Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is on the rise. Moving away from paper documents and manual processes enables users to save on postage and printing costs, to ensure more data accuracy, and to increase the prospect of being paid on time/qualifying for early payment discounts.
EDI also provides more accountability and traceability on all documents exchanged, for storage and audit purposes.
In 2019 there has been a particular focus on electronic trading in public sector procurement. Since April it has been mandatory for European public sector bodies to be compliant to receive invoices electronically from their suppliers. While it is not a requirement for suppliers to comply, it will be implemented in the near future.
Finding the right EDI provider can be a challenging process.
When analysing a potential provider, there are a number of initial questions you need to ask. This also applies to users who are unhappy with their current provider, and are weighing up a switch.
1. What level of support/ customer service do they offer? Does this meet your own requirements?
You will get an idea of this from initial interactions with the provider. Are they quick to respond to your initial enquiry? Do they address your requirements in a professional manner?
2. What pricing do they offer?
What exactly does the pricing include? Clarify straight away are there any hidden costs down the line? Electronic trading services are scalable at a cost per customer – they are not a once off subscription.
3. What are the future capabilities?
Does the service easily extend to the onboarding of future additional trading partners?
How scalable is the solution in relation to your own predicted business growth? Are there add-on products/features?
4. Do they offer other complementary products/services?
What other products/services does the provider offer that may be relevant to your business down the line?
Does the solution seamlessly integrate with your own ERP system/back-office systems?
Will the provider manage the testing process or do you need to invest in additional resources in-house?
5. What is the quality of their offering?
You also need to determine whether the system is reliable, how user-friendly it is and the providers’ compliance to data security. If the provider isn’t in a position to readily share this information, or if you are left dubious as to their response, they are unlikely to be a suitable partner.
As well as asking the above questions, you can also carry out your own independent research in order to make your decision.
Study their website. How many years are they in business? Who are their existing customers? If you know any personally, ask them for a reference.
Do they have case studies/testimonials readily available?
Also talk to like-minded businesses using trading solutions with another provider. Particularly those that are unhappy with their service. Determine their exact pain points and ask your potential provider whether they can solve these.
Research what are the main issues with electronic trading solutions. Does your potential provider answer confidently when queried as to their capacity to manage these issues?
Choosing the right provider can be a challenging process, but it is worthwhile to ensure you get the most return on your investment.