Your EDI Resource

EDI + API = Supply Chain Success!

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

8603836832_48dd384d11_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Morag Riddell.  This blog was written by Karen Blood of GraceBlood LLC, a partner of the Aurora EDI Alliance.  No surprise, today’s most successful supply chain companies are doing more and more business electronically. From a personal consumer perspective, aren’t we all? Industry leaders like Amazon, AutoZone and Walmart understand this and are driven from the boardroom to the warehouse to handle all aspects of business over proliferating electronic channels. Suppliers at each level up on the supply chain are finding it necessary to accommodate their down-channel customers’ end-customer’s desire for, and reliance on, real-time transactions and information. This has a challenging ripple effect on their suppliers, carriers and 3PLs, as well as their own operations.

So, what’s becoming more important? For B2B, and B2B-fulfilling-for-C, interdependence, collaboration and flexibility are joining responsiveness, accuracy and quality product as hallmarks of a successful business relationship. For any kind of profitable volume, Integration at the data level between business systems remains THE basic requirement to achieve this.

Taking a high-level view, there are two main technologies being used today to exchange and integrate data between business systems: Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). The chart below examines the functional differences of these two approaches as might be important to a supply chain company.

 

E D I

A P I s

Types of Message Content

PO, PO ACK, ASN, Invoice, Order Status, many more

Same, with an emphasis on real-time queries such as pricing & availability

Typical Trading Partners

 

Amazon, Jet.com, e-commerce shopping carts, carriers

Usage in the Supply Chain

Still growing

Growing exponentially

Max Speed

Minutes, although typically batch processed on a schedule

Real-time

Content Structure specified by

Usually provided by customer

Target business system

Response to message Content

Another EDI message

May be immediate and actionable

Visibility of messages end to end

Varies by business system and middleware

Varies by target business system

Use with Legacy business systems

Good

Not recommended for direct integration

Best Integrated by

Person most familiar with trading partner and target business system, and EDI implementer

Person most familiar with trading partner and target business system, and API developer

Maintenance required

Minimal, as usually stable & well-defined

Comparably, more due to moving target aspects

Transport

HTTP/S, SFTP, FTP

HTTP/S

Response to message Transport

Immediate for some, otherwise return EDI message

Immediate

Content Type

X12, EDIFACT

JSON or XML

Security of message

may be encrypted

may be encrypted

# of Transactions in a Message

One to large quantity

One

Bulk (size) of Message

Least, especially for larger batches

XML is bulky, JSON less so but still carries descriptors with each data element

Readability of raw message

Easy for EDI-savvy

Should be easier

Both EDI & APIs may have a place in your organization. There is no need to choose one over the other, only what is most appropriate for your various business requirements and considering your human and system resources. GraceBlood’s typical distribution client is using EDI for trading with customers and suppliers, and APIs for carriers and their e-commerce shopping carts. In any case, achieving Integration for as much business activity as possible is paramount.

Preparation for Integration – Best Practices for EDI, Required for APIs!

  • Inventory system is in order – items, warehouses, availability, catalog information including size & weights
  • Order management system is well-used – pricing, fulfillment priorities, notifications, returns
  • Shipping system is integrated with order management
  • Inventory system is integrated with Everything
  • Systems Housekeeping is a Routine Process
  • Printing to paper is Very Unusual
  • The company runs by ADWIAD, “A Day’s Work in A Day”, and usage of all business systems supports this
  • Business partners are selected by their ability to ADWIAD too

More than ever, supply chain success means meeting the challenge of keeping up with the down-channel customer – us!

Click below for a Whitepaper on what getting data integration right can do for you business.

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Tags: amazon, API, Walmart, EDI, Autozone, Integration

Pajama Day AKA Working From Home

Posted by Shandra Locken on Tue, Jun 06, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

28129206630_a11f6ea7ae_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Marco Verch. This blog was written by Kristen Kearns, Manager of EDI for Aurora Technologies.  According to Global Workplace Analytics, research from last year indicates that 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.  Furthermore, 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part time.  Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time. On average, a telecommuter is college-educated, 49 years old, and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees.

Do I wear pajamas when I work from home?  A bathrobe and slippers?  No, but since I go to the gym daily after my work day, I do wear workout clothes and sneakers.  That is a huge savings on not having to have an office attire wardrobe.  I think the most important issue with working from home – are you disciplined in concentrating on your work?  Are you going to get distracted by chores, your backyard (the pool in the summer!), or your family?  Are you organized?  As an EDI provider, I work for about 25 clients and I have a folder for each that is easily accessible that I can pull if they have an emergency.  I have found what works for me.  A file folder area on top of my desk, with the folders of the clients I am actively working on and the other folders filed away.

