EDI Testing Practices

Testing electronic data interchange EDI- transactions makes sense if done right and causes frustration when done wrong. Several of you have voiced your opinion with regard to your experiences, and most of your comments have been consistent. You ve let us know that testing is necessary, and in the end it helps you do your work without having to troubleshoot live transactions.

As with most opinion surveys, even when the vast majority agrees on one side of the topic, it s the details that make up the bulk of the discussion. We found that there were several things that you said are useful and valuable to the process, and even made you feel better about paying the fees you might have been assessed. On the other hand, we heard about several practices, or lack of practice, that sent your opinions in the opposite direction. All tolled, your comments are helping to develop a set of best practices to be applied to the testing process. Best practices are just that... actions and policies that when followed, deliver consistent results at prices considered fair by willing buyers and willing sellers. Now that we have a starting point for determining what makes for useful and valuable testing, I invite you to add your opinion. Email me at scott@ec-bp.org. Valuable and Useful Roxana Johnson, EDI Coordinator and Systems Analyst with Hopkins Manufacturing likes EDI providers that give her quick turn-around on her tests. I like having a web site I can log into and check the results of my tests. I particularly like having a four hour turn-around. I ve had situations when customers give us only three days to get a document tested and working. When you have to wait for 12 hours to get the results of your test it s too easy to run out of time and go beyond the deadline. Ruth Cooley, EDI Administrator for McCubbin appreciates specific feedback on any problems with her test documents. I ve had the best success when I am able to immediately see the exact problems with my test documents. Getting specific information on what caused the problems is one thing, but it s even better when I get a full explanation about the error and precise instructions on how to fix it. Dave Holtz, Shipping/receiving Manager and EDI Mapping Analyst with Bon-Aire Industries likes being able to have a single web site to interact with. I prefer to deal with a single source for testing and information about my trading partners. Carrie Wilson, Customer Service and Office Manager for SufixFishing appreciates having cooperative EDI suppliers. I ve had instances where our EDI transactions have had to travel between two EDI companies before they ended up at our trading partners. In those cases both SPS Commerce and TruCommerce worked together to sort out the problems. They kept me informed by copying me on their emails to each other. It was great to see that level of professionalism between them. And the best part was that they took care of the problem and I didn t have to get involved. Wilson also likes being able to have her EDI transactions posted directly to her accounting application. Our previous EDI provider was able to integrate transactions directly to our SAP accounting application. That was a great help in keeping up to date and accurate. Hopkins says, I appreciate when I am able to reach technical support people on the first call. It s even better when they are friendly and experienced. It s been my experience that as a testee, I m sometimes a little testy and the support person s sensitivity to the situation makes a lot of difference in how the call goes. Disruptive and Counter-Productive Cooley would like the opportunity to deal directly with her trading partner when appropriate. Sometimes the customer drags their feet, and when we do get started with the testing we are on a tight deadline. It is particularly irritating when we are asked to retest a document we have already been approved to use. Bob Fately of Third Wave believes that some retailers exacerbate problems by changing specifications after testing has been completed. If these retailers were truly concerned about maximizing the efficiency of EDI transactions, they would not unilaterally have made in excess of 1000 individual minor alterations in the past year. Vendors and their IT suppliers- must maintain a myriad of maps to translate a given transaction like a PO- from each store - in many cases, a given retailer may have different mapping depending on the particular vendor involved. Holtz explains that trying to work with outdated EDI specifications can cause problems. It seems that if a trading partner doesn t keep their outsourced EDI supplier up to date, we may be testing with old, outdated specifications. So the data we are testing may pass the test with the EDI company but fail when we connect with our customer. It might help if the EDI provider were more proactive in keeping up to date with their customers specs. Rounding Out The practices you have described here, though specific to working with EDI, and particularly with regard to testing EDI transactions, would seem to be easy to guess. They all relate to performing consistently and providing valuable services at fair prices. While some of you have said you don t like the fees charged for testing, you admit that you understand the need to pay for services. The only time you object vigorously to paying is when you perceive the charges to be unrelated to the value of the testing services, or simply redundant. But I would expect you to have the same opinion about paying for any service... not just EDI testing. Source: line56.coma>