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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!

Click below to read about how Wayfair leveraged the power of Liaison's Delta/ECS to manage their growing business.

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

How EDI Helped Santa Deliver Presents This Christmas

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Feb 03, 2017 @ 01:05 PM

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAGdAAAAJGI0YTliMDg1LTg5NzMtNDA4MC04ZGVmLTdmNTA0YmVlYTcyMA.pngThis blog was written by Faith Lamprey, Aurora's President, and is reposted with permission from Providence College School of Business.  This past year, for the first time ever, online sales in the U.S. surpassed in store purchases. An annual survey byanalytics firm comScore and UPS found that U.S.consumers are buying more things online than instores.The survey, now in its fifth year, polled more than 5,000consumers who made at least two online purchases in a three-month period.

According to its results, shoppers now make 51% of their purchases online, compared to 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014. Cyber Monday achieved a new record with $3.45 billion spent online, a 12.1 percent increase over 2015. This was the largest online sales day ever in the United States.

Most people have become very comfortable with, and even reliant on, buying products online. For many of us, it is now our preferred method of purchasing goods.

Are you aware of what is working 24/7 “behind the scenes” to streamline and automate the entire process? No, it is not Santa’s Workshop of Elves! It is a technology called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) that has been deployed by companies for decades, long before the Internet became a household word.

In fact, EDI helps most people without any one even knowing it! Each time you visit a doctor, when she files a claim with your insurance company for payment, the request is transmitted electronically using EDI. When you use Tax Software to prepare your tax return and hit the Send key to transmit it to the IRS, the software converts your data into an EDI format and delivers it electronically in seconds.

EDI is used to communicate business transactions via documents in standard electronic formats with your Trading Partners. The data generated from each transaction is “mapped” to EDI data segments and then transmitted to the Trading Partner. When it is received by the Trading Partner, the EDI data segments are “mapped” to their application files and the data is processed accordingly. If set up properly, this can all be accomplished without any human intervention.

So how does EDI help with online ordering? Online Retailers rely on numerous suppliers to stock adequate inventories of the items they sell to you, the end consumer. They require their suppliers to ship the items directly to you. Even mighty Amazon does not stock all of their items for sale in their own warehouses.

Suppliers use electronic catalogs (in EDI we call them 832 Catalogs) to post their items online with product descriptions, pictures, and pricing information. This information can be used to populate the item information on web sites. The suppliers send their available inventories (via 846 Inventory Inquiries / Advices) to the online retailers so they can communicate, on their web sites, how many of each remains for sale.

When you place an order, the web site sends it to the supplier via an 850 Purchase Order with codes to indicate that the order should be drop-shipped directly to you. The supplier acknowledges to the retail web site system via an 855 Purchase Order Acknowledgement that the order was received, and that it can ship the item.

When your order is ready to ship, the supplier sends all the shipping information via an 856 Advanced Shipping Notice to the online retailer. It then sends you a “Your Order Has Shipped” e-mail message. The supplier also sends the online retailer a bill for the item shipped via an 810 Invoice.

There is even an EDI document, called an 820 Remittance Advice, that informs the supplier that payment has been made. It can also instruct the retailer’s bank to initiate a funds transfer to the supplier.

Faster than Santa can lay his finger aside of his nose, give a nod, and rise up the chimney, EDI can help to make sure that your orders are processed and delivered in time to place under the tree for Christmas morning.

Click below to read our eBook, EDI 101.

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Tags: supply chain, EDI basics, electronic data interchange, JD Edwards, automation

5 Data Trends That Will Dominate 2017

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 @ 08:30 AM

iStock-481074248.jpgBlog and photo reposted with permission from Liaison Technologies.  2016 has been an exciting year for the enterprise cloud sector. Data has become a business currency, and the world’s leading organizations continue to propel data collection and usage with their use of specialized apps in the professional realm. A couple of years ago, Baseline reported that for a typical Fortune 1000 company, just a 10% increase in data accessibility would result in more than $65 million additional net income. Since then, it’s been up to data professionals to tackle the challenge of turning data accessibility into a viable and sustainable benefit for their organizations.

