Interacting with trading partners on a daily basis is simple once you establish how your orders and other transactions move between companies. Changing that well-oiled track can be fraught with problems unless it's approached carefully and executed flawlessly.
Most suppliers have no reason to change their Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) provider. In fact, for most companies, changing their EDI service is a task left till the provider is about to go out of business or has failed to deliver contracted services. The initial effort involved in setting up service, testing transactions, modifying document translators, and making sure communications are in place is traumatic enough that even thinking about and, for some companies, that additional cost may be reason enough to consider finding a new provider.
Switching EDI providers can be much less a challenge than setting up the initial connection. This is because under most circumstances the transition can be done in stages without disrupting existing transaction flows. Without the pressures involved in getting up and running quickly in order to transact business with trading partners, the transition can be made at a much more leisurely pace, switching one trading partner at a time, and only after adequate testing has been completed.
In a practical sense, much depends on the trading partners' capabilities. Many trading partners are able to monitor more than one EDI mailbox for any particular supplier. If this is the case, changing the delivery ID will route those new transactions to the new mailbox while the old mailbox can remain in service until all the transactions still in progress complete their life cycles. Both trading partners can operate the old and new mailboxes until the partner changing providers is ready to terminate its contract with its original provider and close the old mailbox.
Some trading partners are unable to manage multiple mailboxes for a single supplier, or their own EDI supplier may not offer the ability to quickly and easily change its mailbox routing function. The company attempting to change its provider may find that their trading partner is reluctant to make the change and suggests other alternatives. Whether it's advisable to accept the suggestion or push ahead with the plan is something that needs to be evaluated with each trading partner.
The other common methodology for changing providers is to make a single change of the supplier's ID at the Value-Added Network (VAN) EDI Provider. This is a one-step method and avoids some complications that can arise when the change is done in the more granular fashion that requires testing and validating each trading partner connection at the time of transition. With the one-step method, there is generally no need to re-validate the connection. In fact, there is no need to even notify the trading partners of the change since nothing will change for them. Transactions will come and go as normal but will be using a new EDI mailbox. The old EDI mailbox will be abandoned immediately at the time the switch is made.
This kind of change may leave some transactions orphaned in the old mailbox when it is terminated. Depending on transaction volumes between trading partners, this may or may not be a problem. This one-shot method requires monitoring and checking of all the outstanding transactions in order to be certain none are left behind. If any are determined to be missing, they need to be reinitiated.
There are additional details that need to be considered and well planned with both the new EDI service provider and trading partners. But these kinds of changes are a matter of routine with most EDI service providers, and they understand the complexities of such a change. Even so, taking responsibility for the changeover and verifying each step and each transaction is prudent.
Have you switched EDI providers? Let us know what you learned in our comments section.