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EDI’s Role and Evolution through Technological Advances


EDI’s Role and Evolution through Technological Advances

Designed to automate the processing of information in a “zero paper” perspective, electronic data interchange (EDI) has not stopped moving forward since its inception. Thanks to the numerous advantages it offers in terms of business collaboration, it has become a seemingly indispensable tool within companies. But on a concrete level, what is EDI? How has the technology evolved over the years? Let’s look together at the uses of EDI over time. 


How EDI works: definition and regulatory context


What is EDI? 

In principle, electronic data interchange (EDI) can be likened to a dialogue between two computers and pursues a very simple goal: to exchange electronic documents between trading partners. By replacing paper document exchanges, electronic transactions have made it possible to significantly reduce human intervention. From this point of view, EDI, therefore, offers companies numerous advantages:

-Greater speed and reliability in processing information

-Reduction of operational costs

-Reduced errors and improved relationships between trading partners

For the exchange of data to be structured, it is essential to adopt a common standard recognized by the parties.

The format matters

Inevitably, along with electronic data processing comes the need to use a standard format that enables the system to read and understand the documents received. This format defines the type and form of the expected information, for example: integer, decimal, dd/mm/yy, etc. In this way, it is possible to share a common language used by the sender’s computer system and that of its recipient.

EDI standards 

There are numerous EDI standards, including ANSI X12, UN-EDIFACT (and its many variants EANCOM, GALIA…), VDA, TRADACOM, etc., and each of them has defined its own syntax and data dictionary. New standards based on the XML metalanguage have since been added to these historically popular standards, just as has been the case with HL7 industry standards used in healthcare or generic frameworks such as UBL, eb-XML, and UN-CEFACT. In addition, each standard includes numerous variants such as ODETTE or EANCOM for EDIFACT, resulting in ANSI version 5010 or EDIFACT version D12, Release A.

Before companies can exchange their electronic documents, they must therefore choose a common standard and version. Most of the time, they then use an EDI translator to automatically convert data from internal software or an application service provider.

Internet and XML metalanguage put EDI to the test

In the last decade, the overwhelming spread of the Internet and XML metalanguage have had a considerable impact on EDI. EDI/B2B software houses have taken advantage of these technological advances by aiming to facilitate the use of this tool within companies. In addition, all recent developments in EDI interoperability standards are based on XML syntax and use API-type exchange protocols.

EDI emerges as an online service 

The first commercial offerings of outsourced EDI type became popular in the early 2000s. These platforms had the advantage of outsourcing all EDI exchanges to external companies, regardless of the partners, systems and file formats involved. SaaS (Software as a Service) therefore made it possible to eliminate the many obstacles that held back EDI implementation.

EDI in Saas greatly simplifies the uses of this new technology. It can be used without major investment, to the great benefit of cost optimization. You can send or receive messages directly in the format of your ERP without the need for resources or an in-house EDI expert.

B2B integration: what’s the future for EDI? 

By automating the inter-company core business, B2B integration allows different stakeholders (customers, suppliers, business partners) to work more streamlined and efficiently.

Also known as B2B gateways, these integration solutions differ from the first generations of EDI platforms in that they bring a general, rather than a technical, view of the core business. By ensuring that different formats are taken care of, and multi-protocol transmission is possible, these B2B gateways allow you to model your core business processes and provide tailored monitoring. All of a company’s complex processes are thus integrated into a single platform. In addition, these B2B integration solutions can be offered on-premise for on-premises use, or in the cloud and thus be accessible from anywhere, such as Generix EDI Services.

Although process management or data processing engines are generally open to all use cases and formats, some EDI service providers have chosen to verticalize their solution for certain core businesses – this is what is happening in banking, healthcare, and supply chain. This allows them to speak the same language as the users and focus on each industry’s practices regarding data format, process type or security challenges.

Undeniably, the uses of EDI have evolved greatly since its inception, particularly due to the technological advances made since 2000. Thanks to APIs and blockchain, there is no shortage of prospects for further evolution, making EDI more than ever a solution of the future that can improve the efficiency of multi-company collaboration.

Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. From Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and more, software platforms can deliver a wide range of benefits that ultimately flow to the warehouse operator’s bottom line. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

This article originally appeared here. Republished with permission.


Security and EDI, the Trojan Horses of Cyber Attackers

If no one is safe from a cyber-attack, then the multiplication of EDI flow increases the vulnerability of a company. Indeed, EDI flows with less protected subcontractors can be privileged entry points for attackers. The choice of a reliable and certified EDI provider is becoming more and more necessary. 

