EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) communications are the cornerstone for companies working with partners across the globe. This and other B2B communications protocols are important pieces to the puzzle for organizations to keep up with competitors and market demands.
No one would argue whether or not EDI is better than using a paper-based method of exchanging business documents like invoices, claims processing, shipment notices, and more. But B2B communications come with a significant set of challenges for a business, and for IT in particular. And with an ever-increasing, IT delivery gap, EDI, HL7, and other B2B protocols are a problem that must be resolved for companies to move as fast, or faster, than their competition.
EDI Challenges for IT
While the business relies on B2B communications, managing the technical side brings hefty challenges that only serve to widen the gap your IT team is experiencing with executing the multitude of business-critical technology projects and initiatives.
EDI and B2B require specialized knowledge to manage, configure, and test new trading partner exchanges or troubleshoot issues with existing communications. Even if your team can double up skills, handling B2B communication setup and management with other IT projects and tasks, each new partner or communication channel takes them away from other crucial projects.
Here we’ve listed only a few of the bigger issues that come along with handling EDI messages in long-standing, traditional ways.
Time to set up a new partner
When the business signs with a new trading partner, they want to start operations immediately. But that’s unfortunately not how typical partner onboarding works. Between configuration and testing on your end, and the work a business requires from the trade partner, onboarding can take from weeks to months, depending on message complexity and resource availability.
Automating B2B messaging
The dirty little secret about a lot of B2B communications is that many companies are still handling messages manually, especially for inputting data into other systems like ERPs. All that “chair turning” can be done when your company has one or two partners. But scaling to 10s or hundreds of partners becomes impossible. Plus, manual entry introduces errors and slows down message processing, throttling your business to the number of people who can input messages.
Scaling trading partner communications
Technically speaking, EDI is a standard. But trading partners more often than not have their own version of transaction sets. These messages differ not just from industry to industry but from partner to partner. The customized nature of the messages, combined with the need for specialized knowledge to manage and build the processing, results in onboarding being a long and arduous task. That means your business can only go as fast as your onboarding can.
Closing the Gap
These problems occur thanks to the ways in which trade partners have traditionally been added into a business’s B2B processes. But the adoption of modern integration methods, like using APIs, opens the door for new and efficient ways to add EDI messaging and standardize how B2B communications are handled.
Don’t be fooled by the API vs EDI posts scattered around the Internet. It’s not either/or. These two technologies can not only co-exist, but they are complementary, even evolutionary to one another. EDI messages are rich, specific, and required for a lot of supply chain and other B2B communications. APIs are made to easily expose resources in simple, extensible, flexible ways. But to close the IT delivery gap, you need to use efficient messaging protocols like APIs in conjunction with simplifying and automating EDI messaging.
As much as possible, you want to abstract your message processing, automate data sharing with multiple systems, and remove the need for specialized knowledge to manage incoming messages and trade partner onboarding. Leveraging an ESB, which you may already be considering or even implemented as part of your organization’s digital transformation efforts, can simplify communications by decoupling systems.
EDI messaging is a critical part of most companies’ day to day operations. While some partners are switching to API interfaces for these messages, it’s far from the standard for B2B communications. Yet, EDI doesn’t need to add to your IT workload. The biggest challenges are solvable by combining technologies and creating opportunities for automation and even self-service.
If you’re looking to alleviate the pressures B2B messaging and trade partner onboarding are causing you, drop us a note. ModusBox’s experts can help simplify your B2B communications, gaining back valuable IT resource time for critical projects and initiatives.