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Spider on the webAt an IBM event a few years ago, I saw the great benefits a client was getting from a document conversion services (fax and email to EDI) solution. I was coming from a global, standards-based, highly-automated perspective and was surprised that he was so aggressive in a solution that sounded to my idealistic ears to be a step backwards. After the presentation, I followed up with some questions about his experience.

According to his response, good spelling or math is not necessarily common, and quality Internet access is even less so. Still, most people can send a fax, and while the revenue from each business contribution is typically small, it generally represents a very large revenue stream that competitors will gladly serve if they don’t.

The challenges of staying responsive and relevant

Fast forward to 2022. Economic, social, geopolitical and health disruptions have fundamentally changed today’s business environment. The advent of same-day and next-day logistics from Internet-based providers has increased demand for superior customer service. If a business doesn’t respond quickly to a manual order submission, the buyer will find other sellers who are more responsive, and the business may lose that customer forever.

In our electronic data interchange (EDI) world, there is more urgency than ever to achieve full automation. This is often based on a mix of traditional EDI and API, but still leaves the “long tail” of low-volume business that is still managed manually. Low-wage workers, often located offshore, manually upload or retype these documents into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Interactions between business partners and sales operations, customer fulfillment and order management are fraught with manually introduced errors.

In addition, the cost of living, wage inflation and the so-called “great layoffs” make it difficult to staff manual data entry roles at lower pay rates. This means that the pile of unprocessed orders is growing.

Implement performance-changing solutions

All this has led to a high demand and importance for IBM Sterling® document conversion services, which allow enterprises to receive documents sent by fax or email as clean, certified by business rules, certified EDI, despite the complexity of the original sender. In parallel, IBM Sterling® Transaction Manager provides a webform-based front-end for generating EDI documents in purchase orders.

These two IBM services overlap to cover a wide range of small partner use cases, from internal-only low volumes of individual documents to complex inbound and outbound highly interlinked business flows. To achieve full EDI automation on an enterprise level, a business will likely need both services.

“No business partner left behind” is the new mantra of enterprises striving to automate their own data processes and provide a high level of service to their business partners.

Contact your IBM Sustainability Software sales representative or IBM Business Partner or contact me directly.

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