Business Network

Fast and resilient supply chain? You’re going to need a better VAN

COVID-19 massively disrupted supply chains throughout the world. And finding ways to continue working with your trading partners and customers has risen to the top of the agenda. EDI (electronic data interchange) provides organizations with the best way to exchange information and conduct transactions, wherever and whenever they need. In this blog, I’ll look at what an EDI VAN (value-added network) must deliver to meet your needs as we move forward.

In a previous blog, I discussed how EDI was one of the first areas of digital transformation. As expected, the pandemic has increased interest in EDI. Recent research from the Gartner Board of Directors found that seven out of 10 boards were accelerating their digital business initiatives in the wake of disruption by COVID-19. This corresponds with a major rise in EDI implementation, with market value projected to rise to almost $3.5 billion by 2027.

Getting more value from your EDI VAN

Since they first appeared in the mid-’70s, EDI VANs have proven to be a great way to exchange business documents and transactions across trading partner networks, becoming widespread across many organizations and industries. By and large, they just work.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

But the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on some critical weaknesses of many existing EDI VAN implementations. Many EDI VAN providers stopped innovating years ago, because their tools just worked. But in the world of digital business, some of those tools are now outdated.

That’s not to say that all EDI VAN providers lack the latest digital capabilities. But it’s important to be aware of what a modern EDI VAN should offer:

Pre-built trading partner community

One of the great advantages of an EDI VAN is quick and easy access to trading partners that are already part of your network. With more than 1.2 million pre-connected partners, OpenText™ Trading Grid™ is the largest trading partner community, with community management features that identify and onboard new partners quickly. Our Global Partner Directory lists partners on our network, with corresponding company information — everything from performance data to ethical and sustainability standards — to help you quickly find and connect with partners you want to work with.

Unified B2B integration platform

You’d expect your EDI VAN to support all B2B formats, standards and protocols. However, standards and protocols are always evolving. The leading EDI VANs — such as OpenText Trading Grid — stay on top of current B2B formats, including specialized regional or industry-specific protocols and B2G (business to government) protocols such as Peppol. They even support customized API development to increase your integration reach.

Automated business processes

The response to COVID-19 has placed the need for automation at the top of the CIO priority list. IDC recently predicted automation would be one of the top five items on the CIO agenda for 2021. Using a cloud-based EDI VAN allows you to automate more of your B2B processes, smoothing secure digital business throughout your trading partner community.

Real-time visibility and analytics

With increased automation comes the need for increased visibility. You need to know the status and performance of all your transactions. The best modern EDI VAN will let you drill down into your B2B data to see exactly what’s going on. For example, OpenText Trading Grid includes best-in-class visibility and the analytics tool OpenText™ Lens™, which helps monitor data flows between any system or data source, within the enterprise and with business partners. This helps you make better business decisions.

Performance, availability, scalability

Many of today’s EDI VANs lack adequate investments into their physical infrastructure and are plagued with outages and downtime. Built with an understanding of the critical nature of your business, the OpenText Trading Grid network is housed within multiple OpenText-owned data centers across two continents. This allows for a quick failover if that’s ever needed. Such investment ensures a flexible, scalable platform that delivers business continuity as part of the service.

From standardization to customization: Evolution of the EDI VAN

In the beginning, one of the major benefits of an EDI VAN was to bring standardization to your B2B transactions. As business becomes increasingly digital, standardization can be an impediment. Instead, the best EDI VANs have evolved from strictly standard services toward greater degrees of customization. Your provider should be able to tailor a wide range of digital capabilities to your specific business needs.

Compare a traditional EDI VAN with OpenText™ Trading Grid Messaging Service in this infographic.


Naomi Skinner

As Senior Manager, Product Marketing for OpenText Business Network, Naomi leads product marketing efforts for B2B integration in the supply chain space as well as in healthcare. Experienced marketer across various industries, Naomi enjoys translating complex concepts into simple terms.

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