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Removing the Blackbox Approach from EDI Integrations

What happened the last time you had an integration problem between your ERP system and the business software of one of your trading partners?

Chances are, you had your software development consultants on the phone and asked them to fix it. If your consultants are capable and responsive, perhaps the problem didn’t disrupt your business for too long. You may have been quite satisfied with the whole process.

But have you ever stopped to think about why these problems are coming up in the first place? And have you ever tried to prevent such problems from disrupting your business again?

If so, then you’ve probably noticed that software integrations aren’t exactly designed for transparency. You have to be a developer to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Let’s take a look at why that’s the case—and then explore a better way forward for maintaining EDI integrations.

The Frustration of “Black-Box” Testing for EDI Integrations

Here’s the main problem with software integrations: all the unique requirements are generally written right into the code. In the event of a problem, the only person who can troubleshoot is the software engineer who wrote the integration.

If you don’t happen to be that programmer, the only way to test what’s going on is through “black-box” testing. You put data in, get data out, compare that output to what you expected, and come up with a theory about what’s going wrong. But you can’t really know for sure unless you’re qualified to dive into the code.

And even if your theory is right on the money, you can’t do anything about it—you can only call your software engineer and have them make the necessary changes.

It’s not hard to see the problems with this arrangement. The whole point of integrating software is to give everyone instant transactions and immediate access to the resulting data. But every time you have to call a technical resource to fix something, you’re probably looking at a delay of 12 to 24 hours.

Now what about using an API-based integration platform to connect your various business systems? There are several good solutions out there that provide visual mapping of your integrations, giving much more of a clue of what’s really going on.

These solutions can shine some light into your black-box world. But unless you’re a solution architect, you won’t have the technical know-how to make changes to the ways your data fields are mapping. You won’t be able to write the code needed to translate the information from field to field.

These API-based tools don’t give business users the power to manage their own integrations. But Orderful does.

How Orderful Streamlines and Automates EDI Data Trading

Orderful is a cloud EDI solution that’s designed to let you set up an integration with your ERP system one time. Once you’ve set it up, you’ll never need to touch it again.

Of course, each of your trading partners has different requirements, and you’ll want to have control over the rules that govern each of these relationships. So, once you’ve connected to our API, we make this data available in an intuitive web application. Within the app, you can use an Excel-like format to write rules for each relationship.

We also provide the tools for you to copy rules across partners, saving you countless hours as you add new retailer relationships. You get full visibility into the black box, but without having to know advanced programming languages.

Now, does all this ease come at the expense of functionality? No way. Although you’re writing rules in an intuitive language, you can use common scripting objects, perform calculations, and even reference data from other transactions. We already offer about 30 rule operators and are constantly publishing new ones as customer needs dictate.

In the first quarter of 2019, we’ll be rolling out functionality that automatically suggests rules for you as you set up any trading partner integration. This feature is designed to save you even more time in setting up new EDI integrations by eliminating guesswork and minimizing human error.

The bottom line is that Orderful’s cloud EDI solution gives you one place to manage all the unique requirements of the trading partners you work with. Rather than worrying about who’s going to do your programming, you can focus on running your business.

Want an up-close look at how it all works? Contact us for a demo.

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