Expertise is needed for most EDI systems to be updated and maintained. That’s what managed services can bring to your company: the assistance you need at prices you can afford. While this article will focus on Managed Service Providers (MSPs) specifically dealing with EDI processes, the implications can be broader for other areas of business.

Generally, status quo is in play with most business processes. So the two big changes in businesses that necessitate looking for help are:

1. Retiring workforce: one or two people may be the only ones who really know how your EDI system works. Most likely they are close to retirement because EDI systems were set up 25-30 years ago.
2. Change in ERP platforms: ERP changes means upgrading EDI, too.

Rarely do IT or IS executives set out to upgrade their EDI systems. Most of the time EDI projects are a response or a reaction, so the question becomes how does one solve the EDI problems that have come about?

Typically, in one of four ways:

1. Consultants: hourly help to come and bridge the gap for internal EDI support.
2. Hire more people in the EDI department directly.
3. Get new upgraded software and some support level from the software vendor.
4. Use a managed service.

Many times the managed service option is the last option considered, if considered at all. This is mostly due to fear. But what are the most common fears many organiations face when they are approached by an MSP?

— Loss of control
— Uknown reponse times
— Being billed with nickel and dime tactics

Many organizations will feel like they are losing valuable control over important aspects of their day-to-day operations should they allow an outside entity to process their EDI. Many also feel that not having a person on staff to handle the needs of the company can create a bottle neck in their oranization’s ability to function. While these are rational fears, many times they can be handled by simply making an intelligent evaluation of the MSP. A good MSP will ensure that clients understand their EDI process and have the ability to review their infrastructure at any moment. As for lack of response, in today’s technology driven world, a good MSP will have the resources available to ensure clients are responded to in timely fashion.

Once an organization can overcome the initial fears of outsourcing, they can begin to focus on the benefits a good MSP can bring to the table. Choosing to work with an MSP means the following:

— Solid, predicatable budegeting. Many MSP companies will provide their services at a flat monthly rate. This allows for easy budget management with no surprises. If you find an MSP that does not offer this, I suggest you either work with them to do this (if you enjoy their service), or you find an MSP that can do this for you.
— Access to a team. MSP companies are often staffed with multiple tiers of expertise. This allows the client to tap into resources that may not normally be available through a traditional structure. Don’t be afraid to ask your MSP for a bullet list resume of their tech team. While this may seem intrusive to some, an MSP who is proud of their staff will gladly show you why they are.
— Lower operating costs. An MSP can provide a team of experts at numbers less than what would normally cost an organization to hire a single individual.
— One less thing to worry about. Choosing the right MSP means that is one less thing an organization needs to deal with. The goal of a good MSP is to let you focus on your core operation, not the EDI process supporting it.

After an organization starts to see the financial benefits of working with an MSP, they can then start to look at the organizational benefits of the partnership and recognize immediately the added value a good MSP can offer by:

— Extending infrastructure and scalability to meet growth demands.
— Offsite redundancy to EDI process and critical business transactions.
— Assisting in the creation of operational standards. A good MSP can help you streamline EDI and B2B integration by examining processes and showing you where things breakdown or could be enhanced.
— Providing needed expertise at the ready, without the cost of a full-time expert on staff.

B2B transactions and EDI technology have become an underlying reliance for most business processes. If you don’t have a department or staff, an MSP can bring EDI processes and systems to your organization. If you have an EDI department or staff, an MSP can augment and assist them by adding valuable expertise and reliability.

A decent managed service partner is an extension of your business, giving you a more manageable budget, a more powerful infrastructure, and overall peace of mind.

For more, download our 12 Step Selection Criteria to help you evaluate managed EDI service providers: