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How to select an EDI Integration Vendor

Digital transformation is driving tremendous change across industries - a few examples are financial services, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare. But in order to take advantage of the opportunities that digital transformation provides, it is not enough to adopt new technologies such as SaaS and mobile. Organizations must also connect these new technologies with legacy systems like mainframes and databases to create new and compelling experiences for customers, employees, and partners. 

Across a number of verticals, notably retail and manufacturing, the exchange of text delimited B2B messages continues to be the way in which key business processes are transacted. Despite the rise of more lightweight expression methods, and new channels to market, the effort surrounding these standards means that EDI is not going away anytime soon.

While EDI is not going away, the speed and means of working with these messages is  changing, which is why EDI integration is an important tool for organizations in these verticals. Enterprises want to bring messaging control in-house. They want to be able to onboard new partners more quickly by re-using processing logic. And they want EDI messages to flow across a broader set of endpoints, including SaaS ERPs such as Netsuite. They want to  expose EDI operations via RESTful APIs to abstract away the complexity of creating such messages.

Therefore, the selection of a vendor to handle EDI integration becomes an increasingly crucial business decision. The important criteria to consider when making this decision are:

  • Can the EDI integration vendor create end-to-end digital transformation?
  • Does the vendor approach integration through APIs?
  • Does the vendor enable real-time processing of data?

End-to-end Digital Transformation

A key competitive differentiator for businesses now is speed. How fast can an organization deliver goods or services to their customers? How can products be brought to market more quickly? 

One way to do this is through decreasing partner on-boarding time - e.g. getting partners set up more quickly, mapping messages efficiently, or defining business logic. Ideally, an EDI integration vendor will be able to offer full ‘mobile to mainframe’ digital transformation, from JSON to EDI. In other words, not only will an integration vendor make working with EDI messages easier, but will extend the use of the messages across numerous endpoints spanning SOA, SaaS, and API use cases. 

An example comes from a major North American retailer. This retailer wanted to deliver new products or services via web, mobile or IoT channels. To begin this process, they decided to buis a digital kiosk solution to allow unmanned sales. The kiosks would enable end-to-end customer cycle, across the purchase order and requisition process, and therefore the kiosks would have to be able to process EDI messages. But the kiosks also had to connect to central databases via APIs. A single, unified, hybrid connectivity platform solution is the most efficient way to solve this problem. The retailer experienced such success with the kiosks that they wrere rolled out nationally  to 1,150 locations in FY 2015, building on FY 2014 25% growth in same store sales.

Integration through APIs

EDI message integration is a many-to-many problem traditionally solved through point-to-point integration, but EDI integration vendors must provide speed, as every business is now competing on efficiency and time to market. An API-led approach to connectivity helps to increase agility, allowing organizations to respond to changing production and supply chain strategies more quickly. API-led connectivity also helps decrease the time taken to make changes to partner configurations, improving the IT organization’s efficiency.
The architectural benefits of this approach are:

  • De-coupled architecture abstracts away complexity.
  • More agile and responsive to change e.g. all of your retail channels are able to re-use the same process logic such that as you on-board new partners, you only need to manage the logic of receiving messages and the purchase order processing logic is already baked in thus allowing you to move quicker.

An example of this might be with a trading partner submitting a Purchase Order via a RESTful API with the integration vendor driving the downstream work to create the required EDI 850 message. In this way, you are able to onboard partners more quickly because they do not have to deal with the intricacies of EDI--e.g. for franchisees that may not have a EDI gateway, or for new retail channels e.g. like the kiosks mentioned above that do not ‘speak’ EDI.

Batch to real-time processing

Customers are increasingly demand real-time information, as do partners and employees. Processing data on a daily or slower basis constitutes a competitive disadvantage for businesses who want to create delightful and innovative experiences; it can add additional cost and risk. Usually EDI integrations are created on a point-to-point basis, but those looking for an EDI integration vendor should consider a platform approach that can replace legacy or custom point-to-point B2B/EDI solutions with real time data processing. This allows you to deliver truly transformative initiatives by transacting business in real-time through event-based workflows.

Few industries are as dependent on timely information as healthcare; real-time EDI message processing has provided positive patient outcomes for the hospital at the University of California, San Francisco. Instead of using the pager system in vogue 30 years ago, UCSF has adopted a web and mobile platform for patient care team collaboration. This tool offers real-time integration across Epic, Salesforce.com, Twilio and paging gateways and utilizes an API-led connectivity approach wrapping HL7 to JSON transformation. This collaboration tool has improved patient outcomes. 

MuleSoft’s unified approach

Unlike point-to-point EDI integration methods, Anypoint Platform uses the efficiency of API-led connectivity to abstract away complexity and allow a wider variety of partners to work with organizations using EDI messaging. Anypoint B2B extends the existing integration functionality of Anypoint Platform, with its ability to connect legacy devices, SaaS applications, and mobile or IoT applications to include EDI. Anypoint Platform provides a unified integration platform that literally allows the connection of anything, anywhere, at any time, which decreases organizational complexity and discourages vendor lock-in. This drives increased business agility and optimizing end-to-end operational processes.

Find out more about how Anypoint Platform could benefit your business.