Working from home allows for greater flexibility when it comes to doctor’s appointments, family commitments, etc., as long as you get the work done you’ve committed to and getting in your company’s required weekly hours.  You do need to set boundaries with your family.  Do family members just waltz in your office?  You might be on Skype, a Webex or Google Hangouts with a client or coworker.  You’re hoping a child does not walk in yelling that they have a poop in their diaper. Or your husband comes in asking when dinner is ready.  Or your mother-in-law wanting to chat up a storm because you “only work from home."  Or a friend or neighbor just stopping over.  When my children were little and if they happened to be at home when I was working, I had a hands up stop motion that they knew unless they were bleeding, they were to walk away.

Speaking of your office, do you have a dedicated area or a room in your house to accommodate your situation?  More and more home buyers are looking for that extra bedroom that can be a home office.  Do you have a dedicated phone line for your office?  You do not want your clients calling on your home phone line.

What about weather issues?   Living in New England, we have hurricanes causing power outages and sometimes massive snow storms.  Advantages from working from home -  no snow shoveling and no scary driving.  Disadvantages, when everyone else has a snow day, you do not unless you lose power or your internet connection.  That happened many times this past winter for me.  Everyone I knew, had the day off, but I did not.  Along with the driving, working from home is also green thinking.  Telecommuting has helped reduce the carbon footprint. In 2013, annual fuel consumption decreased by 680 million gallons, about 0.5 percent of the nation’s gas consumption, one study found.

Recently I had knee surgery, leaving me in a brace for 3 weeks and on crutches for 8 weeks.  Most people with my recovery would have been out of their office for 6-8 weeks.  I had surgery on a Thursday, and the following Monday I started back to work 5 hours a day and by the second week, I was back nearly full-time.  I think that it was a huge advantage for my company and my clients because I was able to keep my current projects moving along without needing much co-worker coverage.

Speaking of my clients, when I am not going to be in the office during normal business hours, I update my clients that I am actively working with when I will be there.  It minimizes any confusion on when I will be working on their projects.  When a client has had the need for some extra hours, it’s a little easier to do that when you are working from home.  It seems easier to fit in the time. In the EDI business, we often encounter clients that have off-hours needs, like installing or updating software. Or an emergency with their software or processing. Working from home makes that much easier to navigate.

Many managers feel that remote work can increase worker productivity.  There are no distractions like water cooler gossip, impromptu meetings, and loud colleagues are a non-issue, according to an infographic based on data from SurePayroll, a web-based payroll provider for small businesses. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they preferred to work alone to “hit maximum productivity.”  Fewer distractions (for the disciplined remote worker) can lead to higher efficiency, a report from ConnectSolutions concluded. The numbers: some 30 percent said that telecommuting allowed them to accomplish more in less time, while 24 percent of those surveyed said they could accomplish more in about the same amount of time.

Working from home = a lot less stress!

Click below to watch our video on how you can become an EDI hero within your organization:

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Tags: technology, EDI provider, EDI Consultant

EDI: Is It Working for You, or Are You Working for It?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, May 19, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

7349986226_50337a2c34_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Tom Childers. This blog was written by Art Douglas from the Aurora EDI Alliance.  As an EDI consultant, every day I search for new clients.  Yesterday I once again saw an ad that had frequently presented itself over the past six months.  It advertised for an EDI SPECIALIST.  In the ad, it described the job as a customer service position, and one of the requirements was, “Must be experienced in entering the EDI orders.”

This resonated with me because over the past 20 years, I have talked to scores of potential clients who seemed to misunderstand the power of EDI.  The idea that someone is “entering EDI orders” is just one indication that a company may be missing the true value of their EDI investment. 

In a fully integrated EDI environment, incoming orders appear in the seller’s sales system without intervention.  I like to call it MAGIC!  It’s not. It’s the result of planning, negotiation, and know-how combined with great software. If done right, it could be easily mistaken for MAGIC however.  Firms without this MAGIC may actually need to “enter EDI orders” into their software package.  These orders are often sent by EDI capable companies, and Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) at the selling company must retrieve them online, and transcribe them from a web form into their application.  This approach saves the investment in software and implementation of true EDI capability, but is a continuous drain on the resources of the firm.

Other firms may take the middle ground, using third-party EDI translation.  These third-party services will receive EDI orders on behalf of their clients and translate them into formats that the client’s software can use to import orders.  The difficulty I’ve found with this kind of arrangement is smaller companies have to compete for their service bureau’s resources with much larger clients. Moreover, they miss out on all the additional capabilities that come with a sophisticated EDI package.

