Planning a Large Scale MFT Trading Community

Don Miller

Anyone planning a large scale MFT trading community needs to set some basic rules for participating in the community.  As a consultant, I was involved in just such an exercise with one of the European Union’s leading governmental agencies.  Based on my many years of experience administering that gateway installation, I can provide several suggestions that might help others to establish and operate a well-organized community.

The three most important rules for such a process are:  plan, plan and plan.  If you’re using the implementation services of a gateway provider, listen to them.  If you’re not, you should be.  There is normally no better source of information than the people who have worked with the products.  By describing what your transferred data consists of, the gateway provider can help design the best possible configuration for processing your data.

The next step in the process is to detail the requirements your trading partners should adhere to in order to process data smoothly.  This consists of detailed informational documents that describe all transport parameters, encryption standards, MDN requirements, security certificate standards and filename requirements.  This ensures that your partners will have all the information necessary for joining your community.  On-boarding your trading partners will be one of the most time-consuming tasks for the people in charge of your gateway.  Depending on the size of the community, this will take most of your staff’s time.  Ramping hundreds of trading partners that are located around the world can be frustrating due to differing time zones and the respective skill levels of your trading partners.

Once you’ve installed your gateway, integrated it with your back-end processing, and added some partners, it’s time to celebrate, right?  Not exactly, because now you have to plan for maintaining the trading community and ensuring it is operating at maximum efficiency.  On a daily basis, your support staff will be monitoring the process and dealing with inquiries from both internal and external users.  This is the point where proper planning comes in to play as your staff will be investigating any issues while using your gateway provider’s message tracking facility.  This plays an important part in the overall operation, as the ability to find and resolve issues in a timely matter is critical to the efficient operation of your system.

Following these steps during the planning stage will reap major benefits down the line.  For example, by requiring a file naming convention, you will reduce the amount of time required to find incoming and outgoing files.  By devising a process for proper collection and maintenance of contact information for each partner, you can avoid the situation of sending an email regarding a discovered issue, and getting the email bounced back to you because the receiver has left the company.  This, along with creating and maintaining a document detailing your connection parameters, and collecting this same information about your trading partner’s gateway, will save time and effort in the long run.

In short, spend some time during the planning stage because it will reduce your overall stress, time and costs in maintaining a smoothly functioning MFT system.  That is a situation I’m sure everyone wants to realize.

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