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EDI Not Working? Try Picking Up the Phone. Communication is Key to Problem Solving.

EDI Not Working? Try Picking Up the Phone. Communication is Key to Problem Solving.

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One of the greatest challenges to having a successful Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) process will be determined by the data being sent to you and what your system will do with that data.

In many cases, translation tables can be placed that will auto correct incorrect data. But what if that data is not just incorrect, but corrupted or just plain invalid? Even though Electronic Data Interchange services are designed to be an automated process, manual intervention is still required to ensure the integrity of the data being received. If this data is not found and managed at the beginning of the EDI process, issues will occur that could derail the EDI process right from the start. To enhance success a proactive approach is required. This is where communication with your partners becomes critical. With constant communication with partners, customers and suppliers, your EDI setup will have less issues, and the ones that do occur will be much easier to manage and correct.

One instance, that comes to mind, was with a customer who sent daily and ten-day forecasts every workday. These forecasts contained firm orders that needed to be filled correctly each week. For weeks, an incorrect quantity was being shipped from our business to this customer. After multiple weeks went by, our inside sales rep finally brought the issue to my attention that either the incorrect order quantity was shipped out, or that the inside sales rep had to call the customer for confirmation of the quantity needed before shipment. Until this matter was corrected our customer was certain that it was an issue on our side and we were to blame for their inability to produce their required products to their customers, causing our customer a great deal of problems.

After being able to review the raw EDI files data, was it determined that the issue was arising on our customer’s end and not ours. Their ERP Electronic Data Interchange services system’s materials requirements were not setup with the correct required quantities, and in turn producing an incorrect sales order on our end. Once the partner was able to get this corrected in their system, we started to see the correct quantities in orders and the partner started to see the correct quantities received.

This just shows that even though EDI is an automated process, manual interaction is needed throughout to proactively handle issues and provide effective EDI solutions and management. Without it, an issue like this could have taken even longer to discover and even longer still to get the proper research and solution in place. These sorts of issues erode trust with the EDI process even when the process is working as intended. With incorrect or corrupt system data, the EDI process, no matter how well the EDI mapping setup was done, will falter and fail to give the results needed to run your business the way you need it to. This is not the type of reflection you should want your partners receiving back from your digital mirror.

 

Having issues with your EDI management or interested in getting an EDI solution for your business? Want to chat with the author? Contact us and learn about our Electronic Data Interchange services today.

What is EDI? Be Careful, It’s Your Company’s Digital Mirror

What is EDI? Be Careful, It’s Your Company’s Digital Mirror

What is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)? In a much simpler five words or less definition, it means “data in, data out”. EDI is a toolset that interacts with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business software system that takes data coming into the EDI system, processes that data in the ERP, and sends that data back out to the originator (like a customer). You would think that a process which can be explained in only four words would be pretty simple, right? And it can be, if the proper care and attention is given to the EDI’s initial setup and further EDI strategy.
 
If a customer’s purchase order sent via EDI is being processed and has an incorrect date, or is completely missing a cell’s data, a simple mapping adjustment can be made to correct these sorts of issues. How can you ensure that your customer’s purchase orders are processed into your system correctly, if that attention to detail is not done? How can you be sure the pricing on your sales orders and the invoices that are generated are correct if your price lists are not correctly setup in your ERP system?
 
The EDI strategy and process is a digital mirror of how your system is currently setup and will reflect your strengths and faults back to your customers and suppliers. Think of EDI as a linked chain and your business is a boat being pulled along by a truck, which represents your customers or suppliers. If all the links are solid, that truck will pull that boat forever always getting to the desired destination, but if there is a broken link, the chain will start to fail and eventually break, allowing that truck to continue driving but it leaves the boat behind stranded in the middle of nowhere. To avoid being stranded and left behind, make sure that your chain is strong and durable by taking time setting up the ERP data properly, the EDI mapping, and running many tests before going live with customers. With the proper care and attention to your EDI solution it will not matter how large that boat or truck gets. Your chain will not break, it can handle it. Now ask yourself this, is your chain strong and durable enough? Or could there be some broken links you may or may not even know about?
 

Still not clear on the question “what is electronic data interchange?” Ask us anything, we would love to chat.

