Why can't EDI implementations be easy?

In working with my clients as a part time CFO and system implementer I sometimes get deeply involved in the implementation of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) applications between my clients systems and their customers.  EDI as a technology has been around since the late 1960’s, but every implementation I’ve seen has been behind schedule and more stressful on my clients than you would think from a 50 year old technology.  Some of this stems from the integration with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the level of integration available for EDI and some of it comes from the EDI provider themselves.  The entire process is different from one EDI provider to another and to further complicate things it is different between trading partners (my clients customers.)

The level of programming required for most EDI implementations is ridiculous, as what you end up with a semi-custom installation at every location.  I’ve worked with over twelve different EDI providers and all of them have the same messed up process and they all treat the addition of a new trading partner like it’s never been done before.  Repetition doesn’t seem to improve the process.  I have several current clients that are trading with a major department store chain.  They are all using the same EDI provider and implemented within six months of each other.  In each case they were treated like the had never been implemented before.  There are supposed to be EDI standards, but in reality there are guidelines and then every trading partner looks at their own unique requirements and modifies their EDI process to fit in.

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