There is good news.  EDI software doesn’t have to be as expensive as it once was.  It is not as complex as it once was.  And it can now work with many more application packages than in the past.  A good EDI software package should be able to move data securely over the internet, deposit transaction data into databases or interface files, and retrieve application data from databases or interface files for transmission.  These actions can be done on schedule, or on demand.  Today’s EDI software should handle Managed File Transfer (MFT), Extract – Transform – Load (ETL), Enterprise Application Interface (EAI) in addition to EDI. It should be able to track data flow, track changes to transformation maps, and provide an audit trail of what has taken place.

If you are working for your EDI capability, struggling with a clunky EDI interface, expecting CSRs to “enter the EDI orders,” or depending on a third-party service to do what’s best for your company’s future, consider stepping up to a fully integrated, modern EDI solution.  Get EDI working for you.

Click below for a case study on how a medical supply company with our help made EDI work for them!

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI Technology, integration software, EDI software, EDI ROI, EDI options, EDI Consultant

TBT - The First Question is, "What is EDI Capable?"

Posted by Shandra Locken on Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 02:27 PM

34399736736_194bb0611c_z.jpgIt's Throwback Thursday (and May 4th, see pic) so to celebrate we are reprinting our most popular blog article.  Photo appears courtesy of Michel Curi.  

I get many calls each month from suppliers who have been told by their customer that they need to be EDI capable.  And their first question is, "What is EDI capable?"  Simply stated, being EDI capable is the capability to send and receive electronic business documents in a specific format based on established standards.  There are essentially two ways to accomplish EDI capability:  Outsource or buy your own software.

Companies who choose to outsource have about as many options as there are days of the year.  Between Web EDIhosted services, managed services, FAX-to-EDI, email-to EDI, and SaaS...the choices are almost limitless.  And the EDI providers who offer these services each add their own attractive features that make their solutions distinctive.  So depending on your priorities, the chances are good that you will find the perfect outsourced EDI solution.  

Buying EDI software offers many benefits if the volume of EDI warrants such an investment.  There are many things to consider when purchasing software and that's another blog article in and of itself.  But briefly, EDI software consists of a data transformation tool and an EDI communications vehicle.  Many EDI software packages have the capability of handling multiple data formats which is important in today's varied business environment.  You will also likely need VAN service and/or AS2 capability for communicating your data.  

So when the inevitable question, "What is EDI capable?" comes along, starting with this information will get you moving.  Just remember that being EDI compliant is not the end game.  It's an evolving business function and like everything else, must be periodically evaluated and updated. 

Click below to read our latest case study on we helped Quibids.com to move their EDI processing to the next level.

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Tags: data transformation, EDI software, EDI Implementation, EDI basics, SaaS, Web EDI, AS2, automation

What is HIPAA?  Complying and Reducing the Burden

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 @ 04:12 PM

asg_Bgip4AJNHEgV5Oxp2Fart_J2wW7etzgwOX4zC32F1492637205344-iStock-650097548.jpgReprinted with permission from Liaison Technolgies.  Written by Hmong Vang, Chief Trust Officer for Liaison Technologes.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.  And while it was enacted primarily to ensure portability and continuity of health insurance coverage and improving the exchange of health information electronically, it also was intended to protect a patient’s protected health information (PHI) which includes health status or condition, medical history, insurance coverage, payment for health care, and other data that a healthcare provider or other covered entities collect in order to provide the proper care.

Signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, the act contains five key sections that cover: policies for health insurance coverage (Title I), compliance requirements for processing electronic healthcare transactions and implementing secure access to data (Title II), guidelines for taxation and medical care (Title III), rules for defining health insurance reforms (Title IV), and provisions for life insurance policies owned by companies (Title V).

For health care providers, insurance companies, and businesses that support health systems and providers, HIPAA compliance largely pertains to adhering to the standards and guidelines defined in Title II. This post focuses on understanding the basics of HIPAA compliance and how to reduce the burden of complying with the guidelines defined in Title II.

HIPAA Isn’t Only for Doctors and their Patients

HIPAA and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide a clear definition of covered entities and business associates that need to comply with HIPAA rules. HIPAA defines a covered entity as one of the following:

  • A Health Care Provider including doctors, clinics, psychologists, dentists, chiropractors, nursing homes, medical laboratories or pharmacies that are transmitting patients’ PHI electronically.
  • A Health Plan Provider such as health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations (HMO), companies providing health plans, and government entities paying for health care.
  • A Health Care Clearinghouse that processes nonstandard PHI into standardized electronic formats or vice versa.