Now that data accessibility is more manageable through lightweight protocols and robust APIs, it’s becoming increasingly crucial to turn the myriad of information from disparate sources and formats into actionable insights. In the coming year, integration and data management must adjust to meet growing volumes of data. IT professionals need to find a new way forward to support enterprise infrastructure and maximize the potential benefits of having improved access to data. To help with this goal, here are five trends on the horizon for enterprise organizations in 2017 and beyond:

  1. Outsourcing of labor-intensive integration: Enterprises are finding that labor-intensive integration jobs rob internal teams of time that could be spent on more strategic tasks. In fact, Gartner says through 2018, 90% of organizations will lack a postmodern application integration strategy.* To combat this, expect to see more organizations outsourcing integration and data management in 2017 in an effort to prioritize more strategic tasks.
  1. Bridging a path to the cloud: In early 2016, IDC reported that spending on infrastructure to run public and private clouds “continues to grow at leaps and bounds as spending on non-cloud infrastructure decreases,” according to Network World. As more and more companies head to the cloud, enterprises that have invested tens of millions of dollars in legacy systems to handle vital functions of their businesses will be seeking solutions that preserve these investments while bridging a path to the cloud.
  1. Making the IT environment data-centric: Enterprise organizations deploy hundreds of apps that produce unimaginable amounts of data. To make sense of all this data, organizations must find ways to ignore the noise of so many disparate applications, and instead focus on producing bodies of consolidated data that can exist as application-agnostic entities. In 2016, we’ve seen a growing number of businesses turn to our ALLOY platform to accomplish this, and this number is only expected to increase in the coming year.
  1. Acceleration of insights thanks to synergy of data operations: Enterprises will realize the value of synergies established when they deploy a single integration and data management solution. Synergies between integration and data management will eliminate operational redundancies, improve governance, and allow the enterprise to tackle more advanced data use cases.
  1. iPaaS will evolve. iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service), despite a recent surge in adoption for those needing to supplement their on-premises middleware with cloud integration capabilities, will not stand the test of time. It will need to mature in ways that offer enterprises improved compliance, data management, governance, and integration capabilities beyond tedious point-to-point solutions. Expect new market players or existing companies (such as Liaison) to improve upon iPaaS to better meet the needs of a rapidly changing market.

Each year, we’re finding new and innovative ways to leverage data across the workplace. As the amount of data we can access continues to grow, our systems to manage it must grow as well so we can spend more time applying new insights, and less time sifting through an overwhelming amount of information. As we look towards the future, data will no doubt play a starring role.

Cheers to a new year- may we make the most of the data available to us today, and work together to simplify our integration and data management systems so we can reach greater levels of innovation in 2017 and beyond!

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

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Tags: data integration, technology, cloud, SaaS

'Twas the Night Before Christmas: An EDI Fairytale

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 @ 06:48 PM

This week we are reprinting our fun take on 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...with sincere apologies to the original author, Clement Clarke Moore.

EDI'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the store not a PO was issued, and 860s no more.  

RFID tags hung by receiving dock with care, in hopes that the trucks soon would be there.

The clerks were all nestled at registers and stations, while visions of UPC codes danced across nations.

With the EDI manager and I in our caps, we had just settled down for 852 recaps.

When inside the server room there arose such a clatter, we ran from the cubicle to see what was the matter.

And away to that freezing room I flew like a flash, right through the door and PVC curtains in a dash.

The CFL bulb on the copy paper supply gave the lustre of mid-day to equipment I spied.

When what to my wandering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver so lively and merry, I knew in a moment it must be the X12 fairy.

More rapid than EDI his courses they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen!  On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the server, to the top of the wall!  Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry!  His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up tight like a bow.  His beard was as white as the copy paper below.

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, and fixed the EDI errors without a smirk.

He then laid his finger on the side of his nose, and giving a nod, up the cooling system he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, and to his team gave a grin, and away they flew like a 997 after an 810 came in.

But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight, "Happy holidays from Aurora EDI Alliance and to all a good night!"

Click below to read a case study on how we helped a company with no EDI experience, become EDI capable with an integrated, automated and streamlined solution to their EDI requirements.

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Tags: EDI Technology

Business Process Automation - What Is It and Do I Need It?

