From the Front Lines

E-commerce Tool Kit

Over the past several months, I've related some of my experiences in expanding our e-commerce/EDI network. Our senior purchasing management realized that although there are in excess of 300 of our suppliers electronically connected to our order/purchasing system, there are another 500 plus suppliers still on our fax ordering system.

Faced with a short deadline in expanding our e-commerce trading partner base, as well as not being able to expand our existing staff (Sound familiar?), we went looking for a way to expand rapidly with our current resources. One of our trading partners pointed to FORESIGHT Corporation (Dublin, Ohio) as a firm that could likely assist in eliminating some of the expansion bottlenecks.

Part of Foresight's overall strategy is to offer products that it claims will "drastically reduce trading partner automation expenses." One of its software offerings is a suite of e-commerce productivity tools called EDISIM that the company says can reduce the cost of automating a single trading partner on one transaction from the industry average of $2,000 to $150, as well as reduce the elapsed implementation time per partner from two to four weeks down to a few days!

Mark Furst, FORESIGHT's VP of Sales and Marketing says "FORESIGHT Corporation's EDISIM Suite of pre-production EDI productivity tools enables organizations to define their EDI guidelines, based on X12 or EDIFACT transactions, for publishing and distribution to their EDI trading partners and suppliers. The tools include the ability to publish, analyze data against guidelines for compliance to the specification, as well as compare and migrate guidelines from one version of the standards to the next, as well as generate test data."

Specifically, the suite consists of:
Standards Editor - which can create customized implementation guidelines from published standards
Document Builder - which produces formatted documentation from your guidelines
Analyzer - which analyzes transactions for compliance with published standards or your own implementation guidelines
Test Data Generator - generates test data for any transaction type
Comparator - compares standards to guidelines and reports differences
Standards Reference - allows the viewing of all aspects of sets, segments, elements, codes, etc.

Their customer base includes some very familiar names in the healthcare, banking, and computer industries. The central theme of user testimonials centers on their ability to get two to three times the productivity from their e-commerce staff, as well as significantly cutting the EDI testing and implementation time frame. The single user license charge is $3,900, which, judging from my conversations with Furst, seems to be a small price to pay compared to the potential increase in overall accuracy and productivity FORESIGHT claims is possible.

We're going to try it, and I think we'll like it.

P.S. FORESIGHT also offers a Web-based EC system called TradeSite that Web-enables an organization's EDI or non-EDI business applications, acting as a gateway to non-electronic trading partners. In addition, FORESIGHT has recently announced Previsto, a new Web-based EDI testing service to make compliance testing easier and more economical.