A recent blog post by Steve Keifer, titled “The End of Mapping (in B2B Integration)”, asks why B2B translators can’t automatically identify and map source-to-target fields. Well, the answer is they can – at least EXTOL’s translators can. Our customers have been saving countless hours on mapping activities using EXTOL’s design-time automation technology for more than a decade!
With the Advanced Automapper feature in our EXTOL EDI Integrator for IBM i (EEI), our customers simply select a reference map, and the Advanced AutoMapper will compare it with other maps using the same files, generating a new map with the appropriate data fields. It is a very effective tool for the majority of customers, who have multiple trading partners, but trade the same or similar documents. Each new trading partner can be on-boarded much more quickly, eliminating most of the manual and repetitive mapping tasks.The Smart Mapper feature in our EXTOL Business Integrator (EBI) only requires the user to edit their metadata to include tags in the field names or descriptions. The Smart Mapper will then match those tags to other maps and suggest the appropriate mapping template.
The Smart mapper can understand CamelCase, punctuation, delimiters, and other more complex string attributes. For example, it can even find an acronym like ‘ASAP’ and match it with a target ‘As Soon As Possible.’
To help speed up mapping further, users can set up profiles of maps for the Smart Mapper to “prefer” when making map template suggestions. The Smart Mapper also keeps track of the user actions. For example, if the source is a phone number, and the user historically maps an action to strip out the dashes, the Smart Mapper will suggest that action rather than matching up source and target.
Algorithms like these drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to set up new maps by eliminating most (if not all) of the mechanical, repetitive manual mapping. All the user needs to focus on is mapping brand new (and/or completely different) fields that have not been mapped before, which will go into the Smart Mapper’s history for later comparison.
EXTOL has even taken mapping a step farther by allowing customers to securely share maps through a cloud-based Integration Pattern Repository (IPR). For example, if two customers have the same ERP system that integrates EDI to trading partner systems, you can be pretty sure their maps are extremely similar. The IPR allows users to share their Smart Mapper History Profiles with EXTOL’s servers in the cloud. All customer data is stripped, so only field names and their associations get stored.
When a new customer starts their first map, they can tell the Smart Mapper to analyze their source and target and query the IPR to find history from other customers that have used similar files. It’s important that this works at the field level so that someone that only uses a small percentage of a file can still contribute, and receive useful history data. The IPR finds what matches, builds a custom History Profile, and then downloads it into the customer’s system for the Smart Mapper to suggest. In effect, every new customer has access to the mapping history of every other IPR participant on day one of their implementation.
Steve Keifer stated at the close of his “The End of Mapping (in B2B Integration)” post:
“It could take several years to optimize an algorithm, but whoever can crack the code on this first will be able to save their customers thousands of hours of mapping activities every year.”
EXTOL has already “cracked the code” with design-time automation features that use several algorithms which have been proven to save our customers countless hours of time!
That said, there will always be a mapper in some form or another, but for now, our computers do what they do best: automate menial, repetitive tasks, so we can focus our attention on things like unpredictable custom data fields!