Okay, so that is not how the line from Hamlet went (in more ways than one), but what is happening with traditional EDI in the industry these days. For a standard that has been around for quite some time without much change, is it still relevant in the modern day world of the Internet, Web 2.0, XML, Web Services, etc.
I was curious to see what the X12 Organization had to say about the future of EDI.
Interesting bit of reading, if we were in 1990. We are in 2010. This is the future. The day and age of ultimate connectivity to data, instantaneous communication, endless content, and more than enough blogs to numb the mind is here whether we like it or not. Not sure if you have heard, but there is so much data out there on so many websites that the IPV4 address space may be depleted as soon as September of 2011. And I was worried about the ozone layer. Traditional EDI must be dead.
Don't you believe it. The reported demise of traditional EDI has been floating around for over a decade. It seems that every time a new standard or protocol or buzz word appears, EDI is on the verge of being put to rest. Then it never happens. A perfect example of this was when the concept of Web services started to materialize. The thought was that EDI would be obsoleted in favor of the new method of passing data. XML was the standard that was adopted for passing messages through the web and it was thought that this format would at some point replace the "archaic" EDI formats currently in use. That was the thinking in 2001.
Interesting thing is that the industry did not seem to buy into the Web Services concept as a replacement for EDI and businesses started looking for new ways to communicate EDI transactions with each other. Even though XML was the bright new child in the industry, not many companies were jumping on board. Big players such as Walmart, J.C. Penney, and Hallmark understood that XML existed as an option, yet they opted to continue using standard EDI transactions rather than take the plunge with the new technology right away. In addition, Walmart took the initiative to drive some change in the landscape by implementing the use of an Applicability Statement 2 (AS2) protocol for connecting directly between two trading partners and eliminating the value-added network (VAN). This would introduce savings for the businesses that would adopt this protocol and helped fuel the continued growth of EDI in the supply chain.
As much as it seems that EDI may not play well in new environments, part of its ability to survive is that fact that it is adaptable. Even though traditional EDI tools were not replaced by a new data interchange standard based on Web Services in the early 2000s, those same EDI tools were used as the framework to support new technology. As these technologies mature, some of the tools used for processing EDI may change, but the standard will still define the content.
To further prove how relevant traditional EDI is to the modern industry, there have been many companies from retail foods to high end automotive companies that continue to benefit from the use of EDI. Two examples of such are Natural Products Market Place and Mercedes-Benz US International. Both of these companies made the investment to use EDI to manage their supply chain and have found that they are in a better position to handle difficult economies and fully realize good market climates because of their choice.
IQMS, a leading ERP company, has put a significant amount of energy into building upon many technologies including Web Services and community driven portals to bring high levels of data visibility and collaboration to its user base. Traditional EDI continues to be a relevant component in the suite of tools that the company offers. Through the use of the eCommerce Module, IQMS has a large customer base that is realizing the benefit of an integrated EDI solution utilizing a combination of traditional, non-traditional, and XML based EDI. These customers are able to handle orders and shipment notices in a much more timely fashion than would be possible in a manual entry process. As IQMS moves further into 2010, the number of requests for new transactions and trading partners has picked up pace. More businesses in the supply chain are moving to leverage the power and efficiency of a standard that has been around for over 25 years.
Is EDI dead? Not by a long shot.