Electronic Document Interchange, or EDI, has been an emerging business requirement for manufacturers and vendors who want to do business with any major US retailer for almost two decades. Originally it was a cost saving device for big boxes such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Menards… pick almost any major retailer. Lately it is still a bottom line savings measure for retailers, enabling them to submit purchase orders to vendors and distributors, receive electronic invoices and other business documentation that once required an army of paper pushers inside the organization, driving up prices through labor costs and inefficiencies. Now the EDI landscape is changing. The reduction in “the cost of doing business” for retailers through the use of EDI is beginning to be offset by an increase in the real cost of goods from manufacturers and distributors. Please pardon the length of the forthcoming explanation while I try to reduce its complexity.
EDI transactions, the act of a retailer such as Wal-Mart submitting an electronic purchase order to a vendor such as 3M, can be completed using a variety of communication technologies such as AS2, FTP, SFTP, VAN to VAN, and several other base layer communication protocols. The technology used is almost always selected by the retailer with compliance requirements becoming the responsibility of the manufacturer, vendor or distributor. All well and good in the beginning as it saved either side from pushing paper, reduced delays in document receipt and payment receipt, benefiting the vendors. An environment perfectly ripe for a middle man. So look out… here comes the “VAN”.
VAN’s (Value Added Network) providers have always been a part of the EDI landscape. The irony is this acronym implies they add any “value” to the retailer/vendor relationship. VAN’s historically provided small manufacturers and distributors an outsourced solution to conducting business with large retailers by removing the need for in house IT staff and EDI specialists. Then a few VAN’s began to believe that “Mom and Pop” shops were not a large enough revenue stream. What they did was formulate a trend, started by companies like SPS Commerce, where they wedge themselves between many of the major retailers and their manufacturer/vendor base. The way they did it was diabolical at minimum and what I’ve often referred to as a form of pseudo extortion.
Here’s how it works. A VAN approaches a big box retailer and makes them a pretty astonishing offer: They will reduce or eliminate a large portion of the retailers EDI costs if the retailer will agree to sign on with the VAN as their EDI representation. The retailer will not have to employee IT staff to manage EDI transactions, they will not have to host expensive software systems and telecommunication circuits (bandwidth) to handle the volume of data traffic necessary to conduct document interchanges with trading partners (the vendors and manufacturers). The retailers will not have to manage document testing for new vendors and they will not need an internal department to produce and enforce electronic document standards. They can eliminate all this EDI overhead for little or nothing, all they have to do is sign on with the VAN. “Fantastic!”, says the CFO. Now for the catch….
The only thing the VAN wants in return? The retailers ENTIRE vendor base. Now the VAN can approach the vendors and distributors with an ultimatum: Sign on and pay document testing fees, connectivity fees, transaction fees, kilo character (data) fees or else. Or else what? Or else lose your ability to conduct business with a big box retailer (your existing customer). A consequence in revenue many vendors cannot afford so they give in to the demands of the VAN to retain their customer relationship. So now instead of having hundreds of small customers, to whom they are providing simple EDI liaison services, they have thousands of small to large corporations paying them to conduct business with one of America’s largest retailers. Sherwin Williams just went through such a transition during the last few years to a VAN called InfoAccess. Please take the time to ask any Sherwin Williams representative or vendor how smoothly this has gone for either side. Of course you’ll have to find a Sherwin Williams associate who’s prepared to be honest about the experience.
In the case of Sherwin Williams many of their vendors were previously using a communication technology called AS2. This is a direct line (data connection) between the vendor and Sherwin Williams producing realtively little connectivity costs for either side. Sherwin was required to staff an in-house EDI department which I assume is almost gone at this point. Some vendors experienced an increase in the cost of doing business with Sherwin Williams. Costs that will ultimately affect the wholesale price of goods to the retailer who will could pass the increase on to the customer. Most retailers typically pass vendor price increases over to the consumer.
