resolution times
      4. Escalation of Support Case Guideline
      5. Platform Up Time. Any guarantee on Up Time?
      6. Support Hours and Time Zone
      7. Do you use a generic email address for support or do you assign one specific to my company?
      8. Does support have a direct phone number?
      9. How many people are on your support team?
      10. Do you use a ticketing system and generic email responses?
      1. Costs
      1. One-Time Fee Break down to get on EDI Platform
      2. One-Time Fee to Add Trading Partner to account
      3. Is Testing and Implementation included
      4. Monthly fee break down
      5. Per document fee and how many are included in my plan
      1. Please indicate what is not included in costs?
      1. Integration when an ERP/WMS/TMS
      2. Daily Error Tracking
      3. Phone calls and Meetings with prospective EDI Trading Partners
      1. How do you get notified of Unacknowledged EDI documents, Communication Failures, Rejected/Error 997s, 824 Issues, 864s received?
      2. When does my contract renew?
      3. Does my contract extend every time I add a new Trading partner or make any changes to my subscription?
      4. Who pays for chargebacks if the issue is EDI platform or EDI mapping related?
      5. Ask for references of their clients to talk to that have similar or same trading partners that they are working with.

      Questions EDI providers should be asking you to determine if there is a fit

      1. Do you want On-Premise EDI software or third party hosted or Cloud based?
      2. Which file formats are you interacting with? (IE: EDI, EDIFACT, XML, CSV, JSON, etc.)
      3. What type of communication is used for the file transfers? (i.e. FTP, SFTP, FTPS, AS2, API etc.)
      4. How many current Trading Partner relationships do you have?
      5. Do you have a number of files and average file size? (i.e. daily, weekly or monthly files)
      6. Are you looking for Data Repository built into the EDI product?
      7. Do you need a package with Translation, Communication and Data Repository all through one software supplier?
      8. Do you prefer a certain back end database for your EDI package? (i.e. SQL, Oracle, AS/400 etc.)
      9. How do you prefer the software priced? (i.e. based on data consumption, number of users, upfront purchase with yearly maintenance, monthly service etc.)
      10. What internal or external system do you want to interact with? (i.e. TMS, ERP, WMS etc.)
      11. Do you need a separate server for fail safe in place with fast roll up?
      12. Do you need analytics built in along with reporting capabilities?
      13. What is your growth expectancy? (i.e. 1 year, 5 years 10 years)
      14. Do you have any current needs from Trading Partners that you are not able to meet?

      These questions can be a great starting point for you to evaluate whether you are going in the right direction or not. We at EDI Support have EDI experts that can help you decide which EDI provider to go with based on your financial, project, infrastructure and software needs with their experience working on a gamut of EDI softwares in the marketplace.

      How to choose the right EDI team for your company?

      Most companies we talk to struggle with this aspect of having the right EDI team in place to run an end-to-end EDI project successfully. Most small to mid-sized companies may have an IT person or two but lack expertise in EDI. It is understandable that no one knows about EDI when starting out a new business until there is a need felt for it or are being mandated by their buyers to run EDI with them. It is important to focus on the skill set your EDI team is bringing to the table in terms of having well rounded understanding of business processes, how the document flow will work from one system to the other, knowledge of file or API based integration, knowledge of various EDI communication types like AS2, FTP and VAN and EDI standards, troubleshooting errors and project management. You should answer questions like does it make a business sense to hire this team in-house for long-term or hire an expert consulting team to outsource to or help out with this work. How do I intend to grow and how many buyers will I do EDI with in the future? Based on this you can either have the skill set in-house or have a consulting company that can work with an EDI provider team you choose to go with.

      Things to keep in mind before signing EDI provider contracts

      So now, you have some shortlisted EDI providers, you have the right team and you are ready to go! Before you make that decision to sign a contract with an EDI provider, keep these below things in mind-

      Length of the contract?

      Your business has the potential to grow and the requirements can change from year to year. EDI service provider you choose should be able to accommodate your requests as you grow and your trading partner changing requirements. EDI providers can lure you into signing long term contracts like 3 or 5 years with initial discounts. This happens often in the EDI space.

      What is the level of tech and customer support being provided throughout the contract?

      You should ask your EDI provider if their customer support will remain the same throughout the term of the contract. This is important to keep monitoring your EDI project in order to avoid any fines or chargebacks from your trading partners. Some EDI providers will help you implement their EDI solution but do not provide any support if any issue occurs. Being proactive with errors while doing EDI is a crucial part of an EDI project.

      Will there be a price increase during the length of the contract or during its renewal?

      Many times EDI providers will increase the price per transaction or during renewal of your contract. We have seen that happen very often in the marketplace. There shouldn’t be any price increase if you haven’t added any new trading partner or other service like integration or any API connection.

      What happens if you add a new trading partner or an API connection? How is your contract affected?

      In case of any added service or trading partner, you should ask how will your price change. This helps you get an idea about their pricing for other services that you might need in the future as you grow.

      Are there any carrying or overage costs?

      Make sure there are no surprises like automatic extension of your contract when you add a new trading partner or any overage costs on services that you already avail from them.

      Our recommendation is to sign a 1-year contract first and see what your experience with an EDI provider. Give the EDI provider an opportunity to earn your business every year. Don’t get tied into long-term contracts and spend more than what is actually required.

      Read next

      Educate yourself and follow these steps to stay within your EDI budget and still trade with your trading partners effectively.