Levels of Leadership: The High-Flying and the Etherized

Levels of Leadership: The High-Flying and the Etherized

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“When the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table” – T.S. Eliot

When I first began dabbling in the field of Business Process Management, the terminology of this new and strange body of knowledge perplexed me greatly.  The concept of elevation, for one thing, was utter babble to me.  Or Babel, perhaps.  My notion of “high level” carried with it certain ancient connotations—height was a luxury in the ancient world, and only the most powerful civilizations were able to get a view from above the tree tops: from a Babylonian ziggurat or an Egyptian pyramid, for instance.  Height, therefore, implied greatness, or to use one of Aristotle’s favorite terms Eudaimonia, sometimes translated as “flourishing.”  At the highest Olympian point, one breathes the rarest of airs, or so I thought.  But I was breathing the ether of an entirely different allegory.  Height, in this new world, dealt not with levels of greatness, but rather with levels of precision and abstraction.  In the business world, for something to be “high level” inferred that it was at some level of aggregation and abstraction as to be disconnected from the tactical nuances of day-to-day operations.  News to me.

Back in the day, it was common war room parlance to utter something to the degree of “we’re looking at this from thirty-thousand feet” at least once a day.  It was not until my first airplane flight that I truly understood what it meant, to look at something from that kind of distance—beautiful, and a little terrifying.  I’m more of a pavement-and-pothole kind of guy.  The other day, I was skidding down the highway in another rental, that was fortunate enough to still have a CD player hidden amongst its many modern accoutrements.  I had borrowed Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” in CD form the local lending library and spent the better part of my ride listening once again to his seminal work.  It was a fun listen: Collins began by underscoring some of the key principles of successful companies, and then went on to expound on some examples of excellence, such as…Wells Fargo, and um, Circuit City, and well…Fannie Mae?  My ride, all at once, seemed a little…dated.  I thought to myself that Collins would do well to write a follow-up to his earlier work and title it  “From Good to Great to God Awful.”  Now that would keep me engaged while ripping down the interstate!  So, maybe Lord Jim’s examples have not stood the test of time.  But I believe that the good leadership qualities that underscore successful organizations have outlived their exemplars.

To that point, whenever I think of flashy and charismatic leaders in business process management, I smell pizza. Not because of any neurological condition that would make me a risk on the open road, but due, rather, to a story a man recounted on a flight from Minneapolis to Memphis, regarding the former executive of a large manufacturing company.

Let’s call this former executive “Pep.”  Now Pep came to his role of eminence in this company not as an internal promotion, but as an outside hire, touting a flashy resume from one of America’s well-known pizza chains.  And his demeanor was more flashy than his letterhead, and greasier than the pizza he peddled.  He’d bound down the hallway in a shiny suit, talking like a sailor and firing off one-liners, like the proverbial mouthy guy at the end of the local bar.  One of his favorite lines was “yesterday’s news wraps today’s meat.”  It was a line, with his delivery, that could drive a man to veganism.  Another time, his personal assistant heard him cussing out his computer and rushed to his aide, not to discover that the company’s earnings report was unfavorable, but that he had just lost another game of solitaire.  All of this from a guy with a Fortune-500 pedigree.  It was his story, among others, that led me finally to realize that CVs are like statistics—they can be twisted to tell you whatever story you want to hear.

Of his many witticisms, one line stood out to me from the others.  When commenting on the company’s long-standing issues with the accuracy of its outside sales staff, he exclaimed.  “If they wanted you to be exact, they wouldn’t have called it estimating, they would have called it exactamating!” 

Exactamating.  As you might have guessed, Pep was a rather high-level guy.  He sounded like such a high-level, that I imagined him bantering about exactamating in the first-class section of a transatlantic flight, sucking down a gin & tonic, while eating a big greasy slice of pizza, all at thirty-thousand feet.

As you might imagine, he was also afflicted with many of the ailments that bother high-level fellows of his ilk.  For one, he didn’t sweat the details—he liked to make big decisions, make them fast, and then walk out of the room and have someone else fill in the finer points.  If you locked him in a board room with the VP of engineering, he’d find a way to slip out the ventilation shaft for a smoke before the hour was quartered.  To the folks in the trenches, it seemed like simple impatience—he seemed too impatient to be bothered with the details, and similarly too impatient or just incapable of holding any of his people accountable at any kind of detailed manner.  But at any level, the company’s failing business results empowered the CEO to request that this high-flyer to take the next flight out of town. 

