A Modern Approach to EDI for the Modern Business

Every so often, the debate whether EDI (electronic data interchange) is finally running its course as the pre-eminent data transfer method pops up among the IT management crowd. And like clockwork, the overstated “EDI is dead” proclamation rears its ugly head.

EDI is kind of like the guy slunked over a shoulder in the “bring out your dead” scene from the 1975 classic comedy “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” No matter how many times he proves that he’s alive and well, he’s still told that he belongs on the cart with the rest of the deceased.

But unlike the poor bloke from the movie, EDI has prevailed – proving that it’s still the default communications standard across many industries despite the efforts of common misconception over the years. And until leading industries like big-box retail, automotive, and manufacturing – just to name a few – stop using EDI, the technology isn’t going anywhere (which is pretty cool).

EDI processes are the lifeblood of logistics, transportation, and manufacturing. They keep non-stop supply chains cranking for hundreds of thousands of U.S. companies that leverage EDI for workflow automation. If anything, traditional EDI has only improved as it’s adapted and modernized with advancing technology, even in the face of APIs.

  • Traditional EDI is the exchange of standard electronic document types, with syntax and semantics defined by standards organizations, mainly X12 and EDIFACT. It is characterized by the batched interchange of standard electronic documents and flat files between trading partners, often through a value-added network (VAN).
  • Modern EDI refers to the process of extending B2B integration and automation capabilities beyond traditional EDI, in support of modern business requirements. Modern EDI solutions enable companies to not only easily process X12, EDIFACT, Tradacoms, and AS2 standards, but rapidly scale B2B integration processes to meet developing use case requirements.

For many years, traditional EDI, albeit essential, was an expensive and restricted way of doing business due to its inflexible communication structure. But as the technology improved and data standardization became the norm, EDI built its reputation as being cost-effective and steadfast, satisfying B2B integration needs. And the modernization of EDI processes bridges the gap from the traditional EDI model with any-to-any connectivity, end-to-end integration, near real-time response, support for multiple, non-standard document syntaxes, on-demand visibility, and other value-adding capabilities.

Don’t think of modernized EDI as some brand-new technology or product. Think of it as more of an integrated set of capabilities that can be delivered in different ways. That’s especially relevant nowadays as leading companies leverage technology processes of at least one, if not all, of the following: on-premise software, cloud services and SaaS applications, Integration-as-a-Service (IaaS), Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS).

A modern EDI solution also offers:

  • Any-to-any data transformation for easy partner connectivity and faster time to value
  • Built-in support for XML, database, spreadsheets, web services, change data capture, and other mediations
  • Seamless integration between among MFT, ERP, CRM, and other critical systems
  • Improved visibility of internal and external business processes
  • Reduced time and costs for application replacements and upgrades

Companies heavily reliant on EDI can now leverage innovative solutions to simplify and automate data exchange processes to connect, validate, transform, and route EDI and other data between any internal and business partner application without custom coding.

EDI might be misguidedly considered an out-of-date technology to some, but it’s far from dead, and EDI is only getting better – and more critical – through modernization.

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