MegaXML Looks to Drive Expense Out of EDI
May 26, 2009 Alex Woodie
For many companies, managing an EDI environment can be a major hassle. Sure, it provides the conduit through which orders come and go. But because EDI is a requirement in many industries, it doesn’t bring the user any new business advantage–it just gets them back to par. The developer of the MegaXML EDI package, a company called Task Performance Group, is positioning its EDI hosting business as a cost- and headache-reducer for AS/400 shops that don’t want to manage EDI any more.
Task Performance Group launched MegaXML a decade ago to take advantage of the flexibility of XML. On the front end, the Windows-based product can generate and send EDI documents, such as purchase orders and invoices, over VANs or the Internet using protocols like AS2. And on the backend, MegaXML can translate EDI documents to the format needed for specific platforms, such as flat files for AS/400-based ERP systems on DB2.
XML complements EDI very well because it provides extensibility and malleability to a process that is otherwise very rigid, says Jim Hill, a salesman with Task Performance Group, which is based in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. “We’ve taken this rigid pipeline and made it flexible tubing to deliver the data in whatever format the backend requires,” he says.
The flexibility enables MegaXML to handle those problems and errors that inevitably crop up in every EDI installation, Hill says. One of the most common problems is receiving an EDI document that contains bad data. Without manual intervention, that bad data could make it into a customer’s ERP system. But MegaXML’s error detection and alerting capabilities ensure that bad data won’t creep into an ERP system, even without a huge IT staff to babysit the EDI system.
“For some companies, EDI just hums,” Hill says. “But for a lot of big companies that are AS/400 shops, they don’t have a real IT department. So these processes that are bogging things down cause a lot of problems. That’s really a nice niche for us. We work with a lot of SMBs that don’t have the IT support to be able to handle EDI.”
In many cases, the human intervening into EDI problems is not an employee of the company using MegaXML, but somebody working for Task Performance Group itself. That’s because many customers are increasingly turning to the company to host the EDI translation software and deal with those inevitable problems.
“EDI is just an expense,” Hill says. “A company can hire a bookkeeper or an accountant. But many of them have found it more effective to outsource that to EDS or Paychex. Ninety percent of our clients choose outsourcing. They find that it’s just more economical–by a lot. They can access the information from anywhere.”
With the outsourcing option, MegaXML will reside on a Windows server in Task Performance Group’s data center near Chicago. After mapping the EDI documents to the customer’s systems (a process that takes a few days), the customer will upload and download documents to the MegaXML data center using Secure FTP (S/FTP). MegaXML, in turn, will handle the translation to EDI formats and the distribution via AS2 or another method.
And if there is a problem with the EDI processing, Task Performance Group will do its best to handle it without contacting the customer. That’s a huge benefit for companies whose sole IT person is currently chained to the desk, babysitting the EDI.
“If their EDI person can not take the day off, if they have to be there everyday at 4 o’clock to take care of their EDI,” that’s not working, Hill says. “We come in with our solution in-house, and it works like a dream. He doesn’t have to be there. He can go on vacation. If he wants to check it from his home, he can do that. It’s livable. To me that’s a pretty dramatic example.”
Very few MegaXML customers license the software using traditional terms anymore, according to Hill. Instead, nearly all of them prefer the flexibility of Task Performance Group’s month-to-month subscription plans. Plans are priced on many factors, including transaction volume and the number of trading partners. A typical plan would cost about $1,200 per month, Hill says.
For more information on Task Performance Group and MegaXML, contact the company at www.megaxml.com.