Back to Good-to-Great, one of Collins’ key observations from the book has to do with the demeanor of those with good leadership qualities. Good leadership qualities for business process management, according to Collins, tend not to be of the flashy variety, full of id and ego. Rather, they tend to be soft spoken, less interested in their own presentation than in the success of their company.  Interestingly enough, this same company, who sent Pep the Pizza Man packing opted to replace him with a leader who fit Collins’ model.  For one, the new executive was a hire from within the company, and not a fly-in, as had been his predecessor.   Moreover, the new leader was much less of a showman.  Most importantly, the new leader’s obsession with the company’s success drove him to understand the company’s inner-workings at all levels.  Don’t get me wrong—he was never going to replace any of the data entry clerks, but his willingness to engage the organization, and its members at all levels was one important part of the success that the company went on to have under his leadership 

I’ll admit it: one of my guilty pleasures is the legalized blood-sport commonly referred to as mixed martial arts, or MMA.  As you may be aware, MMA involves the combination of multiple fighting arts, and they best fighters are often the ones who excel in combining these disparate arts into one integrate skillset.  One related skill in this field is the ability to “change levels”—to convince your combatant that you are going to attempt a strike, and then drop down for a wrestling takedown and quickly haul your opponent to the mat.  In my work as a consultant, I have had the good fortune to meet and work with many different managers and leaders, each with differing motives, differing personalities and differing intensities.  I find that the most successful leaders are those who similarly have the ability to change levels as needed—to move from high-level strategic thinking, down to tactical or operational problems, and then back up again.  The high-level folks often struggle with this: they are the proverbial kick boxer in a wrestling match—great when they’re on their feed, but hopeless at the ground-level.  All that being said, the next time that I have to take a flight, I think I might sneak a New York slice in with me, before I leave the ground.

Ask us any question you many have about good leadership qualities for business process management and ERP Software Implementations, we would love to chat.

How ERP Implementations are Opportunities to Strengthen Corporate Culture

How ERP Implementations are Opportunities to Strengthen Corporate Culture

It’s a curse of those that are technologically inclined to focus on the technical needs of clients. Makes sense. After all, isn’t that why we consultants are hired? To take these technical skills, that we’ve worked hard to acquire, and find technical solutions to complex problems that are typically beyond the scope of a client’s internal employees?

Most certainly. But only focusing on the software solutions ignores an important element. Identifying and working with the corporate culture can elevate a somewhat successful implementation to one that has a major impact on helping the business run better, which is The Estes Groups prime directive and guiding principle.

So how do we define a corporate culture? It’s not a tangible thing that can be defined in quantifiable terms. It’s not a product line or the location of corporate headquarters. Speaking of it in Human Terms, it’s the company’s personality and characteristics. But it’s unique in that it’s not a single person defining this personality, but the manifestation of everyone’s personality in the organization all rolled-up into a corporate culture. These attributes are then reflected in a corporation’s values, its relationships with stakeholders, investors, employees, communities, and most importantly: customers.

There’s a plethora of material written about corporate culture – written by everyone from psychiatrists to college professors. Most of these articles center around the corporate culture and how to increase the bottom line, attract and retain employees, all those things that corporate culture entails. And these are all great, but the vast majority are focused on full-time employees’ roles within corporate culture. But what about the role of a consultant and their interplay with the client and company culture? As consultants, by definition, we are short-term employees. So why should a consultant be concerned with the benefits of ERP for corporate culture? And just as important, can we consultants help to develop traits that will translate into a better corporate culture?

Every company has a culture, and it develops either organically or by design. Corporate culture is not a single process or element, but rather the cumulative effect of all parts of how a company does business. This is a good thing. But along with the good, some bad habits can develop too. And it is in these areas that a consultant can have a positive impact. Here are three areas that are often cited as negative corporate cultures but opportunity for the benefits of ERP exist:

“We work in silos”

This is a common theme in many companies. One of the benefits of ERP implementation is that it provides a new and unique opportunity to show how one department’s daily activities can have a profound impact on other departments.From Quote-To-Cash Demonstrations to Conference Room Pilots can provide a perfect environment in which to show how those individual activities can affect the entire performance of the organization. By increasing corporate awareness, along with immediate feedback of all departments activities, it provides opportunities to increase cross-departmental communication.

“I don’t feel trusted to do my job”

With a new ERP implementation, employees are provided the chance to re-establish a relationship with management by becoming an integral part in learning and utilizing the software. If our work as consultants can help an employee or an entire department become more proficient and efficient in their position, their value to the corporation is naturally increased. By becoming proficient in the software, an employee provides vital skill-sets to create or influence new business processes and procedures that then are embedded within the new software and company culture.

“I don’t see how my work contributes to the overall goals of the company”

An ERP software implementation provides a person the ability to see and understand the “10,000 ft view” of the organization, and how a department’s and individual’s goals can work in tandem to drive the company forward. By re-enforcing the company’s goals during “teachable moments”, for example during a conference room pilot or daily activities, it will show employees how their daily activities do in fact contribute to the goals of the organization.

Contact the EstesGroup today for more information on the benefits of ERP for your company culture.