Is Your EDI Truly Outsourced?


by Jodi Abrams

Is your EDI truly outsourced, or are you just paying someone to do your mapping?

There are many options to choose from in an EDI service provider, and often it can be difficult to really understand what you are getting. Unless you ask the right questions, you may not be getting the fully managed service that you want - still leaving your company with a lot of EDI responsibilities.


Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) in SAP is accomplished by transferring intermediary documents (IDocs) into and out of SAP. These structured documents contain the data necessary to complete an end-to-end business process with your trading partner. For example, in a customer/vendor relationship this can automate orders and invoicing.


With EDI managed services all of your EDI is outsourced to a third party provider who will take care of everything from implementations through to support and data transmission. With the provider managing the complete integration with your backend ERP you can eliminate the strain on internal resources.


Mapping and translating data is at the heart of every EDI set up. It’s a technical process and can involve some complicated logic depending on the requirements. If you outsource your EDI, someone is doing your mapping for you. But – are they truly understanding your business data and trading partner requirements to do that mapping? Or, do you have to provide them all of the logic for how to link the data from one side to another and they just implement it for you. If you are doing that – you do not have a full EDI managed service provider. You are likely spending a lot of time understanding how the data comes out of SAP, and figuring out where that goes on an EDI document. You have probably become more of an EDI expert than you ever planned!

When evaluating providers, make sure to dive into those details and ask that questions as to who is responsible for determining what data to map. Is it you? Or are they knowledgeable enough in SAP formats, and EDI to handle it all for you.


At a minimum, EDI managed service providers will notify you when there is an error. You then have to decipher the message, figure out what is wrong and then either correct it in your data, or provide details for a mapping change. Again, you need to insert yourself into the process and spend time troubleshooting these issues. A fully managed service would not just send an error notification. They would review the error, determine the root cause and correct it for you – notifying you instead of the resolution, not just the issue. Having a team responsible for monitoring and addressing errors as they come in allows you to focus your time and energy on running your business and not worrying about coverage for EDI errors and issues that may come up.


You can further disconnect yourself from daily EDI operations by having a managed service team who handles the full end to end with set up, changes and errors where they will professionally communication with your trading partner on your behalf. Whether an e-mail, phone call or meeting, having your managed service team handle all of this will add to the amount of time you are able to free up from your internal resources involvement in your EDI lifecycle.


In a fully outsourced EDI scenario, your managed service provider will take care of everything possible for you, so the only thing left on your plate is providing some specific details of your individual business process, and approving provide testing results to move changes into production. Anything less than that, and you are not really outsourcing all of your EDI, but rather getting help with a few pieces along the way, leaving you still with the requirement of having an EDI resource on staff and maintaining that knowledge.


About the Author: Jodi Abrams

Jodi is an expert in SAP and eCommerce integration, and is Vice President of Applications for CONTAX.