I've been on the East Coast for the last couple weeks, working with some of you on setting up your data to be compliant with GS1 specs... but more about that later. As I was about to get on my flight in Newark I got an email on my PDA. I though for sure it was a hoax, because what was being described just couldn't happen to the largest VAN in the country. It seems that at least part of GXS's connections were out of commission from about 3:30am Sunday morning, and weren't expected to be up and running again until at least midnight Monday night, leaving those trading partners affected to fend for themselves. I'm told that some of them turned to email, and as a last resort... fax.
I know since you're reading this email, that you've at least read the eC-BP.org basic tenets, one of which is the elimination of EDI-fax. Okay, the folks that turned to fax didn't do it as a permanent change, but I can't even imagine the chaos involved in manually processing the volume of transactions that must have hit these unfortunate victims. After all, they're staffed for automated processing. I've heard that by the time I woke up today, most if not all GXS's services had been resolved, but I wonder what the fallout from this will be for GXS.
Speaking of regressive tactics... I got another email forwarded to me from one of Brookshire Grocery Company's suppliers outlining Brookshire's new EDI testing fees. In my experience, testing fees are counterproductive and the process usually ends up delaying implementation. Besides, charging each supplier $150 for the "right" to accept purchase orders and send invoices is silly. Of course, if you have a captive audience of 1,000 suppliers and an opportunity to bring in an extra $150 grand, you might bend to the temptation too, but I know you're stronger than that.
And if I might point to the eC-BP.org tenets again, this practice hits another no-no by charging a testing fee. If you're able to shop around, you're sure to find a service that doesn't charge for testing, and some even do the setup for you at no charge.
Now, back to my opening comments about GS1, data cleansing, and synchronization... Most retailers are aching to get their suppliers compliant with GS1 and eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses each year due to mis-matched data. I've seen mandate letters from many industry leaders over the last couple years, but because of the changes that were occuring at such a rapid pace, none of them have followed through with sanctions. Now that all of the major changes are behind us, everyone is focusing on the second quarter to implement their trading partners. Over the last couple weeks I've heard rumblings about companies the likes of Wal-Mart, SuperValue, Lowes, Staples, and others readying revised mandate letters. The difference is that these are purported to have teeth.
Last time some of you relied on the incomplete status of the data pools, as a somewhat valid excuse to put off cleaning your data to prepare for compliance. This time I'm afraid that excuse has evaporated. If you haven't started readying your product master data, you may find yourself scrambling. From what I've heard, many letters are being sent off in the next two weeks. Keep your eyes open and be ready. You might need a quick fix, since many of you have been asked before. The nice part about a synchronized database is that once you have it set up, it will work with everyone.