There’s a growing misunderstanding in the marketplace of what it means to do electronic data interchange (EDI) in today’s digital business economies. EDI is more than just a data format. It’s a set of B2B processes that support high-value business outcomes. Yet, too many technology companies perpetuate too many EDI myths because they still view it as a standalone workflow that’s easy to solve, or worse, as an unnecessary step when APIs are available.
Reducing EDI to a line item on an RFP, for instance, or as a legacy technology no one wants to support does a disservice to the power of EDI but also to global organizations that require real partner onboarding, partner management, and visibility for their B2B transactions.
As the worldwide leader in superior EDI technology solutions, Cleo has heard its fair share of misinformation from all manner of technology “experts.” Here are three EDI myths that we felt the need to clear up sooner than later.
Myth 1: EDI is easy, simple, and self-serviceable
For what EDI does – standardize, automate, and simplify critical data exchange process – you’d think it would be easier. But that’s not what the marketplace is saying or what EDI experts are seeing. EDI is the workhorse of the supply chain, and it’s a process that requires specialized expertise and integration with other business processes.
EDI no longer exists in an isolated world. Traditionally, EDI has been a way for data to be exchanged between suppliers and customers, into and out of the respective ERP systems. More and more, however, we’re seeing the need to mix other applications into that flow for a fully integrated and automated business process. Paired with CRM solutions like SFDC or Microsoft Dynamics, and then coupled with cloud-based e-commerce platforms like Shopify or Magento, EDI requires more integrations that involve a variety of systems.
Myth 2: EDI is pure transformation
Data transformation is an integral part of the EDI process. After all, the seamless flow of data between enterprises requires each business system to properly read and ingest the information. But claiming that EDI is an individual transformation reduces it to something like this:
“I have a translator. I have a map. I know when I put the letter A in, the number 1 comes out and my system can accept it. That’s EDI.”
That’s a simple mapping exercise and a fraction of the overall B2B integration process. EDI transformation requires organizations to keep track of internal data definitions, mapping, and partner configurations to properly execute transactions, and then reconcile and associate dependencies to keep data aligned and moving. And when such data gets moved outside your four walls, it must be fully governed to ensure its integrity, usability, and security.
Myth 3: EDI is commodifiable
Less-than-reputable EDI vendors often try to sell customers on the idea that its capabilities are ubiquitous, that they can be easily picked up at some corner store or that a company can just go to the EDI well and pump further function as needed.
Treating EDI as a widely available and interchangeable commodity, however, negatively affects its importance and reduces it to something less than it is. EDI workflows are difficult and complex, and many so-called experts don’t understand the full scope of what EDI means to a business.
This haphazard consideration means your organization will spend a ton of money down the road trying to gain further EDI functionality (functionality you thought you had in the first place) and will wind up with a cadre of additional bolted-on solutions that require added maintenance and management.
Domain Expertise vs. Supply Chain Expertise
For being one of the most standardized forms of digital communications, EDI terminology has a lot of gray areas, which opens the door to misunderstanding via loose definitions and, thus, a variety of EDI myths or falsities. One reason this happens is because of the difference in types of expertise.
Your company’s ERP, for example, often will feature some sort of EDI module as part of the ERP offering to offer a more “robust” solution. But these modules are delivering EDI functions specific to the system, which could be logistics management, transportation management, retail, etc., and not necessarily the EDI functionality required to facilitate full B2B integration.
It’s the battle between domain expertise and complete supply chain expertise. Subject matter experts in a particular field will often sell you on benefits that extend only to their own product or knowledge base. But modern EDI requires advanced proficiency and understanding of the data lifecycle throughout the entire supply chain, not just best-practices specific to one part of that journey.
EDI: A Key B2B Process
EDI affects value and alignment to business outcomes, and the supposed EDI experts telling customers and prospects that it’s anything less is poor customer service. What companies really mean when they talk about EDI – and the need to do EDI – is the overall set of EDI processes and their roles in reliable B2B integration.
When you start considering EDI – and more importantly, EDI-driven B2B processes – as a piece of a broader B2B integration strategy, things get complicated and domain experts often can’t deliver. It’s part of the reason so many businesses had such little faith in EDI: They always thought the EDI they were getting delivered the entire B2B process. Instead, it was a half-hearted solution that prevented enterprises from realizing true business value.
If you’re searching for leading EDI solutions, but the supposed “expert” you’re working with is trying to sell you one of these EDI myths above, run for the hills.
Technology experts who specialize in the gamut of EDI, B2B, and application integration solutions deliver a superior approach to EDI that operationalizes the entire supply chain. Such solutions cover the entire lifecycle of your value chain using leading EDI software that integrates with your ERP, rather than relying on an ERP that just happens to have one or two basic EDI components.