The onset of the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus, along with natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires, not only takes a huge toll on individuals, but many businesses as well. This is especially evident in the supply chain, when warehouse and transportation industries need to keep up with demands for much needed supplies to manufacturers, health, and food industries.
The current pandemic reminds us how important it is to have a disaster recovery plan for your EDI system in place to minimize loss in productivity and exchange of important documents such as invoices, POs, and Shipment Notices. It’s vital to have a good handle on where and when the sources of your materials can arrive. Harvard Business Review suggests, “At a bare minimum, companies should invest in 24 x 7 monitoring of their global suppliers.” Investing in strong, well-maintained EDI will ensure a continued smooth business environment. Harvard Business Review goes on to state, “This investment is easily offset by savings in the form of reduced reliance on inventory, manual processes, and people — and a fast, responsive, and agile supply chain that remains operational, despite all the things that go wrong every few weeks”.
If your EDI went down, what would happen? How deep would the business impact be and how quickly could you restore it? Many times, the EDI portion of a company’s IT disaster plan is overlooked. EDI systems differ from other computer systems and should have their own specific recovery plan. If your EDI goes down, you risk the loss of the audit trail, transaction authorization, data security, and transmission security. This downtime can be disastrous for your company. An additional risk can be bridging applications which can integrate all computerized functions of your company such as accounting, inventory control, production systems, etc. A strong disaster recovery plan needs to be comprehensive and should take into account other plans which will be executing at the same time. A well thought out plan involves a knowledgeable team and solid documentation.
There are five steps that should be considered in an EDI disaster recovery plan:
This step initiates the initial response to a disaster. You need to assess the damage caused by the disaster, such as: what is your current level of stock, number and type of EDI messages that may have been affected as well as the impact to your trading partners. During this step, it is very important that you are prepared to communicate clear and accurate information to those in your EDI network. You should also have in place a call list of who is responsible for what as it relates to your EDI system. You should also have alternative methods (land line, cell, fax) to make that contact in case your primary methods (office number, email) are unavailable due to the disaster.
Your back-up plan may be as simple as initiating a manual system for low-volume, non-critical items to a full switch to a new VAN from a rented hot site for larger volumes. A change of delivery of EDI documents should be reviewed and accepted by your EDI trading partners as well. If the disaster originated at the supplier, the back-up plan could also include the selection and certification of back-up vendors.
This step determines your ability to recover critical information in an acceptable amount of time and make your EDI system operational again. This could vary depending on the integration of your EDI system. Considered should be the ability to retrieve historical data prior to the disaster as well as the level of cooperation of your trading partners, both up and down the supply chain.
This is a vital step in your EDI disaster plan. It allows you to discover and eliminate any potential problems that may appear and make modifications before the plan has to be put into action. Various forms of disaster scenarios should be considered during this step. Practicing your execution of the disaster recovery plan when stress and tension of lost business is not pressing can help you determine its viability. This way when the disaster arrives, your team is not executing the plan for the first time and finding out, when it is too late, that important steps as missing.
Your EDI plan needs to be continually updated as you add new trading partners, update operating systems, IP Addresses, or DNS names. Your plan should be reviewed yearly to determine additional potential risks as well. This yearly audit assures that your company is protected and prepared as well as confirming that the key players understand their roles.
A solid EDI Disaster Recovery document will evolve over the years as your business continues to grow. Storing that document in a place you can get to it when your primary systems are unavailable is key to giving you access to it when you need it most. If you don’t have one in place, Data Communications Solutions (DCS) can assist you. Our experienced EDI team has worked with companies to assess their EDI systems and processes to put a solid disaster recovery plan in place. Contact us today to learn more!