State of Networked Messaging 2016

State of Networked Messaging 2016 

bizQuirk (Wilensky et al)


Transactional Messaging, particularly in the B2B / Supply Chain domain, has been undergoing a series of protracted upheavals for the last decade, some would say longer. VANs, once the stalwarts of messaging sector, find themselves at the end of a long wind down, despite a hectic period of consolidation at the hands of professional PE.

The service once known as EDI messaging (at one time owned by VANs – period full stop), until recently, purchased as ala carte services, is being increasingly mutated into embedded functions within Enterprise Software and B2B platform services (SAAS).

And so on; change being the reliable constant in all things relating to vendor community management in the retail and manufacturing supply networks.

This article is condensed from the larger body of supply chain systems analysis compiled by the authors over the course of 2015, with an eye to calling the dance for 2016 – so far, the data has tracked accurately. Continue reading


Thought Leaders of 2016’s EDI Subsector

Identifying Prototypical Thought Leaders of 2016’s EDI Subsector
Saving what remains of the Supply Chain and Manufacturing centric transactional messaging market.

Executive Summary

The remaining EDI networks (VANs) post consolidation will require an invigorating outside presence or the guiding hands of smart and savvy veterans to turn around the present sorry state of affairs the industry finds itself in. Examined in this monograph: Who will step forward to right the ship, set a good example, and be Stewards to the EDI Networked Messaging Subsector??

Identifying those “Most Likely to Have a Positive Impact (i.e. Heros) is not challenging, because the opposite stands in stark evidentiary contrast by the PE stoked leviathans still haunting the sector, despite the inherent rot festering within their C-Suites and emanating outwards to their client / victims.

Eliminate the Negative

Postmortem rehashing of the VAN consolidation era – is too depressing to enrobe in ASCII characters, therefore we start with a positive note.

VANs consolidation stoked by PE has have perfected nothing but a talent for disappointing clients. If the 2015 Q3 IT support surveys are credible, Liaison and OpenText have taken X number of EDI networks of varying quality, and transformed them into two logical networks of the poorest quality.

As these megaliths have no founders skin left in the game, no original team equity, and having terminated, bought out, or fired the most experienced (and therefore costly) Software Engineering talent – where does the market now turn in this new year of 2016 for real, functional, EDI Communications services?

Accentuate the Positive

The EDI communications sector has its stalwart Founder / Engineers that have stayed in the sector. The this post was originally going to call these folks, “heros”, but I think I might call them them, “righteous gluttons for punishment”, as the term ‘martyr’ has been corrupted of late, but I digress.

These folks have chosen to fight rather than run, have elected to evolve their product roadmaps and innovate, despite a dark miasma that persists in hanging above the EDI sector like a pall.

We can readily identify these True Stewards.

They all have been very visible in the EDI forums, on linkedin, on EDI-L, everywhere being as outspoken as possible. Many write informative, almost scholarly (but always practical) articles and posts on topics that are timely, sometimes controversial, and occasionally arrow-like in their topicality.

Sometimes I wish they would state what is on my mind, and then I remember that they have a business to run, employees to pay, and that such hit and run commentary is better left to the analysts – that’s what we do,

How do we recognize them by their attributes? Well, at least informally, they write no filler – period full stop. They are deadly serious, but paradoxically sometimes hilarious in the midst of their pontifications – especially when debating a fellow EDI thought leader on the technical merits of somesuch standard or software engineering technique – protocols are always good fodder for debate, and then we can spot two of these giants at work.

But here is a better list that characterizes the personalities and their organizations generally, for their hard won positive attributes:

  1. They are Founder / Owners of closely-held corporations.
  2. The Founder(s) is often an Engineer or a scientist that has driven the original and often the continuing product or service vision of the Corp.
  3. They are a population of exemplary bootstrappers; known for shunning outside capital; if persuaded to dilute holdings, they do so cautiously. This has been the case when time-to-scale is at stake.
  4. Most of these EDI Leaders are at least a decade plus into their maturity cycle of providing services, delivering products, and generating solid net revenues.
  5. Most of them have been reliably making payroll for many years. They are responsible people.
  6. They have built handpicked teams, not general hires. One can plainly see a mentor / coach model. Their staff tenures exceed 65-75% of the company’s age.

