Interview with CEO Ali Athar - Collaboration in a Digital World

EDI PLUS - Connecting your business

EDI Plus started as a company focussed on Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) but is now looking at new models for digital collaboration across the supply chain.

Ali explains the growing importance of that link. “In a world of ever-increasing competition, amplified by the increasing domination of ‘the Amazons’, almost every business is having to think digitally. This includes how they collaborate with their suppliers and customers. Modern digital and mobile technologies open up opportunities to increase collaboration to the benefit of all parties in the exchange”.

“We have an experienced team of experts in place and many long-term clients so we’re in a great position to push the message.” Ali continues, “The growth of digital and mobile fits perfectly with our enthusiasm for Collaboration.

“Quite simply, greater collaboration removes friction points to enable operations to run more smoothly and to trade more seamlessly…and the successful conversion to ‘digital’, requires Collaboration”.

EDI Plus has shown that by working with their clients and their trading partners, robust, timely and accurate information can be exchanged electronically, benefitting all the parties involved. “Our skills for customer and supplier engagement have developed into a very high level of expertise and achievement because we have successfully acted as the ‘middle-man’ between organisations, managing a technology they themselves are not necessarily knowledgeable about.”

It is this level of service that has enabled EDI Plus to stand out among its competitors. And because of the promotion of Collaboration as a concept, organisations have inevitably benefitted from the services that have been provided.

What about ‘Traditional EDI’, as Ali describes it?

“Although they haven’t been universally introduced, eProcurement and eInvoicing methodologies are now well-established and we have been in the forefront of this development using proven data interchange techniques.

“The problem though,” he explains, “is that EDI has often only been fully embraced by large organisations. This means that their smaller trading partners cannot benefit and the larger organisations must accept that multiple solutions are needed or they must force their trading partners to adopt their own methods. This is obviously contradictory to the principles of Collaboration.

 “Today,” says Ali, “thanks to modern technologies, electronic data exchange not only becomes available to all – from single-person organisations to multinationals – but it can improve so many more of an organisation’s processes and requirements than the traditional Purchase Order/Manufacturing Schedule/Invoicing routines. And this is where the link between ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Digital’ becomes a reality”.

So, in this context, what does Ali mean by Digital Collaboration?

“Digital involves the use of Hubs and Portals to supplement modern point-to-point techniques originally encompassed by EDI. This enables smaller organisations to collaborate digitally, and compared to traditional methods of data exchange, it can be achieved at much lower costs”.

“For example, on our ‘Invoice Hub’ you can collaborate digitally, exchanging trading document for as little as £5 per month.

He explains that, as well as improving existing exchanges, new methodologies provide an opportunity for many more types of transaction to be exchanged and, importantly, for improving the timing of those exchanges. “If you consider the important factors that any organisation is continually looking at, competitiveness is usually key. We already know that collaboration increases the general health and profitability of organisations because it removes ‘friction points’.

“As an example, real-time information detailing actual stock levels - perhaps coupled with collaborative inventory management - means less stock is held and capital can be released. Essentially, by removing friction points, and with the confidence that the information you need is accurate and timely, an organisation’s management can make better purchasing decisions”.

And, of course, stock management isn’t the only area where timely information makes a difference. “By exchanging information with your suppliers and customers on the key elements that are important to your organisation, businesses can ensure they’re not falling behind their competitors, and can usually be a few steps ahead,” says Ali. “Organisations are increasingly keen to expand the information they exchange with their trading partners to help them streamline their processes, remove costly, time-consuming administrative activities, and ensure relevant information is available whenever they need it.”

The ‘Key Elements’ he refers to may include product catalogues, advanced shipment information, real-time stock holdings, sales forecasts, invoices/payments, promotions. “But crucially” he says, “they’re completely variable and adaptable to the individual requirements of each organisation”.

And there is a wider appeal too. “While traditional EDI tended to be the preserve of larger companies who could make the significant investments required, EDI in the ‘digital collaboration’ sense is now available to all.”

So how is EDI Plus helping in the transition to ‘digital’ supply chains?

“We are able to provide these services to all commercial and public service organisations” says Ali, “from micro-companies using our Hubs, to SMEs using a combination of point-to-point exchanges and Web Portals, all the way up to multi-national organisations exchanging millions of transactions”.

Ali outlines the various options:

Point-to-Point exchange is well proven and, where successful, demands Collaboration.

Web Portal methods require Collaboration because our portals are branded.

Hub Services are an example of true Collaboration. The Hub accepts information from a variety of sources and sends information to appropriate recipients. Any one organisation can send and receive, with a collaborative relationship to all other organisations using the Hub.

Mobile delivery exchange of information moves beyond being the domain of systems to interacting with users.

“Each of these methods embodies Collaboration, allowing companies, public sector bodies, charitable organisations – anyone, really – to streamline their information flow while reducing the costs of managing that information and ensuring it is available whenever it’s needed.

“Many organisations are already trying to understand how they can move into this space,” he continues, “and those who have yet to seriously consider the implications of this expansion, really ought to do so to ensure they don’t miss out on the inevitable benefits that will result”.

Ali stresses that this is a trend that should be embraced rather than feared. “We not only provide the services to optimise commercial relationships, but also show how easily these services can be integrated into existing business practices. This enables organisations of all shapes and sizes, and regardless of the sector in which they operate, to obtain the benefits of collaboration with a minimum of investment.

“To be successful, organisations can benefit from the growing need to achieve seamless and real-time data exchanges across a whole spectrum of business processes allowing them to more easily make the decisions that are so important in giving them an edge.” 

 For more information or to discuss the ideas that are outlined here, visit, call us on 01752-237081 or email


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