Blog: How to Achieve an Effective Data Exchange Process Without EDI

Many companies rely on non-EDI communications, and that’s okay. Here’s how to achieve an effective data exchange process when your trading partners don’t do EDI.

We want you to know something: Cleo can support and automate not only your EDI data exchange process but also any non-EDI data exchange process.

Many of our customers come to us for help enabling their EDI workflows and given our reputation as a leading EDI company, that makes total sense. But many of these companies also rely on a fair amount of non-EDI communications with their trading partners, customers, and suppliers, and it’s often a manual, cumbersome workflow to process those orders.

But the great thing about Cleo technology is that it can support these business processes, and with this integration technology in place, you no longer have to turn down certain types of business because you can still work outside EDI.

The fact is, EDI technology has changed. It must support EDI and non-EDI workflows at the same time, and it’s important for enterprises that are doing EDI to be able to seamlessly ingest and integrate these ad hoc data flows into their own EDI processes.

So, if you’re looking to support and automate non-EDI data flows and improve business efficiency, you’ve come to the right place.

Difference Between EDI and Non-EDI

EDI is the electronic exchange of business documents in a predefined format between trading partners. Various EDI standards determine what information goes where within the EDI document. Common standards include X12, EDIFACT, and TRADACOMS, and your industry or trading partners generally dictate which standard you use.

Non-EDI data exchange is the transfer of data that does not fit into a traditional EDI standard. Non-EDI transactions can include the following types of data exchange formats:

• XML files
• Fixed-length flat files
• Spreadsheets and CSVs
• PDFs and other text-based documents

Because of the variance in B2B data exchange requirements by industry and geography, and the technologies that support them, there’s little consensus on the best data exchange format for B2B transactions. That’s why it continues to be important for businesses to flexibly support all EDI and non-EDI formats.

How We’ve Traditionally Handled Non-EDI

It’s funny how the “death of EDI” has been the headline of so many trade publications in recent years when in fact, EDI was never even born in many organizations. While a standardized data format that’s accepted around the world, cost and resource limitations are a real obstacle to EDI adoption, and the smaller mom-and-pop shops and less technical organizations may never adopt EDI (and that’s OK!).

So, countless businesses for years have been placing orders, sending invoices, and updating shipping notices through non-EDI means, often submitting the aforementioned flat-file and binary file formats via email and digital fax processes.

These may very well be the formats and methods your customers and trading partners using to interact with you, but they are paying customers and trading partners. And since most businesses aren’t in a position to turn away new revenue, we naturally choose to accept these new customers even though their data exchanges happen outside the normal flow of business. But then we do it again and again until we have an army of non-EDI customers.

So, we manually process and enter the data, or we write scripts that do “pseudo-EDI” functions, basically, anything to get the non-EDI data into our real EDI systems. The result is a lot of complicated maneuvering and brittle integrations that enterprises simply don’t have the time for anymore.

How to Accept Non-EDI Formats

Nobody wants to turn away a customer, and the ability to say “yes” to all types of B2B data exchanges is a core component of a business today, as many companies still rely on legacy technology and processes in addition to newer technologies and applications.

But by replicating all the data fields that are inherent in purchase order and then offering that replication via a portal or a document template to customers and trading partners, your business can “EDI-ify” those pseudo-EDI workflows and automate the non-EDI file interactions.

Then you could:

• Integrate any types of data structures or parameters that map to your EDI, allowing you to automate the data integration.
• Send the documents back in a format that your customers are expecting and keep your same EDI workflows.
• Remove all the manual effort currently required to process orders from your customers.

And what if you could do all of this and not be restricted to an on-premise or managed service deployment?

Your partners won’t have to make an expensive EDI investment, and you can eliminate the tedious, time-consuming processing tasks.

‘What Can You Send Us?’

During peak times for one commercial equipment parts supplier and distributor, the company had to hire temps to do manual data entry, and that was in addition to a full-time department of five to seven people already doing just that. Between the extra employees and all the added overtime, this was simply unsustainable.

The equipment supplier, who uses Cleo Integration Cloud, asked two major trading partners that couldn’t send EDI documents what types of documents they could send. Both asked to send XML-based files. So, the parts supplier and distributor provided an XML template that mapped to its internal EDI system, and all the partners had to do was use this XML template for their orders.

By using Cleo, the company was able to automate these two trading partners’ communications and eliminate much of its own data entry.

How It Works

Cleo Integration Cloud includes a mapping user interface that creates the different data transformation rules between, in keeping with the previous example, the XML elements and the corresponding EDI segments. After that XML doc is transported over FTP, AS2, email, through a portal, etc., it is automatically wrapped and sent to the proper network location, where the EDI system can pick it up and transform it.

Whether it’s XML and spreadsheet templates, automated web forms, and even email stripping, where Cleo’s data movement solution enables the email monitors and the transformation engine does the transformation, Cleo supports so many more formats outside of EDI. Cleo can even tie into PDF OCR technology for pre-processing and eventual EDI integration.

Enable Your Ecosystem

Do you have customers and trading partners that seem light-years away from automation? Imagine offering them a better way to do business with you and the value that could bring to your business relationship.

Fully enabling your ecosystem is fundamental to success in today’s business landscape, and Cleo Integration Cloud’s ability to handle non-EDI B2B data exchanges elevates your organization beyond EDI integration and provides the ecosystem integration capabilities today’s business requires.

Let's Get Flexible

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