In an era of unprecedented technological advancements, there is wide acknowledgment that there are inefficiencies in the television buy/sell process. Why then hasn't technology - or common sense -- eliminated these inefficiencies?We had something of a start back in the 90s with a push by industry committees, vendors and business partners that resulted in standards being developed for electronic communication of contracts and invoices between trading partners. But we seem to have stalled since then.Receiving invoices electronically helped agencies facilitate the aggregation of invoices from the various media outlets running portions of an overall national campaign, thereby streamlining the reconciliation process of "bought" versus "aired" and enabling speedy invoice payment (promises, promises!).Receiving contracts electronically ensured that agencies had the same version of the negotiated deal, i.e. the reserved inventory, from the seller's system. How that inventory is subsequently utilized and verified is a different story.Electronic contracts and invoices, one-way communication back to the agency, eliminate significant manual processes. But they do not provide the complete electronic audit trail necessary to ensure that what was ordered was accurately communicated and actually aired in terms of the brand, unit length, date, time and copy. For this to happen the various systems in the process, i.e. agency systems, sales management systems and traffic systems, must have a standardized way of identifying an individual piece of business from its inception through its life.A unit, or a reserved slot of inventory, originates when a seller responds to a buyer RFP and the two trading partners settle on a deal. The unit is created in the seller's system and is communicated back to the agency. The unit subsequently goes through a number of changes - split into multiple units, combined with another unit, allocated to a specific brand, assigned a specific piece of copy, slotted to run in a specific break position on a particular day. All this happens through manual instructions between the various parties resulting in overhead all around with inefficiencies and inaccuracies.An improved process could look something like this:1. The agency sends the network an RFP2. The network builds a deal in their ad sales system and sends the contract EDI to the agency3. The EDI transaction carries unit serial numbers which become the serial numbers of record4. The agency stores the unit serial numbers in their system5. The agency does the allocation in their system, which happens across the width of the media platforms they are running the campaign on, but instead of sending allocation instructions, they send specific unit level allocations &#8211; across all media platforms using the network's serial numbers6. The network sends all unit level data to their traffic system for airing7. Units air at the network and the network sends invoices to the agency with units identified by their serial number8. All communication/reconciliation is done at the unit level.As media outlets proliferate across a growing number of platforms, electronic communication and verification will become even more critical. Cross media buys and cross media liability management add to the complexity and need.There is a lot of good work underway with the 4A's ebiz for media initiative that expands the communication between trading partners to a robust set of two-way transactions, and the 4A's and ANA's AD-ID asset coding system. However, unless agency systems, sales systems and traffic systems can have two-way communication at an inventory unit level, the electronic workflow will not be complete and inefficiencies will persist.Ashley Barretto is Senior Vice President, Client Services for INVISION Inc.Read all Ashley's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Invision - MediaBizBloggers.