This is a common question asked by companies who are looking for an organization to manage or provide all or a portion of an EDI solution. In it’s most basic form, EDI Provider should be able to connect to your trading partner on your behalf and provide you with some capability to interact with that trading partner. That interaction with your trading partner could be an online interface, direct integration or other methods provided by your EDI provider. In many cases, an EDI Provider can be providing or enabling a capability within your environment to exchange data between an application in your environment and a middleware or other ‘connective’ solution such as an API or web service.
Years ago an EDI Provider could simply be a company that provided a middleware tool (Translator), maybe in addition to a VAN (Value Added Network). With advancement in internet technology, the different methods available to create connections between businesses or applications has exploded making us reconsider what an EDI Provider should actually be providing.
At the Root of it all is the term, “EDI”. EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange and implies the conveyance of machine readable data from one system to another. Historically this meant the exchange of X.12 documents across VAN networks. Now this definition (We believe) MUST also include a myriad of formats and transport protocols at play to transact data between both applications (A2A), businesses (B2B) and sometimes both simultaneously.
It’s not uncommon at all to have companies ask for the ability to receive an XML message using web service and have it routed in one direction using X.12/VAN while also being consumed by a platform such as SAP (iDOC/web service or other formats). The variations in EDI have grown tremendously in terms of formats/protocols being used. This forces us to redefine what we consider an EDI Provider. And as technology evolves, we absolutely see the term “EDI Provider” as one that will be in flux for years to come.
Perhaps the term should be recast as “EDE Provider” i.e. Electronic Data Exchange.