Nightmarish – that is what some consider EDI mapping to be. The bigger your network of trading partners, the more complicated it will become.
How should you go about EDI mapping then? This article will act as a comprehensive guide to take you through the complexity of EDI mapping – what it is about, how it works, and what you can do to make the whole process less painful.
What is EDI mapping?
EDI is the acronym for electronic data interchange. It refers to the process of exchanging business data between two companies, also referred to as trading partners. The exchange of EDI documents must comply with a number of EDI communication protocols and EDI transaction codes that are standardized across a particular industry to ensure mutual understanding.
EDI mapping is a conversion process that transforms EDI into a format that works better in a new technological setting, such as an ERP system. Its main purpose is to:
- Convert EDI-specific standards into forms that other business tools can read and understand, and
- Manage numerous EDI standards inside a single EDI system.
You can think of EDI mapping as a way to communicate with others even when you and your partner speak two completely different languages. It is acting as a tool to bridge the gap between different linguistic backgrounds – in this specific case, it is the native ERP system each company uses. This ensures transparency, and mutual understanding and eliminates the risk of misunderstanding.
EDI mapping methods
As mentioned earlier, EDI mapping is crucial for effective communication. As important as the mapping tool itself is the mapping method. There are two common methods: direct EDI mapping and canonical EDI mapping.
Direct EDI mapping
Do you remember that homework as a kid where youneeded to match a word to its synonym? Direct EDI mapping works the same way. It takes each field in one format and maps it in the other, so it is essentially a 1:1 translation. In order to eliminate language barriers between business partners who already use EDI, mapping data on an EDI-to-EDI basis essentially converts one data format to another (e.g., EDIFACT to ASC X12).
This type of EDI is fast and efficient when you only need to set up and maintain a few maps. However, as the network grows larger and larger, the management becomes much more challenging. This type of EDI mapping is not scalable. If your partner decides to apply some kind of change, each and every map needs to be updated and tested.
As you can probably imagine, it is too time-consuming and labor-demanding. This is where the second type comes in.
Canonical EDI mapping
Instead of using a number of EDI maps, canonical EDI mapping uses only one. It standardizes data into a canonical master format, or CMF. This type of EDI mapping is scalable and allows communication with partners who are not familiar with EDI message standards.
In theory, it should simplify the EDI mapping process, as it only uses one map. However, that is not always the case, as its challenges will be mentioned later in this article.
Importance of EDI mapping
There are a few reasons why you should care and invest in EDI mapping. More often than not, it has a significant impact on your business.
More business opportunities
Many major businesses require EDI capability when you wish to conduct business with them. They often provide partners with EDI guidance with every important piece of information regarding EDI transactions. You need a map that corresponds to the intended data format of your trade partner in order to adhere to these EDI standards.
The ability to translate data effectively
Every company leverages different types of ERPs; therefore, they have their own internal data format that goes well with the system. With such many different data formats, EDI mapping takes care of translating EDI documents into a fitting internal format. This also includes the conversion of unprocessed EDI data into a human-readable format, which makes it simpler to comprehend the specifics of an EDI transaction. An example of these kinds of files includes CSV, TXT, or XML file formats – which are accepted by Sage and Microsoft Dynamics.
Gaining major advantages
In addition to providing you with a variety of functions that opens up valuable opportunities, EDI mapping surely brings to the table undeniable benefits.
We are living in a digitalized world. Streamlined communication plays a crucial role in handling modern business demands. EDI mapping creates flat files or file formats like XML that can easily be used to connect to trading partners during transactions. Gone are the days of integrating the same languages to work together. When using EDI-to-other mapping approaches, this capability even enables successful integration with supply chain partners who are wholly untrained or underequipped for EDI in general.
Eliminates manual work
Instead of oversimplifying the process, EDI mapping eliminates human error and human intervention. The system automatically handles and sends eternal data to internal systems. As the process is repetitive and can be set up beforehand, no human intervention is needed.
Having the whole process set up precisely and automatically eliminates expensive and time-consuming errors that require back-and-forth correcting. Most important of all, it eliminates chargebacks that have a negative impact on the business’s bottom line. In the worst-case scenario, chargebacks can cause a bad reputation, causing your clients to choose your opponent’s service instead of yours.
As mentioned earlier, by automating most of the processes, EDI mapping eliminates human errors. The fewer human errors there are, the fewer chargebacks there will be. Chargebacks may seem minor individually, but over time, those errors become extremely expensive. Additionally, your business also stands to cut costs put into labor.
EDI mapping does not only subtract from your costs, but it also adds value to your supply chain. A highly accurate, smooth EDI system allows for an ongoing supply chain that operates without problems and helps build strong and quality relationships with customers.
EDI mapping challenges
As convenient and as beneficial as it sounds, EDI mapping still faces a number of challenges.
It is not easy to keep your EDI maps up to date
When your partner makes any kind of update, be it in their EDI guidance or ERP system switching, the EDI maps need to be updated accordingly. This involves the file formats and the testing of the individual EDI maps, which can be time-consuming.
Canonical EDI mapping can be complicated
As mentioned earlier, canonical is supposed to make the process of EDI mapping simpler and easier. However, more often than not, they introduce a new layer of complication to the business, as there are more things to manage, trace and track.
A solution to this problem is to work with an EDI provider that customizes the solution per your demands rather than opting for solutions that are already available, but not suitable.
The absence of an in-house EDI expert
Not having an in-house EDI expert might complicate the process.
As mentioned earlier, should your partner update anything within their system, you need to update every single map accordingly – which can take days to complete. Fearing such risk, many companies utilize expert-led EDI mapping integrations. They are constantly under the supervision of those who are well aware of what mapping entails. To provide users with more control and insight over the whole mapping process, these customized solutions interface directly inside EDI systems.
Another huge plus is that professionals are always available to respond in real time to data changes across the supply chain, saving firms a tremendous amount of headaches.
What should a strong EDI mapping software have?
If you are looking to choose an EDI mapping software for your company, make sure you have done your homework first. Following are some questions that might help you with the process.
- Is it flexible and scalable? Does the EDI mapping software have the ability to accommodate your future demands? Will it be able to grow alongside your business?
- Does the EDI provider offer managed service EDI mapping? Does the EDI provider of your choice have experience in the field you are operating in? What does their credibility look like? Have they worked with any of your trading partners before?
- Is the EDI mapping solution cloud-based? It is much easier to handle modern business requirements when the solution is cloud-based. Unlike on-premise solutions, they do not require hardware or a whole team to maintain the system.
EDI mapping plays a large role in EDI flexibility. As supply chains are becoming more and more complex and multi-layered, ED mapping and EDI standards simplify everything and make everything a tad bit easier.
EDI mapping looks for ways to bridge the differences regarding file formats and EDI expertise. Hence, conducting business with your partner is smoother and faster, with tools helping you make more confident decisions. One way to achieve such confidence is by considering SCS Solution’s services. Let us help you! Reach out via our website https://www.scssolutions.io/, Linkedin, or Facebook.