This is the second part of our blog describing the changing landscape of EDI. In the first part, we discussed where we are at the moment and how we have ended up in this situation. In this part, we’ll outline where are we going and what should we do.
Where are we going?
As we discussed earlier, the new, API-based world has potential to simplify and streamline our processes, while at the same time reduce errors caused by circulating multiple copies and different versions of documents – i.e., EDI messages of various kinds. As the API approach is already familiar to the new generation of developers, and new versions of enterprise software have out-of-the-box API capabilities, the migration to new software systems are driving the transition to the new world.
However, EDI is not going away soon. The investments made to EDI technology over the past decades, and the immense amount of EDI documents being transferred between businesses daily takes care of this. Regardless of the apparent inertia, the change has already started. New players in the established industries are promoting new, modern business processes and extensively utilizing latest information technology to run these processes. With the modern development approaches, the API based world is a natural choice for these players when it comes to exchanging information between different participants in the global network of modern businesses.
This leads into a situation where we are facing – in all industries – a slow, but inevitable migration from legacy, document-based business processes to more optimized, more real-time, and more straightforward business processes. As an implication, it also means slow movement from EDI towards API based information exchange approach. As this migration period will take years, or most probably decades depending on the industry, organizations (from incumbents to start-ups) need to figure out their approach to this mixed world of legacy and modern business processes – and corresponding interfacing technologies.
What should we do?
On a high level, businesses have two approaches to select from. The first one is to fully live simultaneously in both legacy and modern worlds; build and maintain two sets of business processes – one for “old world” with its document-based approach, and one for “new world” based on up-to-date information enabled by instant information exchange between organizations and applications. The second one – and often more viable solution – is to focus on single set of processes and utilize “information bridges” when communicating with businesses located “on the other side of the ocean”, in a different world.
Based on our experience over several years, the bridging approach is a viable one. By using “information bridges” based on modern integration technologies, it is possible to make businesses living in different worlds to work together in an efficient way – and combining the best of both worlds. With the bridging logic, businesses relying on EDI can run their document-based operations using their familiar processes fine-tuned over the years, while organizations providing solutions using real-time API approach can interact with the other players without a need to support old style processes.
The bridging logic managed by integration solution between different parties in the overall business network does not only take care of message transformations (in a old-style EDI translation manner), but also manages the differences in the business processes; techniques like data buffering, protocol and message transformation, scheduled an real-time information exchange processes are the key to the technical implementation of such bridges. On the message level, these bridges need to be able to fluently speak EDIFACT, X12 and other EDI formats (industry-specific EDI, in-house formats, CSV-based data exchange files, etc.) as well as XML and JSON based messages predominant in modern APIs. Bridges need to also be able to communicate via a number of data transfer protocols varying from FTP, SFTP, AS2 and e-mails to HTTP-based protocols commonly used in API world.
In a world where there are businesses based on approaches from different centuries, the need for translation services will exist until the cultures of these worlds will eventually merge. When this migration is complete is beyond guessing; we have lived in a document-based business for a few thousand years, and only very recently found out the opportunities of modern information technology – and consequently, the opportunities it enables in our business processes. As long as this migration is not complete, there is a place for bridge builders.
As an iPaaS provider, Youredi has extensive experience in bridging the “old” and the “new” world of business processes. If you are faced with the challenge of building the connection between EDI and API based systems, please feel free to contact us, we are always ready to help you!