Are You Doing the Right Kind of EDI?

Matt Torman
To support high-value business outcomes, EDI must be a part of a broader B2B integration strategy.

In the modern digital business ecosystem, EDI has grown beyond the simple exchange of standard electronic documents. The inherent complexity of billion-dollar companies doing business with thousands of vendors, suppliers, customers, and other trading partners around the world means the ability to govern and manage these data flows is needed now more than ever.

That’s why “doing EDI” is more than just mapping and translation. It’s more than just secure file transfer. When customers talk about EDI, they aren’t talking about the format or its standards. They’re talking about a broader set of B2B processes that support high-value business outcomes.

That’s why true EDI must be articulated as a set of governance, management, visibility, and onboarding processes. What we’re really talking about, then, is the idea that EDI is a part of a broader B2B integration strategy.

What is B2B Integration?

B2B integration is when organizations connect systems and applications to automate and optimize important business processes that extend beyond the four walls of a company. While B2B integration includes some aspects of EDI, it’s more than the EDI processes themselves. It’s the accumulation of EDI workflows and the onboarding, orchestration, trading partner management, visibility, and other capabilities that support them.

It’s essential to understand, then, that EDI is more than just:

  • A standard
  • A format
  • A connector
  • An adaptor
  • A translator
  • A map

EDI is a B2B data exchange mechanism that also includes:

  • Governance
  • Partner onboarding
  • Partner management
  • Orchestration
  • SLA management
  • Visibility
  • Triggers and alerts

The fact is, modern enterprises rarely need only the EDI format or map. It’s high time to understand how to achieve the right kind of EDI to successfully enable modern B2B integration processes.

Big EDI vs. little edi

EDI’s image problem stems from what too many technology vendors try to define as EDI, and the reason so many people are calling for EDI’s head is that there are too many vendors selling things under the guise of EDI that aren’t really EDI.

Companies traditionally did EDI through a VAN or directly via AS2 and other protocols if they had the skills and budget. Somehow, though, building an EDI capability into a development environment became commonplace. This supposedly eliminated the need to architect EDI ever again because every service you build would already have EDI in it. But that “EDI” often is just data transformation and can’t scale and support the processes surrounding EDI exchanges.

That’s the difference between “big EDI” – a set of B2B processes that support high-value outcomes – and “little edi” – technology that only serves a fraction of the B2B capabilities modern companies need to do EDI effectively.

The perceived death of EDI, then, is the growing agreement of organizations that don’t know what it’s like to be doing “big EDI.” They’ve never experienced EDI to its full extent because their previous vendors could not deliver it. Thus, EDI becomes unwieldy and complex – and wished away – because the wholly inadequate “little edi” is the only type of EDI companies know.

The Best EDI Delivers Partner Enablement

The ability to do business with trading partners represents business revenue to organizations, and it’s only a matter of time before a business starts asking about the status of such relationships. These questions will sound something like this:

  • How soon can we start …?
  • How can I guarantee …?
  • Who can I connect with …?
  • How can I see that …?

Perhaps the questions come from a line of business (LOB) manager or even the CIO, but in asking such questions, they are seeking information about the partner enablement aspect of their EDI processes. It’s why EDI cannot be reduced to a simple mapping exercise or data transformation. EDI is so much more than that. It’s about establishing and improving relationships with business partners who are paying you money for your good or service.

Savvy organizations leverage “big EDI” integration technology to automate the external business processes affecting customers and suppliers, improve trading partner enablement, build a high-functioning digital ecosystem, and gain business value. Is your technology provider actively helping you streamline your EDI and B2B integration needs?



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