Sunday, September 1, 2013

EDI – The Code is More What You'd Call "Guidelines" Than Actual Rules

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is a standard to document a common data interface between computer applications. To effectively communicate using EDI, the application receiving the data must follow the same formatting rules as the application originating the data. This is necessary so both applications know where to find specific data within the EDI message.
EDI provides a technical basis for electronic "conversations" between two systems. The messages generally contain the same information that would normally be found in a paper document used for the same purpose. There are EDI standard formats used by different industries, such as retail (orders and shipping notices), medicine (patient records and laboratory results), shipping & transportation (container and intermodal bookings), engineering and construction, etc.

While there are rules that govern various aspects of formatting EDI data, you must understand that the rules are subject to how the originator and recipient initially implement their EDI. This often results in the need to adjust the EDI for each specific implementation, and sometimes transform the data values between the originator and recipient.  Examples of implementation issues are:

  • Needed data that are not defined in the standard EDI message format must be placed in a mutually agreed upon message fields not anticipated to be used for another need.
  • The originator and recipient use different data values to represent the same data creates discrepancies.  This typically occurs with codes. For example, there are 3 standards for country codes: 2-character, 3-character and 3 digit codes. If the systems between the data originator and recipient use different standards (or non-standard data), the party to perform the data transformation must be agreed upon before initiating the EDI.
  • The data originator and recipient must agree to not change their mutual EDI structure without notifying the other party. Doing so may affect the quality of the data transmission.

EDI standards are valuable and necessary to interface data between computer applications. A little due diligence before implementation will ensure a smooth, consistent and accurate transmission of data.
David Schuchman

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