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EDI deployment : what strategy for subcontractors ?

EDI logistique

EDI deployment is a major tool in the evolution of any company. In fact, your customers often want to set up EDI flows or dematerialize invoices. They want to exchange data electronically. The aim is twofold : to meet their demands and to aim for a high-performance EDI system for your company. We give you some advice on how to develop your EDI deployment strategy, and what pitfalls to avoid.



The logic of principals and suppliers in EDI deployment



Generally speaking, the principal is the person or entity who initiates an EDI deployment operation. In EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), the principal is the person who orders products, transport or logistics from a supplier or service provider. In short, it’s often the customer.

The customer is often in a position to impose his own EDI deployment plan on his suppliers. In fact, he chooses the messages to be exchanged and the implementation schedule.


For each message, the customer chooses the standard (EDIFACT, VDA, XML format, etc.) and the usage profile. Many variants are possible for the same standard format. In addition to the data defined by the standard, it is therefore necessary to specify which data is mandatory for the partners’ application software.

A set of specifications specific to each client describes the desired syntax. These are the guidelines or interchange contracts.

Tip : for all business partner requests, obtain a list of the relevant business documents, the corresponding guidelines (with a few examples) and possible communication protocols.



Avoid common mistakes when deploying EDI



To maintain a good business relationship, you need to respond to customer requests. But let’s not forget all the added value your company can gain with a well-constructed, efficient EDI system that makes life easier. What if this deployment was an opportunity to satisfy both external and internal customers ?


No to the spaghetti dish


If it’s true that for the same type of message, each customer requires its own EDI format (interchange contract), you need to optimize your information flows between your IT system and the EDI platform. Before embarking on implementation and testing with your partners, it is important to have drawn up pivot files internally.

Pivot files are the intermediate application files integrated into or exported by your management software, and whose data is converted to EDI format. They contain all the data required by your management system for a given type of transaction. In the case of SAP ERP, these interface files already exist: they are called IDOCS.

We’re aiming for one pivot file format per message. It must be generic (to avoid customer specificities), complete, and documented in specifications.


Tip : use the Order-to-Cash process sequence to implement your interfaces. Your electronic delivery notes and invoices will be more reliable if the orders have been integrated automatically.


Once the interface files have been implemented, a common core exists between your information systems and the
EDI translator.

Your customers’ guidelines are simply variants managed in the EDI mapping.

Tip : build file formats that are scalable, i.e. offering the possibility of adding data without having to change the structure. This will avoid future impacts on EDI translation programs.

Fix your deployment line


Your business partners’ requests may arrive simultaneously, and you may not be able to meet them all at the same time.


Even if you keep up a steady pace, you’re going to have to prioritize !


If all your pivots are not yet ready, opt for deployment by message type.

For example, devote yourself to implementing purchase orders or shipping notices with all interested customers. In this way, even if only partially, each customer can make progress on their EDI project with you.

Tip : logically, a client wants to deploy the messages with the highest ROI first. Calculate your own earnings per message to understand where to place your efforts first.

The choice of EDI deployment is often a sectoral constraint


Your business sector will determine whether this type of deployment is possible or not. In the automotive industry, all messages must be operational on the self-test platforms to obtain the customer’s approval to go into production. If all the pivots of your information system are operational, a customer-by-customer deployment is possible. Priority is then given to commercial exchanges with key accounts. You can also use Web EDI solutions offered by other customers to start replacing paper documents during the transition period. Once all your electronic exchanges have been deployed, this will be the way to interface new customers.

Tip : involve your sales department, who can use the EDI argument during negotiations, or alert you to a tense situation that can be resolved via EDI.

Don’t forget your suppliers


Each company is the principal of a group of suppliers. In turn, you can extend the benefits of your EDI system by bringing your own suppliers on board.

Tip : be active in standards groups and keep in touch with your partners’ B2B teams.


Having to interface with your customers via EDI is a great opportunity to build your own Electronic Data Interchange system. In parallel with the roll-out, list your requirements, from order management to tax-compliant electronic invoicing. And win the game by building the platform that will bring all the added value of EDI to your company.


Tenor has been helping you set up your supplier EDI for over 30 years.

Contact one of our experts to identify your EDI needs.