EDI predicted to be the Next Big Thing for business automation

  February 14, 2012       By Ray Atia
A decade ago, EDI was predicted to be the Next Big Thing for business automation. But users have found EDI requires an almost religious adherence to standards and a high cost of participation. Most joined a new congregation--of fax users. Fax was an affordable way to accelerate the purchase order flow without reengineering the whole computer system or retraining the clerical staff. Even some EDI believers have come to use their systems like fax machines. They receive the EDI documents, translate them and print them out for manual processing. Indeed, the amount of money spent on fax dwarfs the EDI industry. And its billions are spent almost entirely on electronic document interchange. Its no wonder that the EDI pundits are recasting their roles in the electronic business world and that concepts like Electronic Commerce are starting to emerge. EDI is still a religion, and it still requires strict adherence to complex standards. But EC can subsume EDI, tolerate fax and reach out to barcodes and electronic money. EC is less a religion than a nondenominational ecumenical council. The smallest member of the consortium, EDI has been a slow starter compared with fax, barcodes and EFT. This isnt surprising, since successful EDI applications require a commitment to working EDI communications into the existing suite of business applications and workflows. Standards makers have thrown users a curve with EDIFACT, and other forms of EC will probably continue to earn the revenues that EDI once coveted. But businesses still need tools and assistance to connect the order processing system to the shipping and receiving application, and both have to talk to the manufacturing and engineering systems. Call it internal EDI, intelligent EDI or integrated EDI. Whatever the name, this seems to be where EDI holds the brightest promise for the future.