While intermediary VANs are fully prepared to offer great savings to retailers by removing in-house costs that they cannot pass on to the consumer, they are often creating an increase in the wholesale costs of goods from the vendors, distributors and manufacturers which retailers are happy to pass on to you, the consumer. This is the side of the story VAN’s do not want to know. Many retailers have decided to forgo offers from intermediary VAN’s and continue to support their EDI operations in house, several of which I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Lowes, Home Depot and Wal-Mart continue to trade documents with vendors directly via AS2 communication. Grainger Supply, Bass Pro Shops and now Sherwin Williams are examples of companies that decided to turn the cost of EDI over to their vendor base by handing off the trade relationship to a VAN. Speaking from experience, it is often much easier to conduct an EDI trading partnership directly with a retailer on a technical level than it is to go through the implementation and support gauntlet of a VAN. Lower costs to manufacturers typically results in lower costs to consumers. Many VAN’s are leveraging the customer/vendor relationship against consumers. If I’m wrong someone please give me an example where a VAN, working on behalf of a retailer, has resulted in lower wholesale prices.No comments
I’ve been reading forum comments regarding the “pros and cons of mapped drives”. Not one article I’ve found correctly addressed the issues surrounding mapping drives by letter verses their supposed benefits which are limited. For historical reference, only Windows has “mapped drives”. Linux, Unix and other operating systems including Apple OSX use “mount points” or in Apples case, “Connect to Server” (which is almost as bad as a mapped drive letter n but not quite). Mount points and Apple “Server Connections” both require knowledge of the files real, genuine name of shared folder location on the network, often called the “UNC Path” in the Windows world, which stands for Universal Naming Convention. We are reaching a point in computing where even end users can essentially be considered computer illiterate if they do not know the UNC Path to the files they work with daily.
So what are the real benefits of using “mapped drives” designated by a chosen drive letter:
- It is easy to reference for end users to understand. This means an administrator can say “open your N drive” verses “open your Accounting share” or “your Accounting shared folder”. I’m not sure why one is more confusing than the other in the end users brain but in my experience if I use the word “share” users give me the blank look of evil.
- I’m not sure there is a #2. Any other administrators who can think of any other benefit of a mapped drive, leave a comment. Sure administrators can map drives to network resources using scripts so end users are not choosing their own random, often conflicting drive letters. That is more of a convenience to avoid potential issues of mapped drives than a benefit.
What are the limitations and issues caused by mapped drives:
- As any seasoned IT support veteran will tell you, on large networks there will inevitably be multiple “P drives” or a few “X drives” where X and P can be any letter in the alphabet, redundantly. When a user calls for support they will only be able to tell you “I can’t get to my P drive”. When you have “P drive” mapped to five different network shares from ten random workstations, good luck. You’re about to dig on the users machine to find out the UNC Path, the true location of the network share their particular “P drive” is pointing to.
- Modern applications are not designed to translate drive letter designation. Sure, MS Office and other historically Microsoft centric applications will adjust for the location of a users unique mapped drive designation. Newer web based applications will often gag on them or not identify them at all. Business reporting applications in particular, such as Qlikview and Business Objects, which rely on multiple data sources will make huge mess when trying to address those sources across a mapped drive letter.
- Virtualized applications make a mess and clog bandwidth trying to sling files around the world in circles and clog bandwidth to accommodate a file trying to be opened using a mapped drive. If a user in Phoenix, AZ runs a virtual instance of MS Word from a server in Raleigh, NC and then tries to open a file located on a mapped drive of their workstation (which is sometimes pointing to a share location in Raleigh, NC) the file will make not one, but TWO trips across the network, download the file to the users local workstation memory and then Word can open the file. Conversely, if the Phoenix user opens the same instance of Word published from the Raleigh Citrix server and then chooses “File…Open” or “Recent Files” inside word and uses the UNC Path to specify the file location, Word will open the file on the LAN, not across the WAN. Don’t believe it. Try it and see the difference. The first scenario requires a file download into memory across the network, the second scenario opens the file directly and almost instantly.
