Whether you have an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or a “home grown” application, there are many considerations for integrating EDI to your backend application. Many ERP systems have an EDI interface module consisting of a set interface files (specific to EDI transaction sets) and integration programs. The EDI modules may contain simple “flat file” structures or more robust database structures.
If your backend application is “home grown” and you’re handed an EDI mandate then your first decision is whether to integrate directly into your application or develop and implement an EDI interface. An interface layer allows for manipulation of the data (editing, formatting, and/or validity checking) before it is integrated with your application.
Integration challenges will exist. You may find it necessary to convert from customer-EDI to application-required values. Simple examples might include converting customer Bill-To and/or Ship To numbers to your company internal numbers. Or, converting an EDI Unit of Measure code to a measurement code required within your backend application. Generally these examples can be accomplished using simple conversion tables. However, converting the Unit of Measure code may also require changes to the quantity and price values. For instance, converting cases to units of each because your backend system only handles an each unit. In this case a simple conversion table will not suffice and a more advanced calculation might be necessary. Then consider that the customer requires these items must be converted back for any reply transactions. Consider what type of validity checking should be performed. For instance, checking that the customer specified item number is valid within your system.
I have only touched on a few of the considerations and challenges that you may encounter when integrating EDI into your backend application. These and similar challenges can often be more easily resolved if using and EDI interface.