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

16617915558_a304bb0e53_z.jpgPhoto appears courtesy of Alden Jewell. This week's blog was written by Michael Barnhouse of McAna EDI. Many business leaders have heard the expression Business Process Automation (BPA) but are either not sure what it exactly encompasses, or think that it’s just for large enterprises.

Let us start with an explanation of what BPA is. It is the automation of primarily manual processes within the business using integration software. BPA activities are undertaken to improve the repeatability, speed, quality and cost of business activities performed every day. Many times, effective BPA projects using sophisticated software will eliminate redundant processes while reducing human intervention.

Many small and medium sized business (SMB) have implemented bits and pieces of BPA in automating aspects of their business process, though it’s not typically a piece of an overall business strategy. The benefits of BPA if implemented properly are clear: reducing errors, improved delivery quality, saving time and improving profitability. So, how do you start?

The first step in any BPA effort is to simply identify and define the processes within the business that are core to your success. Processes that are not accurately defined cannot be automated. This is most often the biggest stumbling block. Most SMBs do not have well defined processes, relying heavily on key employees to manage the process and the all too many exceptions that exist. This is not all bad, it is simply the normal evolutionary process for all business.  However, the automation of these core processes will free your key employees to leverage their expertise to other areas of the business supporting further improvement and growth.

The next step is to identify the tools that will be necessary to do the job. The first and most important tool is the champion that will drive the desired improvement. SMB business owners and entrepreneurs typically focus their attention toward their products, services and sales. That champion may come in the form of an accounting person, customer service or even a low level manager. While it is important that the champion is internal to the organization, the knowledge necessary to successfully accomplish the BPA initiative can come from external expertise. 

A few of the remaining tools are likely the systems you already own and use every day. Many of which may have workflow automation capabilities that are unknown or unused. There may be several mission critical standalone software applications in daily use that are not but could be integrated. A tool that likely does not currently exist in the organization is an integration platform. This tool will provide the framework that enables, orchestrates and monitors the new processes established through the BPA efforts. One such tool is the Delta/ECS package from Liaison Technologies.  Delta/ECS is a full featured enterprise level integration platform available to the SMB market. 

Delta/ECS offers:

  • Data Transformation Mapping
  • Event Driven Process and File Handling
  • Advance Process Monitoring and Notification
  • Trading Partner and Document Management
  • Comprehensive and Integrated Communications

The final step is to implement the automation of the identified processes utilizing the tools available in the tool bag. Today more than ever before there are integration solutions available that enable the SMB to take advantage of BPA efficiency improvements that previously were only available to the large enterprise. 

If you believe that your organization can benefit from implementing a BPA strategy, I encourage you to reach out to a group like the Aurora EDI Alliance so they can help you identify your path to BPA success.

Click below to read a case stufy on how we helped Quibids.com move their business to the next level.

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Tags: Business Process Automation, Integration, SMB

Aurora Team Biography Series: Shandra Locken

Posted by Faith Lamprey on Fri, Dec 02, 2016 @ 01:36 PM

linkedin2.jpgUp next in the Aurora Team Biography Series is Aurora's Sales and Marketing Manager, Shandra Locken.  Shandra first arrived in the EDI world in the spring of 2008, not knowing how to spell EDI.  With the help of her colleagues, she was quoting VAN services and Liaison's Athena web-based EDI solution within a few weeks.  Had you asked her 20 years ago if she thought she would be selling EDI services someday, she would have said, "What is EDI?"  That is always the first question as you may have learned from our blog.  It's our most viewed blog article ever.

Shandra grew up in the central valley of California and moved to Southern California as a teenager.  After having a spent a few years attending college in Boston and working as a nanny, she returned to Southern California (back to warm weather) to finish school and earned her Bachelor's degree in child development from California State University, Fullerton.  While attending college in California, she worked in sales for an Anheuser-Busch distributor, where she formed lifelong friendships and gained valuable work experience.  Her intention was to continue her education and get her teaching credential and Master's in elementary education but as these stories go, life had other plans.  She met her future husband and wound up relocating with him to Reno, Nevada.