Business associates are individuals or entities that assist covered entities in carrying out healthcare functions and activities. Vendors that transmit, process and/or store PHI on behalf of a covered entity or business associate are also bound to abide by HIPAA rules.

Understanding HIPAA Rules

Title II of HIPAA includes five key rules or standards which covered entities and business associates are required to comply with:

Privacy Rule. The Privacy Rule aims to protect patients’ rights to their PHI. These rights include allowing patients to examine, obtain copies of, and request corrections of their PHI. The Privacy Rule also requires covered entities to establish safeguards to protect patients’ PHI and also sets guidelines on when PHI may be used or disclosed without the patients’ authorization. Other administrative requirements laid out by the Privacy Rule includes appointing a privacy official at a covered entity, training employees on privacy policies and procedures, establishing and maintaining technical and physical safeguards to protect PHI, and creating processes that will handle patient complaints. Finally, the Privacy Rule establishes the penalties that covered entities will incur in case of a data breach.

Security Rule. The Security Rule specifies the required safeguards that need to be in place to protect patients’ electronic protected health information (ePHI). It requires covered entities and business associates to establish administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to maintain the integrity, confidentiality, and security of ePHI. Specifically, covered entities and business associates must: identify the sources of ePHI and PHI, including those that they create, receive, process, transmit, or maintain; perform regular risk assessments related to the protection of ePHI; and ensure organizational compliance through administrative safeguards. Like the Privacy Rule, the Security Rule also aims to protect patients from unauthorized, unreasonable, and impermissible use of their ePHI and PHI. While the Security Rule does not lay out specific guidelines on technical specifications, costs, and complexity of security measures, it requires covered entities and business associates to take them into consideration. Finally, the Security Rule requires covered entities and business associates to regularly review and adapt their security measures to evolving risks.

Enforcement Rule. This rule sets out the authority of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to enforce the Privacy and Security rules and to impose penalties in cases of violations or noncompliance. The OCR follows a three-step Enforcement Process: investigation of complaints, conducting compliance reviews, and fostering compliance through education and outreach programs. See the HHS website, where the OCR lists the most common and frequent compliance issues investigated since 2003. They include: impermissible uses and disclosures of PHI; lack of safeguards of PHI; lack of patient access to their PHI; use or disclosure of more than the minimum necessary PHI; and lack of administrative safeguards of ePHI.

Breach Notification Rule. HIPAA requires covered entities and business associates to notify affected individuals, the HHS, and the media, in more severe cases, following a breach of unsecured PHI. A breach is defined as an impermissible use or disclosure of PHI. Under the rule, covered entities and business associates must provide notifications to individuals affected by the breach without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 days from the discovery of the breach. Individual notifications must include a description of the breach and descriptions of the medical information compromised, the suggested actions individuals should take to prevent further harm, the steps the covered entity are taking to investigate the breach, minimize adverse effects, and prevent further breaches, and how individuals can contact the covered entities. For breaches involving over 500 individuals in a jurisdiction, covered entities are also required to notify prominent media outlets in the jurisdiction.

Omnibus Rule of 2013. In 2013, the HHS created the HIPAA Omnibus Rule to implement modifications to HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The Omnibus Rule implemented extensive changes to HIPAA, including: requirements to strengthen the privacy and security of PHI; introducing objective guidelines for a covered entity’s liability in case of a breach; defining the steps in enforcing the Security and Privacy Rules for the OCR; holding business associates to higher standards as covered entities; and increasing the penalties for violations and/or noncompliance of the HIPAA, up to a maximum of $1.5 million per violation.

Reducing the Burden of HIPAA Compliance

The scope of HIPAA is extensive and compliance can be overwhelming for covered entities and business associates. Not only do covered entities face huge upfront costs to assess and meet governing compliance standards,  but business associates and vendors supporting them need to factor this into their budgets as well.

As in most budget planning efforts, upfront costs are usually anticipated and forecasted, but many organizations underestimate the cost of maintaining compliance, which can reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars as enterprises struggle to keep up with ever-changing regulations and technologthat require ongoing investments.

Considering the huge cost of compliance (and non-compliance), forward thinking organizations align as many data initiatives as possible in support of compliance.  If data integration operations are managed in-house, then all the compliance costs, burdens, and liabilities mentioned above also fall squarely the covered entity or business association, or even their vendors. Every new application, EMR platform, or change in data configuration must be accounted for the compliance strategy—no easy feat when both the amount of data and number of applications organizations must deal with are growing exponentially.

