Part 1 – E-Commerce and EDI– Where’s the hype?

I want to address why, apparently, EDI goes so unnoticed when it comes to E-commerce. How did the biggest E-commerce sales channel end up with so little attention?

One example, on 10. Feb. 2017, FDIH (Association of Danish E-grocers) released a report.A very professional and thorough work. The report contains 70 pages on E-Commerce figures and trends in Denmark.


Source: FDIH

I would expect such report to highlight B2B E-Commerce knowing that E-sales from B2B represent the significant majority of total E-Commerce turnover in Denmark. Moreover, I would expect to see mentions about EDI, being the dominant channel to support such figures. But no.

B2B and especially EDI Commerce appears to be, if not repulsive, non-sexy. And this is a common issue. The businesses, the communities, the associations, the consultancies have failed for many years to tell the stories about B2B EDI Commerce. I have created a 4-bullet list of “non-sexy” associations in regards to EDI Commerce to give some background explanation on the current state, and also added a view, which shows that things may be changing.

The name itself

Challenge: For some time, we have simply lacked a good, precise word for the methodology of doing digital commerce directly between customer and supplier systems.

TrendThe “EDI” (Electronic Data Interchange) acronym is looking to experience a renaissance, which may be happening already. Personally, I’ve started to use the word “EDI Commerce” to attribute the commercial understanding to the EDI methodology. In the B2B world, EDI has established itself as the word of choice across different organizations, roles and people. Today, both the Sales people, finance people, the ERP developers, and the customer service employees know what we’re talking about, when name-dropping “EDI”.

EDI has no face

Challenge: EDI has no face, and therefore it’s difficult to understand. Over the years, employees/users accepted that “this is just how it works”, and kept a distance to the functionality of the EDI. The employees/users, being the experts of the specific business processes, are crucial in the development of EDI Commerce, but the distance made it difficult to establish proper EDI Commerce projects driven by vision, business case, and insight. Compared to web projects, in which the direct user involvement came much sooner, EDI projects failed to distribute a basic understanding of EDI to the users/employees in the organization.

TrendToday, the employees/users are becoming outspoken stakeholders and contributors of EDI Commerce projects. Additionally, more and more EDI solutions ship with new functionality, such as graphical interfaces to monitor the processes or notification mechanisms to alert users if something needs attention. These developments reveal the mysteries of the “black box”, and enables the employees/users to handle the business processes much better. A self-perpetuating pattern has grown in many organizations, where the ownership and knowledge of the employee/users leads to more development, more ownership, and more knowledge.

EDI is stuck in IT Dept

Challenge: EDI appears to be deeply rooted in the IT department based on the assumption that EDI is automation, and automation is the responsibility of IT Dept. Compounding this is a fear of contact with some EDI solution, which has been running for years. A lot of businesses have already succeeded with the organizational transformation of moving E-Commerce onto Marketing, Sales or maybe even a newly created organizational unit called E-Commerce. Ironically, during that transformation, they left behind EDI Commerce in IT Dept. Did I mention that EDI Commerce was non-sexy?

Trend: Similar to Web, I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before EDI Commerce finds a better and more relevant place in the organization. Businesses are slowly but steady recognizing the inevitable fact that all the reasons for moving their Web Commerce onto more business oriented departments, apply to EDI Commerce as well.

EDI is only saving time – not selling

Problem: A mindset exists that EDI is (only) about optimization and automation. That we measure the success of our EDI only by the cut down in number of employees sending emails and picking telephones.

Trend: B2B businesses incorporate into their digital strategies a vision such as:” easy doing business with”. The businesses know that they need to provide excellent services to their customers and suppliers to get better relationships and better deals, and they are starting recognize the power of professional, flexible, and structured EDI Commerce approaches. For many years, companies worked hard to improve the user experience on their websites(and they still do), because they knew that would improve the customer relationship. This trend is now establishing with EDI Commerce as well. An increasing amount of businesses only want to do business providing that EDI is established. When businesses are able to take part in successful EDI projects with their trading partners, which improves the day-to-day work of the users and shows in the bottom line figures, then they’re developing their business for the benefit of all their trading partners. And that… is selling!

This blog is part 1 in a series of 5 parts.
Blog series: B2B E-Commerce – Do you prioritize your biggest channel?
Part 1 – E-Commerce and EDI – Where’s the hype?
Part 2 – E-Commerce and EDI – EDI vs Web
Part 3 – E-Commerce and EDI – Omnichannel
Part 4 – E-Commerce and EDI – The full potential
Part 5 – E-Commerce and EDI – Technical: Architectural amusements

Kategorier: E-handel, EDI, Omnichannel

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