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When and When not to Deviate from Standards
What do we mean by “deviating from EDI Standards”? Experience has shown that in-place EDI Standards, coupled with adequate “Trading Partner Conventions” are a very strong and robust set of tools. The Standards are “bigger than a bread box” and hold the possibility of solving any trading partner issues that arise.
I first searched online for any instances of “deviating from EDI Standards”. Not finding anything of value to report, I searched numerous EDI vendors for their stance on the subject. The first one I ran into stated that there will always be deviations from EDI Standards: Over the years, they have seen almost every EDI standards varied. As dedicated professionals, they simply meet the needs of their user, at no additional cost or fuss.
The next vendor stated that EDI Standards are the broad set of rules from which no EDI partner can deviate. Like a sporting event, the standards committee sets the rules of play so that every party can freely participate. It’s the individual ground rules of the EDI partners that vary from EDI partnership to EDI partnership.
Others feel there are ways around data issues. “There is freedom all around us in EDI. The trick is to find it and take it.“ If, for example, that MSG segment (and ANSI 864) wasn’t allowed in EDI – and if it was confining and restrictive – we wouldn’t be able to send some of the information to our trading partners that ARE important. Well, it is allowed and the Standards have many other ways to help. Count the number of times the word “OTHER” occurs in the documentation. Segments, Elements, and Qualifiers are all designed to keep us from having to deviate from standards.
But am I the only one screaming from the sidelines that “Trading Partner Conventions” are a vital part of any EDI Relationship?
Is that not enough support yet for not deviating from standards? GS1 US, Inc. provides voluntary standards as a service to interested industries. It was developed through a consensus process of interested parties.
Often missing from the specifications are real world descriptions of how the data should be interpreted. This is particularly important when specifying quantity. For example, suppose candy is packaged in a large box that contains 5 display boxes and each display box contains 24 boxes of candy packaged for the consumer. If an EDI 940 document says to ship 10 boxes of candy it may not be clear whether to ship 10 consumer packaged boxes, 240 consumer packaged boxes or 1200 consumer packaged boxes. It is not enough for two parties to agree to use a particular qualifiers indicating case, pack, box or each; they must also agree on what that particular qualifier means. Here again: Trading Partner Conventions come into play!
Someone once said, “The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” EDI allows companies to do business together through computers using strictly standardized electronic documents. Strict adherence to standards is vital for EDI to work. Deviation inevitably results in costly computer programming efforts.