The next chapter of her life saw her managing school fundraisers for the American Heart Association.  Although it was a great cause and she loved working with children, having recently married and about to start a family, she ultimately decided that the required traveling was no longer feasible for her.  And it just so happened that a company called Aurora Technologies/EDI Support, Inc. in the suite upstairs was looking for a sales rep - that was almost 9 years ago.  Learning the EDI industry was at times very overwhelming and scary, but with the help of her manager and colleagues, she eventually settled in.

The following years saw another relocation, this time to Phoenix, Arizona, where she still telecommutes, the retirement of her manager, Aurora's former Director of Sales and a new title.  As the Sales and Marketing Manager, Shandra is primarily responsible for sales, managing our relationship with Liaison Technologies, as we are one of their biggest resellers, and maintaining our marketing content and automation including our website, blog, newsletters and social media.  All these years later, she notes that she cannot imagine doing anything else and feels fortunate to work with this incredible team of people.  

On a personal note, she is the mother of five year old twin girls and just celebrated nine years of marriage.  In her free time (which isn't much), she is active in her twin club, Paradise Valley Mothers of Multiples, sells jewelry on Etsy and writes emergency medical grant success stories for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) website.  ISF's mission is to "...empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures."  A cause near and dear to her heart, since the grant program was launched in February of 2014, ISF has given grants to 581 agencies and has helped 1,236 animals in need of emergency medical care.  When asked how she wants to be remembered, she says, "A good mother, a good wife, a good person.  And somone who stood up for what was right and advocated for others when necessary."

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Tags: EDI provider, Web EDI, VAN Services

Five Reasons to be Grateful for EDI Integration

Posted by Shandra Locken on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

EDI integrationFor your reading pleasure, we are reprinting our Thanksgiving blog.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving from the Aurora EDI Alliance!

This is the time of year, before the holiday bustle really begins, that we can reflect on what we're grateful for.  This is what Thanksgiving is all about.  And whether you are grateful that you have the day off or that your kids are now sleeping until 7:30 am on a regular basis (mine are not), everyone can find something to be grateful for.  The next several weeks make up a significant portion of our retail customers' annual sales and we are grateful for the opportunity to support them through this important time of the year.  So in the spirit of thankfulness, we thought it would be fun (and useful) to list five reasons to be grateful for EDI integration.  Feel free to add to this list via comments.  Comments on our blog are always welcome!

1. Two Words, Black Friday.  The National Retail Federation predicts an increase in holiday sales of 4.1% over last year.  Several major chains have already released their Black Friday ads including Macy's, Walmart and Toys "R" Us.  If you are a large supplier for a major retailer, EDI integration just makes your life easier.  The more volume, the bigger the benefit.  Or better yet, if you have a Webstore, an integrated EDI solution is essential.  

2.  No Data Entry!  When you are not integrated, you must key in your orders to your back end system whether that's a sophisticated ERP system or QuickBooks.  And then you must key in more data to your EDI system.  And if you do not get EDI POs such as in the case of Direct Store Delivery vendors, you must key in your invoices "from scratch" into your EDI system.  EDI integration eliminates all this data entry and who is really thankful for data entry???

3. Error Alerts.  If any of you have ever paid hefty charge backs, then you must be very thankful for error alerts.  EDI integration allows you to take advantage of the many benefits your EAI software or your EDI provider offers.  Being notified immediately of an error or exception and being able to rectify it before it becomes a problem is almost as good as pumpkin pie.  

4. Improved Accuracy. Integrating your EDI means less human hands stirring the pot and therefore less human error.  Less human error means less time spent correcting those errors! We all want to leave early on Wednesday and join our loved ones for the holiday festivities, but if you're stuck in the office researching EDI errors...all the turkey might be gone by the time you get to leave.

5. Better Relationships.  If you integrate your EDI with your ERP or order entry system, you are on your way to forming stronger partnerships with your customers.  An integrated EDI solution that runs smoothly and doesn't create headaches for your trading partners (who also want to leave early on Wednesday) will foster the relationship and ensure that those purchase orders (EDI 850s) keep arriving.  Who knows?  One of your customers just might invite you to Thanksgiving dinner.

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Tags: EDI integration, EDI considerations, integration software, EDI software, benefits of EDI