The key to developing EDI solutions, the fundamental reason justifying their adoption and the penetration rate of these technologies in business, is arguably the use of EDI standard languages. The rollout of common regulations to draft electronic documents capable of being interpreted by any trading partner with the right technology has been and continues to be a determining factor in securing IT system integration among enterprises engaged in business relations in one way or another.
There are different types of EDI standards, some developed specifically for particular industries and others used extensively across more sectors or regions. At the end of the day, standards define the rules to consider when issuing and interpreting a specific commercial transaction. Purchase orders, despatch advice messages, invoices and other documents to exchange must have been generated by respecting the rules defined by the EDI language used. These rules establish the order in which information is to be presented, the minimum data that must compulsorily be displayed in each message or document, the methodology to use to label the different fields contained in a message, etc.
Some of the most widely implemented EDI standards are:
United Nations/Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport, the standard developed by the UN in the 1980s as an outcome of work by Working Party 4.
It is a multi-country, multi-industry EDI language extensively used across Europe, especially in the retail industry, the first sector to take it up, although over time it has also been adopted by other fields including health, logistics, transport and the building industry.
ANSI ASC X12
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) chartered the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) in the late 1970s to develop a uniform message standard for electronic document exchanges. That is how the well-known ANSI X12 came about, initially as a standard to be used by North American companies in different sectors. Although the region that most commonly uses this EDI language continues to be North America, the reality is that today it is present around the world and is a standard implemented in practically any EDI solution.
The Organization for Data Exchange by Tele Transmission in Europe (ODETTE) represents the interests of the car industry in Europe that develops tools to improve product and supply flows in the auto industry value chain.
It is responsible for the development of the message standard that bears its name, as well as dedicated communication protocols like OFTP.
UBL (Universal Business Language)
In 1988, accountant and auditor Charles Hoffman developed the seed of an XMI-based language initially designed for the finance industry.
The European Union, within the framework of its 2020 strategy, has designated UBL as a benchmark standard for public procurement, so many government agencies across Member States are incorporating it as a basis to define the messages they exchange with their providers.