- Mapped drives make end users uniformed, often lazy computer users. They have no idea where their departmental or production network files reside. They only know “N drive”. Knowing file system hierarchy and server file locations on the network has historically made Unix, Linux and Mac users better computer users. It is what truly separates the plain ol’ “stupid end users” from the intermediate users. Anyone who does not know how to use the “backslash, backslash” \\ to find a file on a network share is not eligible to call themselves a “power user” under any circumstances as far as I’m concerned. Any developer or IT support staff who does not know how to use a UNC Path needs to cover up that fact by learning quickly or just quit the job immediately.
There are many benefits to using UNC Paths, mount points, mapped server shares and very few to using mapped drive letters. All the mapped drive was ever invented to do was dumb it down. That’s never good but has been historically embraced because well…. people are lazy and don’t want to learn.
I don’t care if you take your MOPED down a designated, paved bike lane or down the middle of I-40 at rush hour. Don’t care if you go to the store on it, to your grandmas or to rent a Porta Potty. If you take one of these sorry ass excuses for a bike anywhere near a trail designated for “Non Motorized Use Only” I want your ass kicked. Period. In fact I hope you scare a horse, get back kicked into the gravel so the horse can stomp around on you violently causing numerous breaks and hemorrhaging. Yes, that is how much I hate lazy dolts on these stupid machines. They’re nothing but new liquor cycles for old men with DUI’s and those who pretend to like cycling but can’t ride a damn bike. Lazy, pathetic posers. Have fun in traffic just keep the damn things off the trail.No comments
I just watched Julien Absalon, the Michael Jordan of cross country mountain bike racing drop his greatest rival, Nino Shurter, who just couldn’t handle Absalon in Albstadt, Germany. In Nino’s defense Julien had his best ride in the last two years taking his 29th UCI World Cup win. Gotta wonder if it had anything to do with the new Shimano XTR Di2 electronic derailleur system he just got this week. “One of the best performance’s by Julien Absalon ever” said Bart Brentjens, winner of the first Olympic gold ever awarded in XC mountain biking.No comments
Last week I went OTB (over the bars) and took a nasty bar end to the rib cage. Today is the first day I haven’t had searing pain. I’ve also had a lot of inflammation in my hips this week, probably also due to the crash. I rode another 16 miles after I wrecked and completed 95 miles last week. So far I’ve only clocked about 33.5 miles this week. I’ll need to squeeze 60 more into the next 4 days (no problem if it doesn’t rain too much) but I may be trying to get it in 3 days. Still very achievable. It’s about time I push my goal to 115 miles a week. I hope to be at 175-200 a week by September.No comments
It’s getting a little harder for me to get my legs tight now. 17-20 miles a day isn’t getting it. I’ve either got to start doing drills or go farther. Today I’ll take the latter option if my stomach will cooperate by 4 PM. I’m thinking all of Crabtree, most of Rocky Road and the Ready Creek Loop should do it.No comments
I always have to read quite a bit about the latest smartphone technology. I’ve also carried ever major smart phone manufactured in the last six years for routine (and not so routine) use. When I post reviews in forums or make claims in conversation to have carried all these phones I am not often believed. How could one person get a new phone every 4-6 months? Even better, I haven’t paid for a phone or paid my own mobile phone bill in over 11 years.
I’ve carried a Samsung Galaxy, S2, S3, S4, a Motorola Atrix 1 and 2, both with lap docks (some of the best phones and technology ever including the worlds first fingerprint scanner). I’ve carried and used iPhone 3, 4s and 5s. I have a like new 64GB iPhone 5s in my desk right now I could ask Verizon to swap in place of my LG G2 any time. Not gonna happen.
