Electronic data interchange (EDI) has been around since the late 1960’s and has been adopted by thousands of organizations since that time. Many of these organizations purchased or developed their back-end software systems and communication methods with the intention of supporting EDI. Not only were the back-end systems and communication methods “EDI-centric”, but organizations also needed to purchase or develop programs to translate the EDI data to and from their applications and data. Because EDI has been around for decades and because many of these older systems were constructed for EDI, the word “legacy” tends to come up a lot when referring to EDI. In reality, EDI is a mature technology that is utilized by older systems, but it isn’t outdated. It is the hardware and software systems built around the EDI data that are becoming legacy, not EDI. In fact, thousands of organizations are currently implementing EDI for the first time. Some of these organizations may have to implement EDI because of new relationships with other organizations that mandate EDI (new trading partner relationships) or they may decide to use and implement the EDI as a canonical model for their application-to-application (A2A) initiatives as discussed in Mark Denchy’s blog, Canonical models, not just your ordinary middleman . No matter the case, EDI is a proven interchange model and not going away anytime soon.
Now that we identified the fact that EDI is still a viable option, what can we do to “modernize” it? We can do this a number of ways, from changing the back-end software and/or hardware systems to implementing tools to improve the way the data is processed. But first, let’s start by enhancing the definition of EDI. EDI can be defined as the electronic transfer of standardized structured data from one organization to another to enable business-to-business (B2B) collaboration. This definition provides more meaning than the traditional “legacy” definition, being the computer to computer exchange of structured information, that some of us are more familiar with. Continue reading