Personal and business reputation, creditworthiness, and credibility is a watchword and life principle for these thought-leaders, they will not sacrifice their moral standing for temporal gains.

They are inherent, inveterate innovators. They own the knowledge space wherein they practice and do business – they are not threatened by colleagues who are worthy and just as opinionated. Without exception, all are the final authorities for advice in the highly technical arenas and scientific specialties where they practice.

I am never surprised when one of these, often a new client, shows me that they are also just as competent and expert in a completely unrelated field of scientific or technical endeavor, or in a difficult to master art.

Do you knows these leaders of the EDI sector? Can you name two or three? As a Tribute, I will name a few in the next post, and write a bit in what they have contributed to the art of transactional messaging or data layer services, etc.

Interpreting OpenText’s Planned Acquisition of GXS

What does the OpenText acquisition of GXS mean for the industry?

The following are my personal observations regarding the GXS acquisition by OpenText. First, these have been calls, too many to return today, many from colleagues in product advocacy. I will return as many calls as possible.

I have always thought that OpenText has been on the right track  since their acquisition of Hummingbird. In the late 1990’s EDM market, Opentext was somewhat the laggard, compared to Hummingbird and certain other document management and knowledge discovery products. Such was that heady era, with tremendous energy misspent on XML databases and such.  OpenText navigated the morass admirably, and kept an eye on capital mobilization, thereby becoming the unquestioned leader in Enterprise Data management and knowledge discovery.

A good example, one of many acquisitions by OpenText was Nstein software, a stroke of genius which brought Opentext into the forefront of text mining, knowledge analysis, and conceptual text element and entity scoring. Bravo. I had delivered a white paper to France Telecom in 2007 on the text mining sector, and Nstein was one of the recommended vendors that had visited France Telecom’s R&D Lab to present their Text Analysis Toolkit SDK. OpenText, unlike France Telecom, had the expertise and cohesive vision to subsume text analysis into their market facing line.  Very few analysts watching the EIM sector comprehend that executing this strategy takes an amazing constancy of vision. 

With the buyout of EasyLink, OpenText purchased a dual technology property with a workmanlike infrastructure. EasyLink had the virtue of being an ex-AT&T property that enjoyed having adequate resources to operate and compete effectively. With the EasyLink’s capture of ICC, the company was able to absorb a highly contemporary and functional EDI communications architecture. EasyLink, as one of the last ‘branded’ legacy VANs, is considered an operation that basically works. The company also has electronic fax and unified voice services, which is very popular with SME’s through the large enterprise.

Analysts with sharp recall see that OpenText’s acquisition of Rightfax, again, shows a portfolio strategy that just makes sense.

One of my sources disclosed that OpenText was researching the possibility of “componentized EDI Communications”,  or EDI Comms as encapsulated services, reduced to a standardized, end-to-end protocol, like email, which is quite different from how today’s VANs handle EDI messaging.  We shall see. I can say that my contacts in EDI network operations have stated that Easylink operations and internetwork relations have not been degraded since the OpenText acquisition.

If we look well past the structural finance issues dogging GXS , which OpenText is perfectly able to address, the most vexing issue remains GXS induced interference in the transit of EDI messages between the Marquee Hubs residing on GXS VANs,  and their trading partners, who are often SPS Commerce subscribers. In other networked markets, these anticompetitive acts would result in a tariff violation, a common carrier enforcement penalty, and be regarded by most as an egregious breach of trust.

The question thereby becomes, will OpenText allow such unfettered abuses to continue? I am 100% sure that Opentext CEO, Mark J. Barrenechea, would more likely take a pro market position, and establish the new GXS as a good network citizen within the global mesh of interconnected commerce networks.