SMEs, the weakest link in cybersecurity

When it comes to cybersecurity, small businesses are the weakest link and the ones that attackers are targeting, so that they reach larger targets. Faced with this phenomenon, some companies use rating companies to estimate the security level of their suppliers and eventually select them according to their score. This approach is extremely costly and is nevertheless reserved for a few large international companies.

A study conducted by cybersecurity firm BlueVoyant shows that of the 1,500 companies surveyed, 77% of CISOs and CIOs report a complete lack of visibility into their vendors’ security. At the same time, 82% have experienced at least one data breach in the past 12 months. This lack of control over third-party security can be explained by the fact that a company’s cyber resources are obviously focused on securing their own information systems. Some companies send a security questionnaire to their partners to assess their practices, but the average company has about 1000 partners, which limits the company’s ability to control them. Cyber threats and protection systems are constantly evolving, and even systems that may appear to be the most mature, such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), are not always the most secure.

EDI, a secure technology, but not safe from attackers

By design, EDI flows are secure: the protocol ensures the integrity and traceability of exchanges. The data itself is encrypted, which guarantees its confidentiality and integrity, but EDI flows can potentially be exploited by hackers to infiltrate the information system of a company or its EDI provider, or to divert data indirectly.

Since the 2010s, EDI network flows initially carried by the specialized X25 network have given way to IP and Internet connections. In the same way, the use of EDI has expanded, especially among SMEs, thanks to the development of Web-EDI type solutions, accessible to all. Any company can communicate EDI data via a simple Web browser and this democratization increases the risk of computer hacking.

The ecosystem, a concept too often underestimated by companies

For example, a supplier who links his computer to a client, so he can obtain a list of addresses, will open a connection between the two platforms. By attacking the supplier, the cyber attacker opens a breach towards the client’s company.

While it is appropriate for the supplier to protect its customers, it is also up to the client to qualify the trust it places in the supplier. Intrusion attempts are polymorphous: if identity theft is the most frequent case, companies must generally limit the flow of sensitive data communicated within their ecosystem.

The support of all EDI formats and protocols on the market is the first criterion for choosing an EDI solution. The platform must support EANCOM, EDIFACT, XML, UBL, HL7, JSON, PDF or X12, but also offer interfaces with ERP and business software packages such as SAP, Microsoft, Oracle or Sage. Finally, the EDI provider must obviously have interoperability capabilities with all the countries with which the company will have to exchange. But nowadays, you must also choose your EDI provider according to its maturity and its investments in cybersecurity.

The role of the EDI provider has evolved; it has become a key player in protecting companies from these attacks and the company itself must ensure the seriousness of the protections put in place by its EDI provider before connecting to its service.

Certifications and standards are a way to ensure the seriousness of its processes. An ISO 27001 certification appears as an essential criterion in the selection of an EDI provider. It is up to the provider to ensure that the data flow is not subject to a “Man in the Middle” attack. It is also the provider who stores the data exchanged between EDI partners. This storage must therefore be encrypted to ensure that, even if an attacker manages to penetrate the defenses in place, he cannot exploit the data exposed to his attack. Asymmetric encryption is the most secure solution to protect data, but some players are now turning to Blockchain technology to further increase the security level of their EDI.

Generix Group North America provides a series of solutions within our Supply Chain Hub product suite to create efficiencies across an entire supply chain. Our solutions are in use around the world and our experience is second-to-none. We invite you to contact us to learn more.

TrueCommerce’s EDI Earns Leader Category Position on G2 Crowd

Outstanding feedback from customers combined with substantial recommended ratings has earned TrueCommerce‘s EDI a position in the Leaders category for EDI platforms on G2 Crowd – which serves as a business solution review platform driving smart business purchases. G2’s customer review network currently boasts over 680,000 user reviews.

“Rankings on G2 reports are based on data provided to us by real users,” said Michael Fauscette, chief research officer, G2. “We are excited to share the achievements of the products ranked on our site because they represent the voice of the user and offer terrific insights to potential buyers around the world.”

The TrueCommerce EDI serves as an extension of the commerce services and apps connecting customers through TrueCommerce Foundry. This platform ultimately supports customers by taking supply chain visibility to the next level to maximize omni-channel initiatives through business P2P connectivity, order management, collaborative replenishment, and more. The company currently maintains a robust network of over 92,000
pre-connected retailers, distributors and logistics service providers. 

“We work relentlessly to make our unified commerce technology most effective and customer care – top-notch,” said TrueCommerce senior vice president, sales and marketing, Haitham Ghadiry. “And we are thrilled that our efforts have been recognized by our most valuable judges – our customers. The G2 rankings prove that TrueCommerce’s investments into customer care, product reliability and ease-of-use are paying off.”