3 Cool Things About EDI (Yes, That EDI)

In honor of our generally-not-cool friend known as EDI, here are a few cool things you should know about this critical data communications standard.

Let’s face it: EDI isn’t going to pull up on its Harley all decked out in a black leather jacket and dark sunglasses anytime soon, but no one ever accused EDI of being cool. In the technology realm, EDI will never be confused with James Dean, but it’s not so uncool that it’s Steve Urkel. EDI quietly resides somewhere in between, where it’s reliable, dependable, and … essential. Perhaps it’s more of a Leslie Knope.

The great thing about the idea of coolness is that it’s a living aesthetic that’s constantly evolving and that means different things to different people.

Modern technology also is constantly evolving, and solutions that support the oft-jeered data standard known as EDI are evolving as well. The types of business processing and automation these systems can bring to a company are a far cry from what we have known traditional EDI systems to be.

Additionally, those working on the front-lines of EDI might have a love-hate relationship with EDI because they’re deep into it all day long. But a level up from those people is the line of business manager, who can clearly see how critical EDI teams are and how much value smooth information processing brings to the business.

So, in honor of our generally-not-cool – but definitely-not-lame – friend known as EDI, here are few cool things you should know about this increasingly critical data communications standard.

Cool Thing #1: How It Was Invented

The person largely credited with inventing EDI is Edward Guilbert, who developed a standardized manifest system when he was a U.S. Army master sergeant in order to track air cargo shipments in Germany in the late 1940s. Up until then, the shipping manifests for these critical supply drops were in different forms and even different languages, and accurately recording food and supply flows was virtually impossible. With this more structured system, Guilbert and company were better able to track thousands of tons of cargo into Berlin.

Guilbert never forgot how valuable transmittable standardization was from his Army days, and he expanded upon that idea in the 1960s to develop an electronic message format for sending cargo information in the civilian world. These electronic manifests quickly caught on across industries, and in 1975, the first EDI specifications were published.

Pretty cool, huh?

Cool Thing #2: EDI is Everywhere Today

Whether you purchase a jug of orange juice at the grocery store, order new shoes from Amazon, buy medicine at the drugstore, or sip that nice wine at your favorite restaurant, EDI plays a critical role in ensuring a dependable, repeatable experience.

Sure, it’d be possible for these things to happen in a non-standard way. Each manufacturer, retailer, or other business could manually fax paper orders and invoices, or email shipping data and confirmation docs. It would just cost a lot of time, money, and simplicity to do so. EDI enables the standardization and automation required to expeditiously execute – and track – these processes.

Some of the biggest companies in the world – Walmart, Target, and Home Depot, to name a few – mandate sending EDI via AS2 and prioritize securely connecting with suppliers, vendors, and trading partners to keep doing billions of dollars in business every day.

While the process itself isn’t all that exciting, it’s cool to know that EDI drives much of the global economy and has a hand in much of the commerce we transact daily.

Cool Thing #3: EDI Solutions Are Extendable

The way companies are connecting systems and applications, exchanging data, and designing business processes has changed, especially in the era of the cloud. Organizations today leverage a variety of on-premise technology, cloud services and SaaS applications, and even Integration-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) solutions, often in some combination.

Companies require modernization to enable communication among all these technologies. The cool thing about modern EDI solutions is that they bridge the gap from traditional, more rigid EDI models with any-to-any connectivity, end-to-end integration, near real-time response, support for non-standard document syntaxes, on-demand visibility, and other value-adding capabilities.

These systems not only easily process X12, EDIFACT, and Tradacoms standards, but rapidly integrate other systems and workflows to streamline business operations. When you connect your e-commerce systems like Shopify, your NetSuite ERP, a CRM like Salesforce, and a cloud storage solution like Amazon S3 with your EDI solution, you’ll fully automate the procurement, invoicing, and other supply chain processes that drive your business.

The business forecast for the foreseeable future is 100 percent chance of cloud, and the coolest companies will be able to integrate and extend their EDI capabilities to transact across technologies.

Get Cooler

Regardless of the coolness factor, the benefits of EDI are pretty convincing. Companies that invest in modern EDI capabilities are more agile, more scalable, more efficient, and easier to do business with. The integrated set of EDI capabilities also can be delivered in different ways to span complex multi-cloud and multi-vendor environments to provide transparency into internal and external business processes.

While EDI doesn’t have the reputation of being a hip technology, organizations may have a change of heart when they discover all the cool things modern EDI solutions can do for a business.

Modernize Your EDI

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