For most EDI systems, the greatest development task is integrating EDI systems with existing corporate applications. Data required by trading partners and EDI standards must be “mapped” onto data contained in existing systems.
After purchasing the necessary hardware and/or software to support your EDI solution, a skilled EDI programming staff must next convert the requirements into reality. The staff must be fully knowledgeable of EDI standards, in-house systems and communication protocols. The basic tasks that need to be performed include: (1) integrating EDI with your in-house (ERP) business systems, which means, extracting and loading data; (2) creating the EDI documents by mapping (correlating) the extracted data to the proper segments and data elements of the EDI transactions, as well as providing the enveloping and other necessary data; and (3) installing and configuring the communication software for sending and receiving documents. Each of these processes can be very complex, particularly when you have many trading partners, such as customers, each with its own requirements. That’s why a good, technically-skilled staff is needed.
Prototyping methodologies, where system prototypes are developed before systems are actually coded, and Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) tools help to streamline system development. Integration usually consists of three key activities:
- The data analysis portion of mapping
- Mapping via the EDI software
- Development of any custom interface programs or user exits
When selecting a software package or VAN service, check how much of the mapping elements have already been addressed in the chosen solution. Not only will this impact how easily the EDI system will integrate with back-office systems, it will speed the integration process and reduce the cost of custom development.
Integrating EDI with the business often highlights opportunities to re-engineer the business process and reap further benefits.