So, back to our question: “Why is EDI so difficult?” We have no standard.
Now, as I write this, I can hear your minds saying, “What do you mean we have no standard? We have plenty of standards for EDI!”
Yes, and that’s exactly the problem. We have too many standards!
We have x12 and EDIFACT, OAGIS and xCBL and many more xml standards. When we must support all these standards for various partners, we end up with a map-per-partner-per-transaction. Today, we have thousands of maps, instead of thousands of format conversion programs. We simply traded Point-to-Point systems. We had too many file formats, now we have too many EDI standards.
A “standard” implies that you have one single way of doing things, one format or protocol that every company follows. If you have 23 “standards” for EDI, and different companies are following different EDI formats or protocols, then you don’t have a standard.
Not only that, EDI standards constantly change. Every year, and sometimes twice a year, we get a new version of EDI. If a company migrates to a newer version, they must re-map and re-test every transaction they make with every partner. This is why most companies are still using either EDIFACT 97B or X12 4010 – EDI standards that are 20 years old. It would take years and cost them millions of dollars to switch to another standard.
Imagine if we had one clear worldwide standard for EDI? How much simpler EDI could be! Are the standards bodies working on this? It seems to me they think more is better.
Now that I’ve identified the first and most pressing problem with EDI, let’s solve it. We don’t need anyone’s permission to start.