What is our primary use case?
It is primarily an EDI translator for us. We have over 1,000 trading relationships running through it, totaling a couple of million documents. We don't just have EDI flowing through the platform. We have XML documents from some partners, and other things flowing inbound and outbound. But the bulk of it is EDI.
Our deployment is on-premise. We went that way because we knew the cost of doing it the other ways was more expensive. And in general, that is the model that we use.
How has it helped my organization?
The benefit of using SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), one that we like to tout right now, is the interaction of the solution's front end with the CMA module that we purchased from them. We're able to create surveys around testing processes and the automation of the actual testing. Using that survey, it will link to the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) front end so that partners can actually do testing on their own. They get feedback and data testing, based upon our actual requirements around EDI documents. It works 24/7.
The reason we tout this so much is that we had a backlog of 100-plus partners. It was taking an average of 66 days to get a partner up, from start to finish, through all the documents that we require. This solution has reduced it down to an average of six days, with zero backlog. That's a significant improvement.
We were having to do a lot of it manually before and this is one of the big things that we hype. It's a combination of both suites: the CMA component with the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) front end. That's by far the biggest benefit that can we name.
We use some of their other tools, like the Imart web platform, for some of our smaller vendors. That has been helpful in reducing the cost on their side from having to do EDI.
But the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) front end, in and of itself - having that EDI translator straight out-of-the-box - and being able to move stuff away from IT development into the actual business side, has been helpful.
Also, with the alerting and everything else that we get out of it, we're a lot more efficient. We're able to focus more on problems with our partners, versus reacting to systemic issues. We don't see a lot of systemic problems through the platform, so we're able to respond to our partners in a quicker fashion.
What is most valuable?
Among the most valuable features are the EDI translator and a lot of the components which enable creating compliance sets. Having something standard, out-of-the-box, and being able to use that has been a huge benefit for us. We came from a system, in the past, where we were having to manually create all that on our own, and it was very time-consuming and costly. Being able to do that out-of-the-box has been great.
Another aspect that we employed in the last year-and-a-half has been their CMA platform component, which hooks to the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) front end. We've been able to set up an automatic testing process for our partners. They can walk through and test all their documents, in the sequence that our company would be expecting to pass and exchange them, without any interaction with someone in our company.
What needs improvement?
They made improvements to the email error alerts that go out, for the EDI technical. Those typically go straight out to the partners. Those messages are significantly clearer and easy to read. The same messages in the front end are not nearly as clear. It's supposed to be the same error, but the message that goes out for EDI is really easy for anybody to read and understand, but you have to be really solution-savvy to understand the message in the system itself.
That is the component that we definitely have the biggest issue with. Unless we want to go search for an email, trying to read the actual message in the platform is tough.
Also, some of the functionality for retriggering documents, where you have to step through a termination process and then retrigger it, versus just being able to restart or retrigger more easily, is a bit challenging, depending on the scenario.
For how long have I used the solution?
Three to five years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
We had some incidents during the first year but it seems to have become more stable every year, as we've learned something, or figured out something. During this last year-and-a-half we've had almost zero incidents.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We have no problems with its scalability. We did a performance test where we did about eight times our volume through it in a single hour, for an entire heavy week, and it handled it. We've had no issues with it. Everything we've added to it - multiple documents inside the implementation, different components to it - we've had no issues. It's handled it all.
How are customer service and technical support?
If I just look at the consultant we have who is dedicated to our company, he's awesome; great.
There are some challenges with the Premium Support. I don't know if it's because they're based in Germany. I know our infrastructure at times has been posing the wrong information questions. But it's been challenging at times, and other times it's been great. Part of the problem is that they always want the logs and those aren't always available. But for the most part, support has been good. For what I've had to use them for, their response times have been fairly good; within expectations.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We had an older version of webMethods, which was not an EDI translator. Comparing SEEBURGER BIS vs webMethods, the latter was just a communications broker. We knew we needed to switch for a long time. We got to the point where we could no longer upgrade that platform or do anything else because of the heavy customization and programming that had been done to it.