An alternative that can reduce some of this burden is data integration and management as a managed service through a third-party integration provider that follows a Trust Framework. Now the burdens of compliance, along with the growing integration complexities and staffing challenges, are being managed by a trusted partner. As new data sources are added and integrated, that same level of compliance and security is applied to all. Leveraging a cloud-based managed services platform, offloads much of the people, processes and technology compliance to the third-party.

Vendors and HIPAA Compliance

Vendors supporting covered entities and business associates, must take HIPAA compliance seriously. As more applications, operations and PHI data move to cloud-based software and platforms, entities that are bound by HIPAA rules need to be sure they are entrusting their business operations and PHI to business partners that are continuously compliant. Cloud-based platforms that offer complex integration, data transformation and harmonization in a managed services model not only offer healthcare customers the ability to scale, integration expertise, and efficiency that compliments their IT operations, but they also supplement compliance by ensuring the people, processes, and technologies are adhering to these requirements.

How are you managing the compliance burden?  Click below to read about the unique challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces and how to solve them.

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Tags: data integration, data security, cloud, cloud computing, SaaS, Managed Services, HIPAA

Liaison's Alloy: Cloud Services Redefined

Posted by David McAlister on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 @ 09:05 PM

72758628_16e3e0eb24_m.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Jason Pratt. Like everything in life, products evolve and services continue to be improved and refined.  Liaison is always on the cutting edge and their Alloy managed services is no exception.  As our phones have evolved into watches, calendars, alarm clocks and many other things, Alloy has done the same for data integration.  According to Ovum ICT Enterprise Insights 2016, Ovum places Liaison as one of the strongest players with state-of-the-art cloud solutions poised for growth in the near future.  This Ovum survey states that only a 1/4 of companies (excluding small companies) have strategic long term investments in their B2B integrations.  Liaison’s efforts with Alloy have served to provide a white glove, top-notch service to support Cloud computing with a unified platform and end-to-end compliance.

Alloy is an integration and data managed service (or SaaS) platform able to satisfy any Cloud or on-premise solution regardless of being legacy.  According to Ovum’s estimates, "resource-related costs can account for up to 60% of the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a legacy EDI solution.”  Alloy not only provides a communication hub, but can accept and send any format such as XML, JSON, Soap Rest or EDI.  Furthermore, Alloy is a more cost effective solution over SAP’s PI and Tibco.  Companies like IBM or Mule Soft typically don’t know the other side when it comes to integrating and each solution has their own proprietary technology.  In plain English, no one is speaking the same language.  Liaison, with their outstanding resources, are able to provide technical expertise in all these areas.  Alloy provides secure and compliant connectivity from one system to the next using a technology agnostic solution that is data centric.  Security within Alloy is bar none in the industry to support tedious HIPAA and PII (personally identifiable information) requirements.  With all that on top of Liaison’s white-glove support service, you will find Alloy to be your solution of choice.

For many of us it is time to send that old alarm clock or calculator to Goodwill and make the move to Alloy.  Don’t take my word for it.  Do your own research by reviewing Ovum's Market Landscape:  B2B Integration Managed Services Providers, 2016-2017.   Liaison’s Alloy is the only provider in the survey that met 100 percent criteria in all categories of review:  Core Integration and Associated Capabilities, Trading Partner Community Management, Monitoring and Analytics, Service Delivery and Management, and Deployment Flexibility and Security Capabilities.

Take a few moments and review Alloy at these links:

https://www.liaison.com/liaison-alloy-platform/

https://www.liaison.com/industries/manufacturing/

https://www.liaison.com/solutions/integration/b2b-edi-integration/

And reach out to us as Authorized Solutions Integrators (ASI’s) to guide you through the process of coming into the new age of technology using Alloy.

Click below to read a whitepaper on what getting data integration right can do for your business.

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Tags: data integration, cloud, cloud computing, SaaS, ERP integration, Managed Services

Aurora EDI Alliance Biography Series: GraceBlood

Posted by Shandra Locken on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 @ 02:25 PM

forBlog.jpgLast but certainly not least in our Biography Series is GraceBlood LLC, which is composed of the dynamic team of AMY Grace and Karen Blood.  Busy ladies they are, but we were finally able to get their story.  AMY (yes, it’s capitalized because it’s her initials) Grace and Karen Blood started working together in 1997 and created GraceBlood LLC in 2003. Coming from different professional backgrounds, they merged their skills and experiences to form a company focused specifically on integrated EDI and B2B managed services.

AMY was an English major who got involved, via IBM, with computer programming after college. With an interest in medicine, she worked for many years in Baltimore for the University of Maryland Department of Epidemiology doing database development and statistical analysis in clinical trial research. Her group served as the coordinating center for multiple long-term drug trials, many funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health), in areas including cardiology, diabetes, retinopathy, Raynaud’s, and more. They designed data collection forms, collected patient data from multiple clinical centers and analyzed it for eventual publication in professional journals. She took a hiatus for five years when her children were born but returned to the same career path for the next twenty years.

