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Implementing EDI: 6 Steps To Integration

So, you’re thinking about implementing EDI. First things first: What is EDI? EDI, or the electronic exchange of business documents, is a set of standards that define common formats for information to be exchanged electronically between two organizations that conduct business together (better known as trading partners). As a function of EDI, these standards allow companies to speak the same language electronically, thus communicating more efficiently.

March 06, 2023


Implementing EDI across your organization and enterprise resource systems is a complex process. There are many factors to consider in understanding how to build a network that will support electronic data interchange. The following checklist contains just a few of the top EDI best practices that come with EDI implementation.

1. Create an Internal Team Structure

Research and create your internal team structure to understand who will be managing the system and who will be communicating with trading partners. Successfully implementing EDI also requires you to identify the team members on the other end of the supply chain and enterprise resource planning (ERP).

You must make sure to identify the owner of the EDI translator and their function and who will be in direct communication with the other vital roles within your organization. Your EDI system will be the ongoing communication method for your organization. Gaining the support of your internal teams will benefit them and have a positive impact on how EDI affects the complete supply chain.

2. Evaluate Your Organization’s Priorities

At this point in the project, you will need to evaluate and identify the priorities for your EDI implementation. Consider all the necessary factors, such as the number of trading partners, suppliers and other customers you will be using EDI with.

Review the volume of transactions and the various types you’ll exchange with your business partners. Ask questions concerning what your new EDI setup can eliminate:

  • What types of manual effort can you remove from data entry and reporting?
    • Identifying this will help eliminate steps from your current business cycle that can be automated.
  • Can you now create inventory control within your EDI and ERP?
    • If so, you will also be able to improve customer service from time of service, the request of inventory and the delivery of products.

    • You’ll also now be able to facilitate just-in-time manufacturing and improve overall business partner relationships.

Evaluate your entire organization to determine which areas of your business are ready for EDI implementation. Determine which process will cost the least to implement EDI and deliver the most significant savings and increased profitability.

After you evaluate these areas, you can map out the scope of your project, as well as descriptions of your internal strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that come with additional systems.

3. Create a Timeline

This is the point where you will lay out the timeline for implementation. Be sure to review the timing of the system’s development and the funding required for the project. Once you create your plan, you’re ready to begin researching the EDI translator.

4. Select a Translator

Your translator selection is key to your EDI implementation and success. Your translator will aid in interpreting the EDI information it receives from the sender and translating it into the agreed-upon format that the receiver has proposed.

Successful EDI translators should:

  • Provide validation of the documents’ adherence to agreed-upon EDI standards

  • Check documents for redundancies and confusion

  • Offer functional acknowledgment reconciliation that alerts EDI teams when documents don’t look right

5. Review Your EDI Implementation Guide

Once you select your translator, you will also request an EDI implementation guide from each trading partner that requires you to utilize EDI. The implementation guide will lay out your communication model, including:

  • Direct connection to each other

  • Utilization of an EDI network provider

  • Direct connection for high-volume business partners and use of EDI network for additional customers

  • The outsourcing of your EDI program to a managed service provider

After you review the implementation guide, you’ll have the required transaction standards to begin mapping with your trading partners.

6. Define the Map

Now that the data analysis is complete and the data structures are understood, the map can be defined to the EDI translation software. For most EDI software packages or VAN services, the EDI coordinator will be able to define the map.

The map defines how the data in the EDI transaction relates to the data in the internal system. The EDI software then stores the map, typically in tabular form. When a transaction enters the system, the EDI translator uses this map to determine where each incoming field goes and whether the data needs to be reformatted.

There are three major processes involved in the mapping of EDI data:

  • Mapping: The transformation of an EDI document into another format or vice versa

  • Translation: The acceptance of inbound EDI data or the preparation of an outbound file for transmission

  • Communications: The transmission of EDI transactions

As you can see, a lot goes into implementing EDI and being EDI compliant. That’s why we’ve worked to simplify and streamline the process.