The truth of the matter is that iPhones have always been a few technological steps behind other smart phone devices with the display/touch exception. Apple fanboys will scream this is not true. The will tout iOS and screen lag as evidence of the iPhone’s equality or superiority. Lately iOS is just becoming Android. Yes, the touch processing was given thread priority on an iPhone from day one. That translates to the iPhone’s fluid feel. This feel is really apparent on iPads verses Android tablets. Scrolling seems smoother and response time seems faster making the iPhone superior in gesture response. But that’s where the superiority ends.
The iPhone’s pretty, brushed aluminum chassis is no match for the LG G2′s processor, battery, screen size, resolution, camera and GPS. The touch feel is not that far off from an iPhone any more either. Truth is the iPhone’s aesthetics, feel and iTunes keep Apple fans in the midst of their marketing realm. They will even copy the larger screen found on most Android devices this year, tout it as “revolutionary” and Apple fans will regurgitate this tardy, non existent superiority. Question is, will this larger screen actually hurt iPhone sales since the smaller size is actually coveted by many devoted iPhone fans who called the 4.5″+ Android screens “unnecessary”? Amazing how such unnecessary things become as necessary as air and water once adopted on an iPhone. Like NFC (Near Field Communications). Not necessary according to Apple fans. We’ll see about that.
In my role I typically carry the most powerful smart phone available in the US market within days of it’s release. When that’s an iPhone I will proudly let the world know I carry one.No comments
I can never have a birthday without thinking of my grandfather. On April 19, 1971 I was a birthday present to then 65 year old Honorable Judge Harold B. Singleton of Amherst VA, representative to the Virginia House of Commons. I was first grandchild to a Charter Member of the National Honor Society when he graduated from EC Glass High School in 1925. He attended Lynchburg College and during that time found a matchbook in a restaurant that contained an advertisement for law books on the cover. He ordered them and became the youngest person to ever pass the Virginia state bar exam on his first attempt. In 1938 he opened a law firm with Lucien Shrader and in 1941 he was elected to the Virginia House of Commons for 14 years. He authored and sponsored the legislation that made it legal to buy soft drinks in Virginia and the 1950 revisions to the state code regarding the retirement plan for Virginia state employees.
In 1964 he was appointed Judge of the Amherst District Court. Later he became the Chief Judge of the 24th District Juvenile and Domestic relations court. In 1957 and 1958 he was elected National President of the Lynchburg College Alumni Association and National President of the Ruritan National Civics organization in 1963. A lifetime of great achievements and I did not learn the full extent of them until after his passing in 1994, my last year of college. Although he took me to coat and tie lunches to shake hands with US Congressmen, growing up he was just Pop. Although I saw him in the courtroom on a couple of occasions, something I believe none of his other grandchildren ever did, I spent most of my time with him in his extensive garden at Green Lawn, accompanied by our favorite dog Blanc. I will return to the house on the road I knew as Rural Route 40 very soon, although it is now called Father Judge Road in his honor, to visit my 94 year old grandmother who still resides in the only home I’ve ever known my grandparents to live in.No comments
Have you ever tried to change your password on Facebook? Google? Yahoo? Did you have to do an internet search to figure out how first? Don’t lie. I did and I’ve been behind a keyboard for a living for 20 years now. This unto itself creates a security issue because all of these sites (and more) recommend that users change their passwords frequently but they do not make it obvious where and how to do so.
Every site should have a prominent “Change Password” link at the top of the user account setting page. Not buried under “security settings” or a link to be sent by email for a password reset. Furthermore they should go to great lengths to insure their mobile apps have clearly presented options to change the account passwords and they should automatically log the account out from any other device immediately when the password is change.
Why the major sites have not made password changes and management a top priority is a bit of a mystery. I feel it may have to do with the fear of additional cost of support that may be required for users who change their passwords and then forget the new one or have trouble syncing passwords over multiple devices. Either way the scenario is the fault of the site designers who do not make changing and managing passwords more obvious and intuitive.No comments