NetSuite EDI Integration Dilemma
Every day, every second, computers from businesses around the world are communicating; working together in an effort to coordinate the movement of trillions of dollars in goods up the supply chain. This form of communication is called EDI, and businesses have relied on it for decades, and their customers, whether they knew it or not, have done the same.
Due to advancements in software and web technology, today it’s possible for even a small-sized business to attain a reliable EDI solution. However, unfortunately for NetSuite users, EDI capability is not currently native to the platform. So if people want a reliable NetSuite EDI solutions they are going to need to look at third-party options.
Selecting the appropriate solution is a tricky process. Often, partner pressure forces a business to invest in a short-term solution that will not scale with growth or match well with future partners. Do not fall into this trap! Make sure the solution you choose can scale with you. This added flexibility will save you huge in the future.
Popular NetSuite EDI Integration Options
EDI Network (VAN)
EDI Networks is one of the oldest forms of EDI still around today. Sometimes referred to as a”VAN” or “Value-Added-Networks,” EDI Networks are often described as a “post office” for file distribution; providing a “mailbox” address for businesses and alerting them if and when they received a message. VANs were more popular in the late 90’s and 80’s, due to the restrictions of the technology. EDI costs were much more prohibitive back then, so it made more sense to create networks as opposed to creating direct connections with all your trading partners. As time went on, however, and technology improved, the costs have come down and it makes less sense to join a network.
That is not to say VAN’s are dead; they are far from it. The technology is solid and reliable; once you find a VAN that meets your requirements and you are satisfied with, there is little reason to jump ship. This is a large reason why VAN’s still dominate the EDI industry. In addition, modern VANs have added layers of services on top of simple file transferring. Most offer analytics, verification, support, outsourcing, and many other value-adds.
- Low upfront price. Enticing to small/medium-sized businesses, especially if they are under pressure from partners. Important to weigh this option against scalability and flexibility
- Quick up-time. VANs are run by large organizations that have been in the industry a while. Odds are they have met requirements similar to yours hundreds of times over.
- Access. Large VANs usually have provided connections to large vendors. If you’re looking to partner with a large vendor then you may need to join a network to do so.
- If you like to feel special to your vendors, VANs may not be the way to go for you. As VANs are large organizations with hundreds/thousands of customers. There will be times where you will feel like another number.
- Support is critical with EDI. If things are going wrong, you are going to need answers fast. That may be a problem when working with large EDI Vendor. It may take some time to get someone on the phone and even longer still to find someone who understands your business and how to solve the problems you’re dealing with.
- Test Fees! Watch out for test fees, and other fees for that matter. Most customer complaints about VANs have to do with outrageous fees or poor customer service.
- VAN solutions can scale…with your wallet. The cost to you is usually based on the number of transactions you require. If you want scale-up your EDI efforts, you will have to prepare for more costs.
Integration Platform (CIS, IPAAS, Middleware)
Integration platforms have also evolved to solve NetSuite EDI Integration needs, sometimes referred to as a comprehensive integration system (CIS), Integration Platform as a Services (IPAAS) or as just middleware. Integration platforms are the current “new school” approach to EDI solutions, as many of these platforms have come out in recent years. These platforms do an excellent job at manipulating and transferring data. It doesn’t much matter to them what type of file you need to transfer and where you need it to go, an integration platform can get the job done. A nice perk of using an integration platform for EDI is that you will not need to purchase a separate tool for other integrations, which can save you money, time, and stress.
- Manage all your integrations (including EDI) on 1 platform
- Easy to do in-house. Usually CIS’ have a graphic user interface that does not require complex coding. Most of the work can be accomplished by a trained business analyst
- Speed – Industry professionals have speculated that CIS can speed up the EDI process by as much as 40%
- Scales with you. CIS’ will not charge you per transaction.
- No test fees.
- More expensive per month when compared to alternatives
- Value-added services depend on the partner
- Support may also be an issue, due to the specialized nature of each platform.
If you want to learn more about our favorite integration platforms for NetSuite, we recommend you read are article about NetSuite integration tools here.
The main points I would like for you to get from this article are the following:
- NetSuite does not have native functionality for EDI integration so you will need to use a third-party solution for your NetSuite EDI integration needs
- The two most popular solutions for NetSuite EDI needs are Integration platforms or an EDI VAN
- Both are still viable solutions today but have their trade-offs
- It is important that you do your homework when searching for a way to become EDI capable. Many of the current solutions are reviewed and discussed on G2Crowd, which is an experienced community of business pros that reviews enterprise solutions. I recommend you read through the reviews of NetSuite EDI Integration solutions there to kick-off your search.
Jeremy McCourt is an content producer in the enterprise software industry that focuses on NetSuite and related cloud-based software solutions.
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