EDI + API: A Pair Better United than Divided

Written by Pranita Narvekar

Business Analyst

If there was one particular thing that IBM’s Sterling B2B Integrator does - apart from being a one-stop solution to process and transform all organizational transaction data utilizing its ability to integrate with APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for a truly rich user experience - it probably makes you think of the following question

‘Why do rumours still exist about EDIs being on their way out and APIs taking over the ways businesses interact with each other?’.

Well, before we put these rumours to rest, let us find out what the individual camps - i.e., the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) & API factions have to say for themselves.

  • EDI loyalists say that the technology still has plenty of benefits over APIs, such as specific transport protocols like Odette File Transfer Protocol (OFTP) & Applicability Statement 2 (AS2), as well as the provision of utilizing defined message types such as EDIFACT (the United Nations rules for Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport) and X12, therefore providing more diverse and specific message formats towards supplier-vendor interactions.
  • On the other hand, the API-brigade says that it allows developers to swiftly set up more holistic solutions that take care of a wide array of operations, including back-end resource interactions, as well as easier security management and accessibility of those resources. Moreover, APIs allow vendors to check real-time transactional information, something which can be done on mobile platforms as well.

However, we at Royal Cyber believe that EDI and API platforms can be integrated to form an incredible synergy - one where the richness of EDI’s features combines with the ease of administration that API platforms offer.

We aim to help businesses obtain this synergy via the transaction engine IBM Sterling B2B Integrator. By unleashing the true potential of the Sterling Integrator, any organization involved in B2B transactions can effectively unite their EDI and API platforms, thereby allowing administrators/developers to easily define, create, implement, and manage process flows. These flows, in turn, allow for the processing, routing, translation, and storage of high volumes of inbound and outbound messages or files.

Accordingly, let us now analyze the various ways the EDI-API synergy can help businesses thrive, so that the benefits of using the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator also become clearer.

Instant Access and Sharing of Information between Clients and Vendors

Here, the synergy between APIs real-time information access utility can combine beautifully with EDIs rich message formats. This can allow your trading partners to access transactional information across various B2B verticals almost immediately. It may include transactions that you currently handle via EDI or it may include new transactions that will help the partner submit higher quality EDI. A good example of such a scenario can be an insurance payout platform, where an API can provide real-time information on a given member’s eligibility, then enables the insurance payer to submit eligibility information via an EDI claim system using the most suitable message format. Having said that, the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator brings together applications, process workflows, complex data sets, and people, not just in your own organization, but outside it as well.

By merging the capabilities of your EDI and API systems, as well as providing robust visual management tools for simplified handling of process workflows and visibility into all trading partner actions - can not only minimize errors in transactions on the EDI front, but allow developers and vendors to cross check information via the aforementioned tools.

Moreover, this process will help you in the long run as well, as you can use the lookups to provide specific information about what needs to be fixed before the next transaction occurs, thereby helping your clients save time and money.

Save on Labor Costs Associated with Manual Processing of EDI Transactions

This can be done by adding APIs to vendor backend systems to supplement transactional data, correct errors, etc. These APIs come handy when there are major transaction errors in the EDI space. They can allow developers/administrators to swiftly access and modify back-end datasets, which will improve the effective processing of inbound transactions.

Also, after an EDI transaction arrives and is accepted into a supplier's system, it has to be evaluated for errors. However, many businesses still deploy manpower to process their EDI transactions. This is a costly process in terms of work-hours and money, and can be overcome by adding API lookups to the backend systems. This will allow the lookups to check any and all transactions before they move on to the downstream system, in turn speeding up the process flow.

The IBM Sterling B2B Integrator allows you to not only add API lookups easily, but also provides a central hub that delivers end-to-end transaction visibility, can automate alerts and obtain processing state information on-the-go.

Integration and Simplification of the Support Process

This is achieved by creating a single portal that combines all EDIs and APIs together, so that a client can see all of the vendor's services and transaction history in one place.

In many organizations, separate verticals are created to deal with issues and services related to EDIs and APIs. By combining EDIs and APIs under one portal, a B2B partner could easily communicate with a single point of contact. Also, the partner can visit a single platform - that shortlists all EDIs, APIs and services - as well as information pertaining to prior electronic transactions that were conducted.

Also, the EDI + API integration can allow business partners to have their transactions processed and approved in a single platform or business vertical, instead of waiting for multiple verticals to manually process the transactions.

The Sterling B2B Integrator platform makes this integration super-easy and attainable, as the transaction engine is built to work with the data formats, communication protocols, workflow processes that are most commonly used across a plethora of industries. This does away with the need to retrain your workforce to utilize the tool, as well as investing in complex and expensive infrastructure to integrate your operations.

Finally, it must be said that the EDI + API synergy can improve client-vendor transactions, and improve professional relations as well. One of the key aspects of the IBM Sterling B2B Integrator is that it enables businesses to interact and integrate with both internal systems and external business partners. By enabling businesses to combine messaging, human interventions, and database organization within process models, and also supporting real-time transaction requests and reply processing, the platform is designed to make B2B transaction operations as transparent and smooth as they can be.

Be Prudent! 31st September, 2021, IBM will Stop Support

You may be aware of IBM’s planned End of Support for IBM Sterling B2B Integrator v5.2.6x and IBM Sterling File Gateway v2.2.6x on September 30, 2021. From October 1, 2021, if you face a software issue, IBM will instruct you to upgrade to version 6.0.x or 6.1 first and only then provide technical support.

Choosing to work with an experienced and reliable implementation partner that understands your business, can minimize the impact of any technical issues that may come up, and help in keeping the project within scope and on budget.

Royal Cyber, a certified and awarded IBM Gold Business partner with 20+ years of expertise in the implementation and upgradation of IBM B2B services, can help you move to the latest version of IBM B2B Integrator and IBM File Gateway so you can reap these benefits immediately.

To find out more about our managed services, please contact us.

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