Updated: May 6, 2022
Where to start and where to finish this discussion piece! This article could get people thinking?
Electronic Data Integration or EDI has been around for years. There are defined standards managed by various bodies around the world. These standards are so important to global trade there are standards managed by the United Nations: https://unece.org/trade/uncefact/introducing-unedifact
These standards refer to a format of file, of which there are many and varied all utilised differently by a trading partner/retailers.
Application Programmable Interface or API is relatively new in this space connecting systems directly.
It is not one or the other
There are two aspects to this discussion:
1) Technical knowledge - do you have the information and knowledge in house to manage and support an API?
As API technology is relatively new you will need the resource to manage the API solution both in terms of data transformation and connectivity. 2) Does the API connect to every possible solution?
Connectivity becomes the biggest issue rather than file formats. Many trading partners/retailers have used the older Value Added Networks (VAN, X400) to connect their solution to the outside world. Does the API solution support connectivity to a VAN or X400 which are widely used in Europe?
Two solutions when one will do
If the API solution is not able to connect to the VAN or X400 connection are you happy to then support two different solutions?
You will have two routes in and out of the business and two contracts to manage if you need to support connectivity options such as AS2, sFTP, email etc. and a route that then supports the older connectivity standards.
Select an EDI Managed Service Provider that can support "any file format and any connection method"
In my time developing EDI solutions I have found the easier the solution is the easier it is to develop and then deliver.
Develop one generic route in and out of your system to support the various business transactions that you might need to trade.
Select an EDI Managed Service Provider that can support any connection and any file format.
With the simpler system training staff to support the overall solution is easier.
With this in place you will then be able to deliver in a four to six week period.
Knowledge is power
When you are looking at the trading partners/retailers requirements knowledge is power I am afraid. Do you understand the various instructions outlined in what ever documentation that has been provided?
I have read documents that defined how orders are to be packed and shipped within the distribution centre. If you are not aware of the requirements that are being outlined then you might inadvertently walk into a compliance issue.
I have delivered EDI developments within four weeks using an EDI Managed Service Provider. How I hear you say? I developed a simple generic solution and knew what I was looking at and what I was doing. As they say here in the United Kingdom "simples".
Here in the United Kingdom there are rules that have to be followed in respect of how you invoice via EDI laid out by Her Majesties Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Can the solution that you are selecting support these rules? I have an article on this found here: https://www.southwestdataintegration.co.uk/post/edi-invoicing
Chose your partner carefully
Considering the points above you need to consider who you use carefully. Maybe two Managed Service providers will work for you (one supporting API's and one supporting VAN connectivity)? But at what price? You might get more for less if you chose one Managed Service Provider.
I have written about this aspect previously and attach links to these for your information. This article might not provide all of the information you need but should at least get you thinking about what you might want to do when it comes to developing a "EDI solution".
I should say that my focus is to help those small and medium sized businesses that believe "EDI" is out of their reach. It is not and with a little thought a simple soulution can be defined and delivered saving on employing more Full Time Employees (FTE) and still allowing the business to grow.