Wayfair Tech Blog

The Journey to Wayfair’s New Cloud-Based EDI System

Not too long ago, Wayfair came to a crossroads with our aging 20-year-old, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) EDI platform, which was not only slow but could not handle the critical new data formats used by our businesses as well as our suppliers and partners.

We knew a replacement was needed, and to ensure our success, Wayfair turned to the team at Equal Experts. Equal Experts would design the new EDI system, work with our engineers to build and deploy it and then help our teams develop the skills and knowledge needed to run it in the long term.

Modernizing Supplier Relationships with EDI

For those not familiar with EDI platforms and why they are so important, the best way to explain it is by delving into how they help companies like Wayfair meet the needs of our customers, more specifically, how they ensure that our customer orders arrive on time.

To deliver each order on time, every time, everyone involved in the process must have access to the correct information. This is made possible through the EDI platform, which shares key data messages such as invoices, purchase orders, and carrier data.

At 15 years old, Wayfair’s EDI system had begun to show its age. Most noticeably, it struggled to support the multiple data formats used by our suppliers and could not be easily modified to do so. Such efforts had to be addressed manually by a team of three engineers, which was both costly and time-consuming. Over time, these demands became a daily occurrence, and that’s when we knew it was time for a change.

We called on Equal Experts to help build a new EDI platform capable of handling all inbound and outbound supplier domain EDI transactions. The new platform would be cloud-based, making it easier to maintain. It would also reduce costs while giving Wayfair the flexibility to build new features and functionality over time as our business needs evolve.

Eliminating Business Risk 

Naturally, retiring an existing off-the-shelf EDI product can be risky, and this was no exception. Over the 15 years, our operations engineers had become EDI process experts, and the company wanted to retain this knowledge when the old platform was retired.

That’s why we chose to invest in our team rather than recruiting new experienced software engineers. Specifically, Wayfair decided to cross-skill the existing operations team so that they could help to build, deploy and run the new EDI platform. This would reduce business risk and avoid the cost of recruiting and training new engineers.

Developers from the Equal Experts supported our in-house team on a 12-month learning journey based on pair programming.

  • The operations engineers started by shadowing Equal Experts developers while they designed and implemented code for the new platform.
  • Next, the developers would talk through the process in detail and explain why certain things were being done. This ensured effective cross-skilling.
  • The engineers worked as a pair, with the Wayfair developer doing the work, with support and direction from Equal Experts.

Building a Flexible Platform

Today Wayfair has a cloud-based microservices-based document translation system that provides higher reliability and faster, less error-prone document exchanges between the company and its partners.

The new platform also has reduced the time it takes to create new document translation definitions while slashing the time it takes to add new suppliers—what once took a few months can now be accomplished in less than one month. By onboarding suppliers faster, we can start selling new products more quickly, generating increased revenue.

EDI Today

This improvement can be attributed mainly to a few key factors. First, we no longer have to wait for commercial suppliers to update the platform. Next, we have successfully increased the development skills and the adoption of microservices within Wayfair.

A last factor is that we can now pass some EDI processes to specific business units—approximately 50% of messaging is now managed by carrier domain teams, who no longer need to wait for a centralized EDI function to find the capacity to complete new projects. This allows the central EDI team to add new functionality and suppliers more quickly, increasing revenues for the business.

It's certainly never easy to close the door on a major platform that has successfully served the business for an extended period and during periods of hypergrowth. But this was the right decision. Through our work with Equal Experts, the move to our new next-generation EDI system has been nearly flawless, and two of our operations engineers have moved into software engineer roles.

As for results, currently, 23,000 sellers use Wayfair’s EDI to exchange purchase orders, inventory, and invoices, and over 50% of all Wayfair order volume relies on EDI messages. Thanks to these factors and others, we estimate that the new system will deliver Wayfair a cost saving of around $400,000 per year in monolith running costs and license fees.