Karen, an inveterate serial entrepreneur, started her first business in 1979 while studying Computer Science at the University of Maryland. Specializing in microcomputer systems for small business, by the late 1980s the company was focused on software solutions for distributors and manufacturers. It was the 1990s when her customers began to experience increasing demand for EDI trading. Filling that demand, the company developed an expertise that led to it becoming the preferred provider for all things EDI for one of the nation’s leading distribution software developers. The practice grew, and Karen recruited AMY to join the company.

AMY was flattered, somewhat ready for a career change, but freely admitted that she knew nothing about the supply chain let alone Electronic Data Interchange. Like so many of us, her first question was, “What is EDI?”  Our most popular blog is about that very question.

The learning curve was steep but the incentive to succeed was strong because the built-in customer base was ready. Together, AMY and Karen developed a strong consulting practice focused on delivering integrated EDI dovetailing with their customers’ ERP systems.

Soon Karen started another company, New Blood Inc., providing web services to help wholesalers cope with the Internet. A few years later Karen had an opportunity to sell the first company, and as she did so, she kept the EDI consulting practice and rolled it over with AMY to create GraceBlood LLC. Purely focused on B2B, GraceBlood delivers services and systems for the supply chain to trade business documents electronically. She later sold NewBlood to focus exclusively on building GraceBlood.

The vision of GraceBlood has remained the same while the company has grown greatly: to allow clients to strategically embrace B2B and to enthusiastically say “Yes!” when presented with new challenges in their trading partner relationships. The company’s motto is “We speak EDI so you don’t have to.”

Headquartered in Delaware, the company’s supply-chain tested, home-based associates work from Texas, Virginia, Illinois and Maryland. Karen’s brother, Brian, an experienced IT industry veteran, has recently joined the company as a partner and handles day to day operations while Karen focuses on new business development. Hundreds of thousands of transactions for B2B trading are handled by GraceBlood Managed Services in the cloud with servers located on both coasts, while clients are based all over North America.

In their personal lives, AMY and Karen are close with their extended family. AMY’s adult children (son a Director at PayPal and daughter a judge) have provided the couple with four grandchildren, three are now teenagers. Karen’s siblings have spawned eleven nieces and nephews ranging in age from 10 to 30 and one great nephew (another on the way.)

They have many interests and hobbies especially adventure travel; last year they went on a National Geographic trip to Antarctica (see pic above), a dive trip to Cuba, and a driving tour of Iceland. Karen is a nationally ranked Scrabble player and enjoys scuba diving, fly fishing, women’s basketball, and all outdoor activities. AMY is a reader, a gardener, a film reviewer, a political/community activist and dabbles in memoir writing.

Celebrating thirty years together, they are looking forward to thirty more years of collaboration and adventure.  

Click below to read a case stufy on how Wayfair moved their EDI operations to the next level.

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Tags: e-commerce, data integration, supply chain, EDI provider, cloud, EDI Consultant

You Need the Luck o' the Irish with EDI

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

7175331883_80d3ebae45_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of JD Hancock.  I would have to say implementing and running a successful EDI system is 35% exceptional EDI software, 55% experienced EDI consultants and 10% good old fashioned luck.  So what can happen when you DON'T have the luck o' the Irish?  Bad things, very bad things.  Here's a list of some of those nightmares.  Watch out for those leprechauns - they can be very mischievous!

1. What if your EDI consultant has a heart attack?  Well, then you are scrambling to find someone to replace him.  One such situation occurred recently with David McAlister at McAna EDI.  He got a call from a potential client who was scrambling to replace their consultant who recently had a heart attack.  As luck would have it for David, (and being Irish, he has the luck o' the Irish), he was already familiar with the product they were using AND had previously worked with the consultant on other projects.  Don't worry, the consultant is currently recovering and apparently is going be okay.

2. This next catastrophe happened a few years ago with another client, this time an Aurora client.  This client used our web-solution (Athena) to print their UCC-128 bar codes and they were scrambling this one Friday afternoon to get labels done when out of nowhere, their printer stopped working.  Those pesky leprechauns!  They got their labels done after going out to buy a new printer AND having to work on Saturday.

