WORKING IN THE NEW NORMAL.
BREAKING DOWN DATA INTEGRATION BOUNDARIES BY GOING BACK TO BASICS.
Inspired by the growing importance of automated data integration during the pandemic, the Lobster Group has updated its free e-book THE COMPACT GUIDE TO EDI. And made it available to all those looking to brush up on their EDI expertise. As a leading provider of standardised data integration and process automation software, Lobster is not only targeting integration experts, it’s also specifically addressing non-IT experts. The aim is to provide an engaging, educational reference manual, filled with straightforward, practical advice. By breaking down barriers in IT, Lobster wants to equip readers from all professional backgrounds with everything they may need to know about electronic data interchange (EDI).
As the world returns to a ‘new normal’ it is becoming clear that the hybrid working arrangements and flexible business environments of the coronavirus workplace are very much here to stay. In fact, a McKinsey survey of 278 executives found that, on average, companies were reducing office space by 30 percent.
EDI – A KEY TO SUCCESS.
In essence, the ability to work productively from home hinges on remote, company-wide access to business-relevant data such as inventory levels, real-time shipment updates and operational information. This abundance of data of a certain quality is a prerequisite if teams want to operate and collaborate as successfully online as in the office. In order for this data to flow seamlessly, companies need to have established comprehensive internally and externally networked systems based on Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), i.e. exchanging data within a business, and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), i.e. exchanging data with external partners.
During the pandemic, firms that had already invested in such systems were clearly at an advantage. “Companies with well-established data integration systems, spanning from order processing to inventory check to delivery and invoicing, were able to continue operations during lockdown,” says Steffen Brehme, managing director at Lobster. This competitive advantage became even more pronounced as businesses attempted to bounce back once lockdown lifted. Yet despite the fact that EDI and EAI are clearly playing a key role in ensuring the viability of a firm in a post-pandemic market, many companies still rely on manual processes. And this, despite the fact that EDI has been around for 50 years. So why is it taking so long for business to get on board?
USER-FRIENDLY THANKS TO NO CODE.
One obvious explanation is the time, effort and expense associated with setting up a conventional EDI system. The initial outlay for implementation, customisation and training can present a considerable barrier for companies. Not to forget, of course, the necessary time and dedication of in-house IT teams, who are oftentimes already focussed on maintaining or resolving challenges present within existing set-ups. The answer is a standardised data integration solution that is so user-friendly that it can even be operated by non-IT experts such as business leaders and account managers. Software which is e.g. low-code and boasts drag-and-drop functionalities gives companies the means to spread the workload across departments, enabling faster connection of core processes, making data available with little collective effort. If the respective solution can then also be run in the cloud and be paid for on a subscription basis rather than a one-off fee, then this can also save time on installation and reduce up-front costs as well.
Another explanation as to why businesses could be slow off the mark when it comes to data integration is the perceived nature of EDI. On the one hand, there is the potential mix-up, from a technical perspective, that EDI is a data format – similar to EDIFACT. It would be more accurate to take the view, as touched on above, that EDI is a system for exchanging business documents with external entities, and integrating the data from those documents into the company’s internal systems. On the other hand, there is the assumption that operating an EDI solution is an arduous technical undertaking which should be exclusively reserved for IT experts. These misconceptions are stopping businesses from driving their digitalisation strategies, focussing on their core business and ultimately bouncing back effectively after the pandemic.
DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION REIMAGINED.
Lobster has set its focus on reimagining digital transformation. From a technical perspective this means addressing data integration and process automation with a two-pronged approach. On the other hand, the group is also concerned with making EDI accessible to all. Understanding that EDI need not be inherently complex, opens up a world in which non-IT experts are able to confidently shape a company’s data integration reality. This, in turn, not only saves time and money, but also allows companies to reap the rewards of EDI which include additional cost savings, improved responsiveness, superior data quality and enhanced operational efficiency.
And so, to appropriately convey this ‘Just do IT’ mindset and to help address these misconceptions, Lobster is taking it back to basics and updated its free e-book, outlining key concepts, data formats, messaging standards, communication protocols and more. By equipping employees across all departments with this fundamental understanding of EDI, Lobster is looking to give non-IT experts the knowledge to communicate confidently in IT-centric spaces. After all, one thing is certain: the more comprehensively a business has digitalised its operations, the more likely it is to recover effectively after the pandemic.