Another issue related to the process of transitioning to electronic document exchange concerns the document standards to be used. Although large corporations have been using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for a number of years, the costs (per transaction, and for infrastructure and maintenance) have been prohibitive for many companies. The emergence of the Internet, and especially Extensible Markup Language (XML), in the last few years have brought the possibility of affordable exchange of electronic business documents into the realm of possibility for small- and medium-sized businesses. But XML does not, by itself, define the format of electronic business documents, such as product catalogs and purchase orders. Rather, it provides a meta-language in which such formats can be created. There are many different XML standards for describing business documents. For the most part, these standards are tied to specific vertical markets. Exploring all of these standards is beyond the scope of this chapter, therefore we will focus on two standards that are not specific to a particular vertical market, and that have enjoyed wider adoption than many others. These standards are:
As with the purchasing model, the supplier and trading partner must agree on which XML format to use, which will most often be dictated by the trading partner. Given this, the most successful suppliers are likely to be the ones that are most flexible in this regard.