Exchanging Data Using EDI
One of the first efforts to implement B2B electronic commerce was the use of Electronic Data Interchange. EDI requires specialized computer systems and software to translate data from internal computer systems into one of several competing "standard" document formats, which are then transmitted electronically.
In summary, EDI has the following characteristics, (both good and bad):
- EDI solves a lot of problems by standardizing exactly how information should be formatted and in what way the data messages should be packaged. However, the rigid standard and the variety of ways it was implemented also created some of its problems.
- Implementation is slow and expensive.
- Competing standards exist such as ANSI X12, used mostly in North America, and UN/EDIFACT (United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport).
- The Internet is not typically used. Instead, EDI documents are exchanged using a Value Added Network (VAN), which is a form of business information exchange. VANs are proprietary and expensive.
- EDI is a one-for-one replacement for paper documents. The same manual processes and procedures are needed to manage the data and documents. No functionality was added to the computer data processing systems.
- The EDI formats are proprietary and difficult to read.
Recent efforts are underway to implement EDI on the public Internet. To do this, the EDI document format is first converted to an XML document. The chapter "Integrating BizTalk with EDI" discusses a solution for this problem.