I rolled into New Orleans last weekend ready for some jazz and gumbo down at a favorite restaurant, The Court of 2 Sisters. It's one of the more expensive indulgences I allow myself on my too infrequent visits to N'awlins. Besides, I was about to meet with one particularly difficult client and wanted to have a pleasant meal first. I heard from the next table that Katrina was coming and expected to see some new singer stroll out for her matinee performance.
Guess I was wrong. I figured it was a good excuse to finish my brunch and get back on the road before the real Katrina showed up. I got into my rental car and headed for Atlanta, for my next set of meetings, though from the looks of the weather reports I may still get wet.
I listened to the analysis of what the expected 20 foot storm surge would do to the New Orleans' levies. I wondered just how much testing the engineers had done to make sure they would hold back the 12 foot surges they were built for. Then it occurred to me how futile all that testing and planning would likely prove to be over the next few days.
Speaking of testing... I recently heard from a few of you about your own testing nightmares. It seems that some service providers continue to see the testing process as a profit center. What is worse, the testing may turn out to be as useless as the testing done on New Orleans' levies because the data that is used for the test isn't the same as what eventually turns up in the real transactions.
One frustrated EDI admin complained that the data used for his testing runs was useless. In his case, it seems that not only is SPSCommerce continuing to use the same tactics of getting the customer to mandates the testing fee, but the testing methodology is flawed. To quote this user, " You know, the one thing I don't quite agree with as far as testing with SPS, or any of the other VANS... We begin the testing, they send us generic data that cannot be loaded into our mainframe system without having to manipulate the data (and then it no longer becomes a pure test). We manufacture footwear, and the sample data we were sent were for black thongs (believe me, not the flip flops). So I had to modify the source data to get it to work. "
Even though in my last conversation with SPSCommerce, the company denied that they were driving the hub to charge testing fees (at that time, it was Northern Tool), this seems much too similar to be happening by chance. In this instance the charge was $300 per transaction type (ie; Ship-To DC, Ship-To DC / Mark For, and Drop Ship to Consumer) that had to be paid before even starting the tests. And once you add another partner you have to go through the same (generic) testing all over again. If the data were in fact specific to each trading partner relationship, this might make some sense, but the fact that the data is the same, makes the testing senseless.
Cabela's is hooked up with SPSCommerce and according to SPSCommerce, is offering its lucky trading partners a 'discounted' price of $900 to test all three transaction types. SPSCommerce's standard fee is $500 per transaction type, but that sounds like the list price they never actually charge. Cabela's may be a giant, but their competitors like Bass Pro Shops, Big 5, Olympia Sports, and Sports Authority make it easy for their trading partners to go online with them. How is Cabella's making e-Commerce easier and helping its trading partners to join in?
Most of the folks I spoke to agree that the testing process not only slows down the process, but paying for the privelege rubs salt in the wound while slowing down the process for no good reason.
A Common Sense Suggestion
Bob Ball, an EDI Administrator sent in what seems to be an opportunity for a solution to the testing issue. Bob suggests, "We ultimately become certified for the 850, in whatever version. And then the following week we have another trading partner to test with, and we have to go through exactly the same process. Why can't there be something that says we are certified for the 850 version 4010, 4030 etc.... and be done with it? If we're compliant today, we'll most likely be compliant tomorrow."
What a concept! Of course there is one other idea that's already in practice with some providers... don't charge for the testing. Now THAT's a simple solution! This practice looks like a simple money grab by SPSCommerce and
My heart goes out to everyone affected by Katrina. I'm hoping that old favorite places like the Court of 2 Sisters along with all the residents along the coast make it through the storm. It just goes to show that there are more important things than manipulating folks into paying unnecessary fees.
Until next time... Cheers!