The First Step in Transformation is to Stop Doing Things Twice
Double-entry is dumb. Entering data once introduces the possibility of making an error, and entering the data again only increases the chances for a mistake. Typing information into the computer also takes time and the more manual entry is done the greater the potential is for input errors which take even more time to find and correct. Manual entry of information may be required when starting with a paper-based process, but double-entry of information doesn’t make any business sense. In this age of computers, the internet and electronic commerce, reducing manual entry to increase performance and accuracy is more important than ever. Thankfully, manual data entry is being eliminated and EDI is the foundation that helps make it happen.
“… the key is the unattended and intelligent movement of data from one system to another. People don’t have to get involved in order for the information to flow from one system to another… it just goes by itself. Like a robot.”
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the use of computer and telecommunication technology to move data between or within organizations. EDI uses strictly structured information that can be transferred from one program to another without human intervention. EDI is one of the most important subsets of e-commerce, being the technology that helps two parties exchange information around a commercial transaction. One of the fundamental first steps in business transformation is the automation of business processes, and this is the main goal of EDI.
EDI addresses and solves problems inherent in paper-based processes. For many, EDI is the basis for reengineering processes and giving manual workflows an automation overhaul.
Here are 4 Rules of Thumb regarding implementing EDI in the business and where it can deliver the biggest benefits
Rule 1: Go paperless and reduce or eliminate paper-based processes
Delays in activity performance and access to information are often due to paper-based processes, where transportation, storage and retrieval of documents cost valuable time. Labor costs are also higher when paper-based processes reign, increasing overhead costs for document processing and handling. Non-EDI systems also tend to be more error-prone because information is keyed multiple times, and because documents are transported, stored and retrieved by humans.
Rule 2: Reduce operational costs by increasing the speed of business and decreasing processing times and errors
Cutting costs is a top benefit of implementing EDI in the business, centered on doing away with the use of paper while automating key business transactions, saving both time and money in the core process as well as in error correction and problem resolution. Increased productivity is an expected result of employing paperless solutions and technologies. By reducing paper-based processes and embracing electronic transaction processing, businesses can handle more operational activities with the same (or fewer) human resources.
Rule 3: Re-Structure workflows to improve activities that make customers happy
Using EDI in the business helps to structure information and workflows, increasing efficiency and process performance in a variety of areas.
EDI also improves performance because processing time can be reduced to seconds, enabling greater efficiency in services delivery and a level of responsiveness that makes customers happier. Because EDI permits access to a potentially vast amount of detailed transaction data, the information can now be used to automate other processes and stored for analysis.
Rule 4: Get better data and more insight
EDI solutions help to minimize errors in the data, creating a basis for better reporting and analysis. Mistakes in data entry or order taking can be significantly reduced (if not eliminated), and well-structured data removes the need for “interpretation” of the information. Replacing paper documents with electronic ones can also make it easier to keep track of the status of an item, which is why EDI solutions ensure traceability of transactions that paper-based tracking can’t readily provide. All this serves to help the business gain the insight necessary to respond more quickly to changing market conditions and customer demands.
Integrating EDI into the business processes is key to improving business performance in a wide variety of areas. Like moving from phone to fax orders, or from fax to online, EDI represents a big change in how transaction processing takes place. By enabling EDI transactions with current and new suppliers and channels, the business also enables more efficient, seamless communications between all participants in the supply chain. Removing the need to re-key data and reducing the need to rely on human manual processes, EDI systems connect orders and invoices and shipping and returns… and all the trading partners along the way.