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Out with the old and in with the new?

Over the years I have seen changes made as new technology is developed.

I have been working with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) since 1997. I have seen the internet grow to where we are now, and every step of the way change is being made to all our business systems, in particular how these various systems connect and share data.

EDI is dead long live XML

I do remember attending a conference at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) back in 1999 in which the audience were presented with new technology, in this instance it was XML. The presentation was looking at XML removing the need for EDI.

I did question the statement as the cost of replacing one set of business processes for another takes time and therefore costs money. How does a business justify spending money on something that is not broken?

Don’t get me wrong I agree that systems change and hopefully for the best. However, as we move forward, we are leaving the past behind. I have to question why are we ignoring all of this knowledge and experience.

Well maybe XML is not king

Reflecting on the conference that I attended how ironic that we have moved on from XML and we are now looking at using JSON. In fact we now have a landscape of various file formats in play from CSV, Pipe Delimited, EDI, XML to JSON for example.

A further complexity are the connections that are now being used from Value Added Networks (VANs), sFTP, AS2, APIs (rest and soap) for example.

When you step back from all of these file formats and connections we need to recognise that these are supporting a business transaction. An order is an order no matter what the connection and the file format. Does the file contain the data required to support the Sales Order Process in your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system?

Does your ERP system then hold the data to support your business processes in your warehouse or any outbound transactions such as order acknowledgements, dispatch advice or invoice files?

Choices, choices, choices

What we now have a technology landscape supporting a large number of file formats and connections. In my time I have connected a business that support a mix of EDI and CSV files with a mix of VAN and sFTP connections as businesses deploy solutions to support their eCommerce opportunities.

Amazon have deployed EDI standards, XML and now JSON with connectivity such as AS2 and API.

With this we have a skill set that straddles the older technology with a mix of non-standard file formats as well as the new technologies.

Skills gap

When I started this discussion, I quoted XML is king. However as mentioned we now have JSON plus other new technologies being discussed and developed.

We are frantically trying to keep up with these changes but seem to have forgotten those existing systems. File formats and connectivity that are embedded and are working successfully.

I have seen how business are no longer interested in the old technology in favour of the new. However, these new technologies are dependent on external third parties and if you are trading with external customers.

If, the customer does not want to support API functionality and opt to use EDI what will you do?

Generic process and strategies

I have discussed previously that as businesses you need to support generic ways into and out of your ERP systems that support trading on a business to business (B2B) or direct to consumer (D2C) basis.

And within these two routes to market as you have options such as Drop Ship Vendor (DSV) and website marketplaces.

You have different content supporting the different routes to market; however these are supporting a business transaction which will be generic within the ERP system.

In with the old and in with the new

So, in conclusion you need processes in place that support anything in respect of trading with third party customers and their systems, so giving your business opportunities to grow. Technology should never be a reason why a deal cannot be done, technology should enable, be it older EDI or the newer JSON formats, as long as you have access to the complementary skills.

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