Enough said about GXS Anonymous Coward Shills

Everybody get it by now why they do what they do?
2.3 70 reviews

Employees are “Dissatisfied”   70 ratings

Career Opportunities     Comp & Benefits     Culture & Values     Work/Life Balance     Senior Management

32% Approve of the CEO

GXS President and CEO Bob Segert

Bob Segert

(37 ratings)

Who defends GXS actions under alias?

Im sure that most freelance EDI Guys and Product or Sector Advocate / Analysts are busy guys and gals, getting work done or finding new work, even when you are presently engaged, ’cause that’s how us self-employed guys do it….and our customers know that we are always prospecting. My last (+1/2 time to way past full-time) engagement has run longer than any previous client workload, and for that, I am very thankful.

But I keep feelers out, and make a few calls, and some people call me, actually…it’s true! And someone took an alias, and kinda made my day, because if you read the coward’s verbiage, you can tell who he works for. It’s that transparent.   And, Comments are always open on this blog. 

This guy or GXS gal, is very, very unhappy that I’m going to market with four years of GXS opposition, competitive, and client-polling  research and interviews because I never would have compiled this data if not for GXS’ Interconnection abuse campaign waged under the pen of Steve Scala, and also likely by one or two more vindictive GXS evil mini exec’s –

because after a half-year of  playing ECGridOS API Evangelist (last half of 2009 and the first half of 2010) – things were going pretty-pretty-pretty well (Thanks to Larry David) . Continue reading

The Socialization of the Supplier Integration Sector

In my daily work as an Industry Analyst and Solutions Advocate, I am finding that the terms, “social supply chain”, and “supplier collaboration” are showing up with increasing frequency. However,  the inclusion of  opportunistic communications supplementing a supply chain infrastructure (these include EDI-based systems such as ordering automation, e-Invoicing, and generic supplier enabling); needs to be well understood and carefully implemented. I am  emphatically a proponent of fresh ideas, and  firmly in favor of  enhancing supplier autonomy.  However,  many B2B platforms, even those developed by experienced companies, fall victim to featuritis – the addition of functions without a concomitant understanding of what or who they serve.  If the industry as a whole simply must conceptualize the benefits of social media on supply chain IT, let’s at least think it through, together. Here are some elementary concepts in brief:

Today, we practice top down supplier management – something that  looks and feels inflexible to most suppliers –


“thou shalt use this Implementation Guide”, thou shalt use X12 850 or EDIFACT ###,  with these modifications”. – – -well…that seems at odds with any vendor’s ideal model. The VANs, as a group, have offered communications and connection to ERP and order + shipping. That’s nice. Continue reading

EDI Communications – a Sector Stifled by an Arrested Architecture and …..

Will Open Routing save the EDI communications Sector?

Offered here is a brief observation of Connected Markets:

1) What’s good for the network is good for the subscribers,

2)  What’s good for subscribers, is good for the networked market.

The reciprocal traffic exchange agreements used by Value Added Network providers  (EDI communications for retail and manufacturing supply chains) are a good example of agreements  designed for the  good of the subscribers.  Being able to transact with any trading partner on any VAN makes perfect sense. The EDI Comms Market, as presently operated by most VANs and service providers will  not be a good place to innovate and capitalize  if  traffic reciprocity  is reduced to mere leverage to kill  off one’s competitors. 

The silent ascent to GXS traffic routing abuses is quite  troubling, to say the least, as a failure to act on behalf of the market’s best interests. The Parent Companies who recently acquired  a few well-used VANs: Opentext, IBM, and Liaison – To my Colleagues….I ask why?

by Alan D. Wilensky

Rising above the noise can be a challenge. The coverage of the B2B IT market can only be termed followers ink, with the GXS Inovis Merger a particularly toothsome example that deeply scarred my bright-eyed innocence. Witnessing the misplaced,  corrupt hosannas flowing from the analyst’s pens, was doubly disturbing, due to the complete absence of any countervailing  opinion recommending against the acquisition.

