Functions of edi software.Technically edi comes down to imports/exports to/from your system and some data communication.
It is good practice to keep this import/export as simple as possible, and to concentrate on the impact of edi on your system and organisation. You will want ONE import/export in your system (for each information flow).
You don't want to handle all the edi details in the import/export module, like you don't want to handle the logic of printer drivers in your application.
What edi software should offer is:
- Manage and overview edi data flows.
Also called a 'messaging centre' function: monitor the communication flows from and to your applications. This is quite similar to EAI software (Enterprise Application Integration), but edi software is focused on external integration.
So you should be able to see:
- what comes into the edi software and what goes out;
- how an edi file is translated;
- in case of errors, a notification (e.g. by email); understandable error reports.
- Communication to your ERP system and to your trading partners.
Different trading partners might have different ways of communicating. Edi software should handle this; for each trading partner, the right communication method is used.
- Translation of edi formats to easier-to-use formats.
Edi standards (esp. x12, edifact and tradacoms) are not easy to use for imports/exports. You'll probably want to use an simpler format, e.g. flat format/fixed records or CSV. Often, you have libraries/facilities in your system or programming language for these formats. For e.g. XML and JSON, good libraries/facilities exist.
- Handling of different edi standard formats.
Sometimes you have to use more than one standard because different trading partners force you to; e.g. both edifact and XML.
- Handling of the different usage/interpretation of edi standards.
Unfortunately, sometimes different trading partners have different, non-compatible interpretations of the same edi standard.
- Handling of the different versions of edi standards.
Edi standards are often actively maintained and do change. So you'll probably end up with different versions, because different trading partners use them. Sad thing is that the latest version rarely offers added functionality or advantages (for you).
- Conversion of edi data and codes.
Think of e.g. different date formats, different codings, usage of ILN/GLN for party identification, etc.
Yes, this can be handled in (the import/export module of) your system, although you'll probably get a large import/export module. However, it might get really nasty when connecting yet another trading partner who uses the 'same' edi messages. You might end up with a lot of edi translator functionality in your system.
Basically edi software works as a buffer between your system and edi - the standards, versions, MIG's, dialects, code lists, etc.