EDI is cool once more, says Forbes
Every year, someone announces the final demise of EDI. But this year, Forbes believes EDI has become cool – well, at least the EDI Value Added Network (VAN), aka EDI cloud. So, what is an EDI cloud network and what can it offer your business?
An EDI cloud network provides a seamless and automated channel for trading partners to communicate and exchange information. It enables highly effective supply chain operations by increasing efficiency and reducing errors within key processes to gain better control of inventory, reduce delays and shorten cash cycles. For any company exchanging a range of documents with multiple trading partners, implementing an EDI cloud network is vital to manage the cost and complexity of conducting business digitally.
The enduring power of EDI
As new technologies have appeared, EDI has continuously shown itself to be flexible enough to absorb new technologies into its networks. Some merchants are suggesting that the growth of APIs will finally see off EDI. However, this seems very unlikely. The number of public APIs is exploding and soon managing your APIs will be the next big challenge facing IT teams. It’s much easier for an organization to retain its current EDI capabilities and work with an EDI cloud network that provides API integration where required.
As new document exchange standards appear, an EDI cloud network lets you quickly connect to other organizations working with those document types. An example of this is the growing importance of PEPPOL in European public procurement. The setup process can be lengthy but the network provider will have done all the PEPPOL preparatory work in advance so you can begin to send and receive documents quickly.
EDI VAN vs. EDI cloud network
The EDI VAN allowed organizations to use a third-party network to exchange their EDI documents. The provider managed the translation and exchange of documents and the organization was provided with a mailbox where they receive any new documents sent from their partners. The development of the Internet led to two developments. First, new document standards and protocols appeared, such as XML and AS2. Secondly, providers began to adopt the cloud for their network infrastructure to take advantage of the multi-tenancy, performance, scalability and security it offers.
Today, an EDI cloud network enables the secure exchange of digital business documents in any format, using any standard or protocol, so you can quickly and easily connect with customers and suppliers anywhere in the world. What distinguishes an EDI cloud network is the range of value-added services, beyond simple communication and document exchange, that it delivers. While some have concentrated on ancillary services such as document mapping, alerts and notification and disaster recovery, the best EDI providers have began to complement their basic services with wider B2B services such as trading partner community management, supply chain visibility and optimization, and analytics.
What to look for in EDI cloud network
Every EDI cloud network will deliver a different range of services and you need to carefully assess each option to find the one that meets your specific requirements. However, there are a number of core capabilities that you’ll need:
- The network must enable any-to-any data format translation. There has to be advanced document mapping and translation services-with robust data integrity and validation-that supports all the EDI industry and regional standards as well as all the major communications protocols.
Performance and reliability
- Exchanging documents over the network is much faster than directly between different software applications. It should be capable of near real-time document exchange. Check for the business continuity and disaster recovery features to ensure you have the reliability and availability you need.
Community onboarding and management
- One of the key benefits of an EDI cloud network is access to a pre-connected community of trading partners to quickly connect with new customers and suppliers-often through automated provisioning. The best EDI providers will also offer a range of community management features such as cataloging, trading partner information and performance management.
Security and compliance
- The highest levels of security must be present at all times. You need to have protection and integrity at every level, including user authentication, physical security, data encryption and security audits. In addition, the network must facilitate the process of EDI compliance to ensure that all data is accounted for and all supplier and retailer mandates are met.
Visibility and alerting
- The EDI provider should be able to give you visibility into all your transactions to show a detailed view of documents, including communications, messaging, routing, interconnect status and exception-based alerts.
Transaction and process analytics
- For many companies, the EDI cloud network is the first time that they can gather full data on their transactions. The best EDI cloud networks have embedded analytics capabilities to deliver insights across both operational and business workflows to identify risk and improve performance.
Enterprise integration with APIs
- Rather than replacing EDI, the best EDI cloud networks extend their integration capabilities with APIs that easily integrate with virtually any application.