How was the initial setup?
Because it was something brand new for us it was challenging, but I would expect that with most programs. Where we struggled the most was with some of the training that we got from the SEEBURGER team. Until we had a more sit-down discussion with them, we were a bit challenged, especially on the business side. That had more to do with the trainers than it did the actual platform itself.
We started the deployment in June of 2015 and finished up putting in the last document in October of 2015. Our deployment went really fast, surprisingly. We actually had projected it to be 18 months, and it took us significantly less, once we got rolling.
In terms of an implementation strategy, once we got through all that, it was getting in the servers. We had a lot of EIP stuff (Enterprise Information Protection) they had to work through. Then we started out by moving over specific documents, based on business processes and then communication protocols.
I can't remember on the IT side how much of our staff was involved in the implementation but we had the Business Operational Unit involved. The operational team had six full-time employees and two development groups. We also had two change-management people and two IT people who directed. They were the IT people we were worked with directly in bringing up the business part of the process. There were other IT focused on the hardware and internet connection changes. We also had one full-time, dedicated SEEBURGER consultant here with us on-site.
For maintenance on a day-to-day basis, the way our EDI operations are set up today, there are four full-time employees and one manager. They work on SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) and everything we have flowing through it, as well as all the partners. In addition, we have two development people but they don't use it on a daily basis.
What about the implementation team?
We did it directly with SEEBURGER.
What was our ROI?
With all the new processes and stuff that we've added, one of the big benefits we've seen is that we've never had to increase headcount. We've been able to accommodate everything. Because of SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) our development, and ourselves on the business side, have been able to stand up new documents, new processes, new flows, with a reduced headcount. It's enabled business to handle more of it, as opposed to being an IT function.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
There was a big list, including the IBM solution. There were six other platforms but it was three-and-a-half years ago.
Both our US and Canadian operations evaluated the same companies then, and SEEBURGER was chosen in Canada. When we did the evaluation again, here in the US, we ended up with pretty much the same results. The fact that Canada was using it helped make the decision to go with it.
What other advice do I have?
My advice would be to make sure you have a good, strong change-management group which can assist and help along the way. If you're not coming from something like we did, it can be a struggle getting people to adapt and change. It's not so much the system, it's the people that'll be utilizing it. It also helps if you have a strong SEEBURGER consultant there who makes sure that your IT people fully understand what's expected and where they're going with it.
We don't use the Landscape Manager at this time but it is something we're looking at.
In terms of the Active-Active feature, that's part of IT while I'm on the business side. I know it's being utilized. We have had very few issues with the load volume passing through it. It handles it well. Sometimes we see a few spikes, but they don't last and they don't cause any system issues.
When it comes to adding integrations, the way we're utilizing it, a lot of it seems to be pretty fluid. We haven't had a ton of issues. We use middleware. We don't allow direct-connect to any other platforms, at least on the US-side of our operations. We have various file formats that we have to convert the documents into, and putting them through message queues, or through the NAS Exchange, has been pretty easy. If we have issues, it seems to be on the other side of the ball, where they didn't set up their interaction or integration correctly.
We increase the usage every year. To give you an idea, 99 percent of all our purchase orders through our vendor partners run through the platform. The one percent are new partners who are still working at getting their EDI up. For the purpose of trading most documents with us, the bulk of it goes through this platform, whether it's invoicing, shipping notices, purchase orders, changes, etc.
We're looking at what they're offering for the 6.7 upgrade. We're definitely strongly interested in the new Message Tracking upgrade. Landscape Designer is being looked at for our infrastructure group, for being able to handle upgrades and service pack upgrades. And there is the potential move, eventually, to go to 6.7.
I would give the platform itself an eight out of ten. As I said, I have a problem with the error messages that are in the system.