Reflections on B2B

Infoborders Community Edition (CE) is Here

Posted in B2B, EDI, Supply Chain, Technology by Edward Aguiar on April 12, 2012

Image It has been a while since my last post, you can say that I have almost disappeared.  But today I have something exciting to share with you – Infoborders CE has been released.  Infoborders CE is a community edition of industry leading b2b business intelligence solution and includes functionality to help EDI coordinators and consultants with their testing and on-boarding tasks.  Infoborders CE provides a community managed repository of EDI specification and comes with a spec builder tool for creating specification online and a testing tool for testing data against the specs created.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

ce.infoborders.com

The Future of an American Programmer

Posted in Technology by Edward Aguiar on July 24, 2009

Every year, ACM, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, in sponsorship with IBM, conducts an international collegiate programming contest (ICPC) also known as the battle of brains.  This team-based, programming competition involves a global network of universities hosting regional competitions that advance teams to the ACM-ICPC World Finals.  Almost 2,000 universities from over 80 countries on six continents participate in this oldest, largest, and most prestigious programming contest in the world. This year, the top 12 finalists include two US, one Canadian, one Chinese and eight Russian (including former USSR republics) universities.
The growth of the offshore development is no longer attributed only to lowering costs.  More and more companies are looking for highly skilled developers they just can’t find locally.  Unfortunately many American colleges are forgetting to teach problem solving approaches, put less importance on mathematics, including understanding algorithms.  Many IT departments are increasingly relying on the increasing power of hardware their solutions run to compensate for the decreasing quality of code.  The ICPC competitions demonstrate this.
There is one area were the American programmer may find an advantage – their understanding of business.  This is an important advantage.  In fact, the lack of this skill is often the reason many of the offshore projects had failed.  But the development of commerce in Russia, China, India and other countries and the experience working on Western projects will provide them with the understanding of business processes and practices they need.
America needs to decide where it wants to see itself in the future.  It is to offshore most of the development to other countries, or is it willing to reinvest on more focused approach to teaching the art or software development.  The time to act is now.

XML vs. EDI

Posted in B2B, EDI by Edward Aguiar on July 30, 2008

In the past several years, there has been much talk about XML and how it could or would replace EDI. I personally believe that EDI is here to stay for many more years. Here are my reasons why -

  • EDI has been around for a long time and organizations have invested heavily into it.
  • Today, there are no significant immediate benefits for organizations using an EDI standard in moving to another standard including to one based on XML.
  • There are many different XML standards hoping to be the next default format – it is not easy to choose one.
  • Very few companies can ‘choose’ the format to use – it is usually mandated to them.

Having said this I know that XML has its merits and companies are starting to look more closely into taking advantages of what XML has to offer. While many praise XML for being easy to read and understand I think that the real power of XML is found in the many tools available today that simplify work with XML.  Many of the tools used to validate and manipulate EDI are beginning to use XML as a preferred internal format in processing or mapping EDI data.

How exactly will XML integrate into the EDI world is not yet really clear.  Of course, everything can change very quickly if a major company (someone like WalMart) decides to require XML as the new standard for B2B integration.  With other initiatives capturing the attentiion of these companies and considering the limited  financial reward from enforcing XML I do not see this happening any time soon.

Offshore Outsourcing of EDI

Posted in B2B, EDI by Edward Aguiar on March 23, 2007

The topic of offshore outsourcing is raging throughout the information technology industry. It is expected that by 2010 25% of all IT jobs will be moved to developing countries. The benefits of offshore outsourcing are real and companies are looking into outsourcing more specialized areas of IT. EDI is one of those areas of specializations that are being considered.

If your organization is looking to take advantage of EDI offshore outsourcing you should consider a few things. As I mentioned in my earlier post, being successful in EDI is more than knowing the pure technology of creating a document format. Consider finding a partner with a solid experience delivering solutions specifically in the area of EDI. This is a very basic yet a very important point to understand. You will not consider giving a project of developing a mobile application to someone who knows only how to build website or desktop applications. Similarly, you should be careful not to give an EDI project to someone who has done just some data conversion or development.

I would suggest asking the following questions when looking for a partner to outsource your EDI offshore.

  • What level of knowledge in EDI does the company possess?
    It is difficult to gauge a company’s knowledge of EDI without extensive EDI experience of your own. Consider reviewing completed projects to see how they match what you are planning to do. If possible, talk to customers and assess the level of satisfaction and the success of the project.
  • Does the company have a local presence in North America?
    Success of any project depends on the quality of the collected requirements. Even if you are planning to provide detailed requirements for the project using your own resources, the availability of a local analyst will greatly increase your project success. He or she not only will provide additional EDI expertise, but will bring a good understanding of the outsourcing process.
  • What is the core competence of the company?
    It is always better to deal with someone who specializes in your specific requirements than dealing with someone with superficial knowledge. However, it is equally important to have broad knowledge of the technology even if you are not planning to directly employ it in your project. A wider knowledge will assist the company in making better recommendations rather then just following your minimum requirements.
  • How well is your industry understood?
    EDI processing is closely connected to business processes. Understanding industry specific requirements will reduce the probability that something is missed or misunderstood.

Offshore Outsourcing can greatly improve your operations and save you both time and money. Take the time to evaluate your partner and do your homework before jumping in.

EDI in Business

Posted in B2B, EDI by Edward Aguiar on March 2, 2007

EDI is a big part of electronic business. It was developed in the mid 1960s, initially for the rail and road transport industries. The popularity of EDI has grown a lot since then. There are currently two major EDI standards ANSI ASC X12 and UN/EDIFACT. In North America, X12 is the most commonly used EDI standard, while EDIFACT is used mostly in Europe and is considered an international standard. The standard to use is usually mandated by your trading partners. Today, it is hard to find a large company not using EDI in business.

Some companies think that it is enough to have a technical resource to make EDI happen, or that any software capable of producing EDI output will be good enough. Not so simple. The success of an EDI implementation is measured in the benefits or problems it brings to the business. I find that few organization were able to successfully implement EDI on their own, although many tried. The difficulty of EDI is not in producing the required format, but in making sure it will work in your business. Did you know that for medium size companies in the retail industry ‘EDI’ problems most often surface as problems in cash flow, lost of revenue due to EDI charges (fees charged for your mistakes), and lost business? Take a look at the following EDI stories, you will better understand what I am talking about.

A properly implemented EDI solution can expand your business. A poorly implemented solution can damage a business relationship with your customers. Before jumping into EDI organizations should consider their options. Today companies considering or using EDI have many different choices available to them – implement in house, offshore, or outsource. Each has its benefits and problems. The key is selecting the right partner to help in the process.

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