3.  Another situation we have seen is when your EDI administrator abruptly leaves and you have no idea what is what.  You always said you would "get around" creating documentation for your EDI system but that day never came and now you desperately need help.  Talk about rotten luck.  When that happened to our client, we rolled up our sleeves and delved into their system to make sure the EDI documents were all sent and received with no errors.  They brought in another consulting company to assist with the ERP interface as that was not documented either and had been developed by the EDI admin.  If you are a follower of our Blogs, I refer you to the blog Kristen Kearns wrote back in May about Documenting Your EDI Processes.  Kristen includes a great list of essential items to include in your documentation.

4. One issue leprechauns often have a field day with is when software vendors don't keep up with the latest security protocols (or they charge you exorbitantly to do so).  How many of you read our blog about SHA -1 and SHA-2?  This scenario might ring some bells for many of you.  Kohl's has contacted you to let you know they expect you to be using SHA-2 digital certificates by April 1st.  Uh oh, your software doesn't support SHA-2.  Or they do, but the upgrade is costly and you already have your 2017 budget set.  However, if you have the luck o' the Irish, then you are already using Liaison's Delta/ECS EDI software and can easily support SHA-2 digital certificates.

5.  Perhaps the most common problems we see happen are due to human error.  Now, some may say that is not bad luck but I disagree.  Sometimes you just have a bad day.  I asked my colleagues for their stories of situations that happened due to bad luck and one of the replies I got back said, "Permissions, permissions, permissions, permissions, permissions, permissions."  If you don't set the correct permissions when you are doing specific tasks, like installations, upgrades, applying patches, etc. you WILL run into major problems and it WILL cost you hundreds of dollars in support.  Moral of the story - make sure you set the correct permissions for whatever task you are completing.  Don't give the leprechauns an opportunity to sabotage you!

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the Aurora EDI Alliance!

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Tags: EDI software, data integration, Web EDI, EDI Consultant, EDI Documentation

Electronic Trading Profiles for Fun and Profit

Posted by Shandra Locken on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 @ 07:26 PM

4427310974_05b9faae8a_m.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Opensource.com. This blog was written by Karen Blood of GraceBlood LLC out of Baltimore, a member of the Aurora EDI Alliance.  You have a website, perhaps a line card, business cards, other collateral for your business, yes? And you have or soon will have the capability to exchange business documents with customers, suppliers or other trading partners via EDI or other ways that significantly reduce the time spent by your most valuable asset, your people, as they handle daily business transactions. This new capability also improves accuracy, decreases cycle times and improves relationships with those same trading partners. You may have made a significant investment in dollars and experience to get to this point. You may have had to do it at the behest of a single significant trading partner. Well, that was the hard part and now you have an important new tool! One of the easiest ways to increase your return on that investment and increase your business’s profit is to add more trading partners or business documents.

That means it’s time to prepare your Electronic Trading Profiles.  What’s that you ask?  Well, we’ve talked a lot about documentation in our blogs and this is one more piece to add to your library.  What we like to do is prepare a one-page document for each client that identifies the contacts, the documents capable of being traded and the communication possibilities to do so. We recommend it be used by anyone at the company who is responsible for cultivating business relationships, including the company president, operations managers, buyers, business development reps, and customer service. It should be trotted out and shared with your company’s identified prospects for electronic trading amongst existing and potential customers or suppliers. It can even serve as a reminder and update of your capabilities to existing trading partners. It’s not necessary for your internal associate or the rep from your potential new trading partner to understand the details of the Profile, only that it means your company can help both parties realize more PROFIT. Typically, the Profile is passed along to the technical folks for comment and concurrence before an agreement to proceed is reached.

Here’s how to get started:

Consider your unconnected trading partners first as they are the easiest with your familiarity and historical data to analyze and rank for suitability also considering projected activity. Remember, it’s not usually high dollar value of the activity with that partner, as much as it is number of transactions that should drive your suitability ranking. This is a function of the much lower processing cost per transaction of electronic vs manual handling This is a tried and true tactic, and we see it in use every day by major retailers from AutoZone to Walmart. Other business factors may also refine the recruiting pool, including potential for increasing volume, risk of loss, appreciation for your leadership in such matters, and lots of routine transactions.

Expanding into additional markets with new partners might now be easier. Your electronic trading capability can be mentioned on your website and become part of your marketing resume. It makes you easier with whom to do business, and positions you as forward-thinking and efficient. Revisit old customer prospects for those that did not engage because of your lack of electronic trading capability. Consider adding new product lines from suppliers who previously shut you out because you weren’t EDI capable.

