List Vet Takes Another Crack at Electronic Data Interchange

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Much has changed in the past 10 years since some list industry professionals tried unsuccessfully to get an electronic data interchange effort off the ground in the early 1990s, and one list veteran thinks its time has finally come.


Electronic data interchange, or EDI, is a Web-based technology that would let list brokers, managers and service bureaus communicate and transfer orders, invoices and documents directly in and out of a reciprocating "trading partner" system.


The current effort is led by Richard A. Lepoutre, president of Statware Inc., Centerbrook, CT, along with several list firms and service bureaus. Lepoutre founded list brokerage and management company Statlistics and list software development firm Statware in 1983. In 2000, he sold his stake in Statlistics to focus on Statware, which offers two key products to the list industry. Powerlist is for order entry, invoicing, accounting and reporting while PowerCARD is a data card research tool.


"There were two separate EDI efforts back in the early '90s," he said. "One was through the Direct Marketing Association's List Leaders that I was a part of, and the other was a group of large list firms, but neither got off the ground. At that time we weren't even using e-mail, never mind a system like this. Today is a completely different time in terms of the climate of the industry and technology."


Statware revisited its EDI development efforts three years ago with a goal of creating a universal, best practices design. Lepoutre named the solution dmEDI.


In an effort to tailor dmEDI to the needs of the list industry at large, Statware put together a core development team of chief technology officers from list brokerage and management firms and service bureaus, including Statware customers and non-customers. Lepoutre declined to name specific firms but said that several prominent direct marketing firms are involved.


"The people who are committed on paper today represent a total of $300 million in annual list business transactions," he said.


The core development team helped Statware validate the assumptions and design of dmEDI. What has evolved is a universal Web-based EDI Center, or hub, that now allows any system, be it a Statware or a non-Statware legacy system, to communicate and transfer orders, invoices and all related documents directly in and out of a reciprocating trading partner system.


"DmEDI now provides for an end-to-end direct electronic communication of transactions from system to system between the broker, the manager and the service bureau and back," Lepoutre said. "The potential savings in administrative overhead is in the millions, and it now gives the senior management in list services companies the opportunity to repurpose that expense to higher profit or other uses."


Though users of dmEDI do not have to be previous Statware clients, there are technical requirements that Statware can help interested companies with.


DmEDI's development partners are testing the system, and Lepoutre said that barring any major problems in the testing phase, the commercial rollout will occur by Dec. 1.


Still, he admits that the system likely will evolve over time.


"Every technology is evolving," Lepoutre said. "What was important here was that our first shot was based on our own view, but also with an outside view as well, and we have achieved that."


Statware can provide technical specifications and requirements to become a dmEDI trading partner as well as technical specialists to assist users in hooking up their systems to the dmEDI Center.


More information can be found at www.dmEDI.com or www.dmEDI.statware.net. Lepoutre can be reached at rich@powerlist.com or info@dmEDI.com, at 860/767-9000, extension 111, or 860/857-9000.


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