Fortunately, true quality cannot be hidden, nor can it hide. Innovation that begets the rare, defining methodology, or a new architecture, is unmistakably genuine and  instantly recognizable. Professionals with highly tuned discernment routinely detect the false notes of those crowing about innovation, which invariably is traced to a corporate leadership wafting their lack of credibility behind them.

Private or Sovereign Equity constructs an ersatz business entity that self declares its leadership, and purchases such a large subscriber pool, so that the Golem is briefly insulated  from the consequences of  misguided, anti-networked market policies. Inevitably, the truth leaks out. PE can’t acquire a founder’s heart, dominance of will, or the loyalty of a leader’s key line-management. Massive funding in order to  exploit the sharpest blade in the network effect toolkit… a strategy missed by our erstwhile regulators for a year, two, or even three, but even AT&T faced a massive divestiture and consent decree. But for those in the vanguard, time is in short supply, and such vanguard thinkers are by their nature, impatient.

There is an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction in the EDI Comms market; I believe that new opportunities will be actualized when a forum for innovation (fixing B2B message routing and traffic reciprocity) is created. Such is lacking in the present B2B market. To compete in the open, by one’s wits, showcasing an unmistakable sense of  quality and fitness, this is the arena sought by revolutionary thinkers in the B2B sector. That  is what I fight for in each and every engagement.

This sector is somewhat moribund; and if not entirely devoid of ideas, it exists as if arrested in the course a puberty of sorts, an adolescence that has endured far too long.  With the heydays of the VAN era  well past the sell by date of its peak, circa 1990-2005.

We are left with a comms market reliant on IP transport, which is fine.  The present application layer addressing scheme using an embedded envelope segment network addresses,  has potential advantages,  but these efficiencies remain theoretical due to inefficiencies in the present InterVAN routing regime.  A stillborn, application layer messaging market is the result of this stasis.

Moaning  about the  sector’s malaise and inefficiencies does absolutely nothing. Here are the hot button issues from my non-attributed survey research:

  • Industry-wide adoption of Machine Accessible Directory Services (enable ID portability and efficient migrations).
  • Standards-based  InterVAN attachment –   adhering to the standard allows placement of data on the inter-network paths.
  • Elimination of 1:1 interconnects in favor of  hierarchical routing.
  • Permissive attachment. Acts as a hedge against  exploitation of routing borders, or worse.  Routing exploitation is damaging to the entire industry.  The health of the market suffers when inter-network message handling is perverted.
  • The Reorganization of a EDI Communications Industry Association, CTO board seats. No agendas allowed other than the perfection of layer seven addressing and routing.
  • Give thought leaders and architects their just due, let the self nominated leaders show some stewardship by facilitation and sponsorship.

To be large, to have thousands of employees, to have the immense backing of PE – these attributes are all one-dimensional. They symbolize nothing that is intellectually substantial or emblematic of  a Company’s thought leadership.

However, size  and other headline-readable attributes , are not in any sense distinctive  to subscribers, to customers.

Professional B2B ventures adopting a platform after a stringent vetting are the true coin of the  realm. New B2B ventures bring a discerning yardstick to the sector, conducting nuanced platform research to attain  specific goals. Entrepreneurs, even in B2B IT,  balance innovation against risk.

If a platform delivers truly, the entrepreneurs  will adopt with calculated precision. In healthy connected markets, tools and entrepreneurial dynamism create all kinds of  synergy; the relationships created among platform builders and the application pioneers will create some of the most enduring partnerships to emerge from the B2B sector wars.

Is change possible in the VAN market, or are the recent consolidations and sell-outs simply the preface to the ultimate VAN exodus, and a step toward alternative systems and technologies?

Your collegial comments are welcome.