You can now model ‘Big Dog’ behavior. You may have suppliers who are not now EDI or otherwise capable nor likely to become so but who value your business. Perhaps a group of them would be willing to work with you via a web portal especially if there’s the possibility of an increase in your annual spend with them or an improvement in terms. From your supplier’s perspective, all activity would take place on the portal and be driven by your e-mailed notice of an order. Internally, with ERP integration, all activity would use your existing electronic capability, i.e. the portal is loaded with purchase orders generated by your own ERP. Then your supplier’s acknowledgement, shipment and invoice flow from their use of the portal right back into your ERP. 

These Electronic Trading Profiles are the key to all this fun and PROFIT!  Once launched, this very same Profile is a terrific jump start for the new Trading relationship to be well on the way to generating more Profit.  And speaking of jump starts, please fill out the form below to download a sample Electronic Trading Profile you may find helpful.

Here are examples for some of the fields:

Current Messages Supported:  X12 850 PO inbound 4010; EDIFACT ORDERS inbound D12A; XML PO inbound; X12 850 PO outbound all versions; electronic-generated PDF PO inbound; etc

Third Party Network: Liaison Exchange Network; Kleinschmidt; etc

Interchange Qualifier & ID:  12/1234567890T for Test; 12/1234567890 for Production

Group ID:  1234567890 for Test and Production

AS2 section:  See your 3rd party coordinator on these details if it is a trading option

Additional Capabilities:  FTP; sFTP; Hosted Web Portal

Click below for a sample Electronic Tradiing Profile template:

Electronic Trading Profile Template

Tags: e-commerce, supply chain, technology, EDI ROI, EDI onboarding, supplier enablement, automation

Why EDI is Like Community Theater

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 @ 11:40 AM

11083824_10205662819705155_1046677289759748044_o.jpgThis blog was written by Kristen Kearns, Aurora's EDI Manager.  You might think this blog is a stretch – how can EDI, a very technical concept, be anything like Community Theatre, a very arts-based activity?  I’m going to tell you how. 

First you hear about an audition for a play/musical that a theatre group is going to produce.  In EDI, you hear about a Trading Partner that wants to trade EDI documents with you.

 Secondly, you prepare for the audition and get the script.  If it’s a musical, you get the music and review it. In EDI, you get the mapping specifications and the connection information. And you review that.

Then you go on the audition in front of the director, assistant director, stage manager, the musical director. If it’s a musical, you must learn a piece of the choreography if there is dance involved.  In EDI, you’ll most likely start communications via a phone call or emails with the testing team on the partner side.

Then you WAIT and WAIT.  You’re dying to know if you got the part you tried for, or any part for that matter.  You rehash what you did and what you could have done differently.  It’s the worst feeling.  Then you get the call.  Yay, you got the part!  Or OK, you got A part.  Or UGH, no part.  Same thing with EDI, you start the process to “do” EDI and you WAIT and WAIT for the trading partner to get back to you.  Sometimes you don’t, but many times you do.  It may be good news and they are ready.  Or bad news, the project has been pushed back 6 months or worse – pushed up and they need to be ready next week!

Next you start rehearsals.  Every director is different, just like every trading partner.  Some directors want many rehearsals.  Some trading partners wants many tests for the transactions.  I’ve tested one 850 Purchase order and then I’ve had to test 40 850 Purchase Orders.

There’s a lot of waiting again at this point.  At rehearsals, if you’re not in the scene that is being rehearsed, you’re sitting and waiting.  With testing, you’ve sent the trading partner tests and then you might wait an hour, a day, a week for a response.  I like to say EDI stands for “hurry up and wait!”

Friendships form during the rehearsals and during testing.  If you are working closely on an EDI project, you might have some conversations that you get to know the person you’re working with.  The same is true with theatre.  I have met so many good friends over the years in theatre and even a couple that I consider my best friends.

Testing is done.  Rehearsals are done.  Time to go-live with this new trading partner and the transactions.  Time for the theatre shows.  Opening night!  Jitters!!!  Double-check you have all settings to production.  Is your stage makeup perfect?  Hair in place?  All pieces of your costume intact.  Flip the switch.  Curtain up.

First show is over, what do you need to do to make the next performance better?  Did you miss a line?  Did you sing loud enough in that second song?  Did you trip?  First transactions have come in?  Did they go into your production environment?  Did you forget to change the T to P on the ISA?  Did you forget to enter all the ship-to’s in your ERP?  Fix, adjust, and accommodate.

Lastly, when you are involved with community theatre, you make a commitment to the group to help.  The same is true with EDI.  You must make a commitment to keeping up with mapping modifications if your trading partner gives that to you.  You must check for errors in data, in your logs, or train someone to do that.  You can set up alerts to notify the proper person of issues.

Now go out there and BREAK A LEG!

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Tags: EDI Technology, EDI Implementation, EDI basics, communication, EDI document