Blog post

EDI is HOT. No, really!

By Benoit Lheureux | March 25, 2011 | 3 Comments

File this under “random datapoints on B2B”, or “things that make you go, ‘hmmmmm’…”

In the last few days I’ve had 3 research inquiries with Gartner clients on the IT topic:  EDI.

And I mean, very specifically, “EDI”. Here’s the actual “Subject” submitted by clients captured from of our internal Gartner research inquiry tracking tool …

… which reveals that the actual client-specified subject for the research inquiry was, in fact, simply “EDI”. As it also had two other times in the last week. And as it comes up at least a few times a month throughout the year, as it has every year since the late 1990’s.

Just to be clear in the last few days — like all year ’round — I actually did a *bunch* of other calls on EDI, and of course calls on related topics such as B2B, Cloud services integration, integration managed services, cloud services brokerage and that sort of thing. But usually the subject line for the research inquiry will be something a bit more specific like “Help with EDI translator upgrade”, “EDI contract renewal”, “EDI standards”, “Leading EDI vendors”, “How to integrate EDI with SaaS”, “Modernizing EDI”, or that sort of thing.

But just “EDI” — I mean *E* *D* *I* — really? I mean, is that IT-Sexy — like Cloud? Um, well … definitely not. But it is, remarkably, still IT Hot. Let me explain.

First, there’s something about a request to discuss just simply “EDI” that is powerfully crisp and pithy. And reveals the underlying assumptions of the person who submitted the research inquiry request. I *love* taking these calls! I am amused by the presumption that simply saying “EDI” says it all. That everything I do professionally (well, at least part of what I do) can be distilled into a 3-letter acronym. But in fact “EDI” is rich with meaning — and my upcoming call with a client on that topic has the potential to take any number of deep, related drill down topics. Will the client want to discuss EDI standards? Do they wanna “do” EDI? Meaning, possibly translation. Possibly exchanging EDI transactions with trading partners. Or possibly instrumenting EDI? Perhaps they just need help short-listing EDI vendors. Or modernizing their EDI infrastructure. Or identifying useful EDI metrics. 

More likely even if they don’t know it the client is *really* asking about “B2B”. Think about it. Go up and replace every occurrance of “EDI” in the prior paragraph with “B2B” — and you’ll see that the topic both embraces and extends EDI into the world of XML, REST, Cloud computing, et al. Many “EDI” calls ultimately *become* calls about EDI + B2B + Cloud.

The fact is, I’m happy either way. EDI stand-alone. EDI to B2B to Cloud. Cloud to EDI (!) — no, really — ever more of my Cloud discussions in fact ultimate lead — in *back to the future* fashion — back to EDI. Watch carefully for announcement from innovative Cloud providers that will be offering — shock! — direct EDI support. Whoosh!

Look: for any *greenfield* IT project of course I’d recommend more innovative approaches and I’ve even predicted their emergence. But you gotta be realistic — and in any well established B2B community EDI is ubitquitous — and it works. It still delivers value to business because it automates B2B processes — and can be instrumented to help drive process improvement. What’s not to like about that?

Bottom line: EDI remains — and will remain for years to come — a high impact, valueable asset to business. More innovative approaches should be used for greenfield projects but EDI is a well-established approach that is still a vital component of most companies overall B2B strategy, and easily contributes to B2B, cloud computing, business intelligence, et al.

In other words EDI is — dare I say it? — still HOT.

No, really!

– bjl

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  • Hot Hot Hot…why? Lemme tell you:

    The barriers to implementation have fallen, SME’s can avail of a rich set of tools or ready to ear services. Bespoke developers now have a more API’s, libraries, and cloud services that they can plug an play with, many are open source, most or all have very liberal or open ended trials.

    There has never been a better time to create new, groundbreaking EDI applications and ventures, yes, ventures, using the best features of what EDI accomplished, without being sucked into the classic B2B $$$ world. We will see new ventres mashing up EDI communications, new data transparency tools standards, probably the end of mapping as a requirement, simplified transactions sets, more more more.

    The on-boarding process will become trivial. I misspelled that sentence before correcting it, I wrote “tribal” – I was right the first time; EDI or more properly, B2B partner integration, will start becoming a way to work with partners in the horizontal, even casual business relationships , not just the up and down stream supply chains, which will remain important.

    We will see the death of the KC in my opinion, or at least the creation of more pick and choose models, where we see some trading partners as both spokes and hubs.

    We will see some risk capital come back to the market, as opposed to the private equity that has fomented the recent toxic roll-ups, seed and venture capital will come back to allow some ground up, innovative, new age EDI B2B ventures that will do all or some of the above.

    Finally, we will witness the fall of some giants that have ‘gone a bridge too far’, and enjoyed themselves a bit too much at the industry’s and their customers success. OPM can only bring scale, not graciousness or creativity.

  • Very interesting post. Is EDI really “hot”? I don’t think so. But is does validate the time-proven tradition that not all users adopt technologies at the same rate, nor do they “un-adopt” technologies in favor of the latest/greatest.

    In many cases, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” still applies 😉


  • EDI is hot for a couple of reasons.
    1) By our estimates over 1/3 of GDP rides depends on it
    2) The financial and labor barriers to entry have never been lower.

    Current integrations with mid-market ERP systems (Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, Accountmate, etc) offer labor savings and automation on par with the six figure software packages and multi-person IT departments of the previous 20 years.