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This is the On-line companion to my monthly column in
Enterprise Reengineering
The National Publication for BPR

Finding EDI Resources
(From the May 1996 issue)

In my previous column, I touched upon the benefits of keeping your information electronically based as it moves between suppliers and customers. Electronic data interchange, or EDI, is being widely pursued as the mechanism to ensure that suppliers and customers can communicate electronically.

I like to think of EDI as producing industry-specific data dictionaries.

You may be forced into EDI if your industry or large business partners are migrating towards it For example, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 requires the broad use of electronic commerce and electronic data interchange by federal agencies.

The subject of EDI is especially well discussed on the Internet and there is a wealth of online information. If you are involved with EDI efforts, you would be foolish to not be using the 'Net as a valuable resource.

As well, most organizations involved with EDI standards are accessible through the Internet:

If you are just learning about EDI, other sites to visit include:

Vendors who need EDI to interact with the federal government should visit the DOD Electronic Commerce Office. In order to engage in electronic commerce with the Department of Defense, you must either obtain value added network, or VAN, certification yourself or use the services of one of these VANs certified to provide access to FACNET .

So far, I have only been pointing to online resources to help you understand and implement EDI. One question that often comes up is whether the Internet can be used as the conduit for EDI. The alternative is to use a privately designed and funded VAN, which can be quite costly. A "must read" for this topic is RFC 1865, "EDI Meets the Internet: Frequently Asked Questions about EDI on the Internet." This is a nicely written document which covers all the bases and points to additional online resources. One of the most immediate possibilities of Internet EDI is using E-mail for transporting EDI content. This topic is covered in RFC 1767, "MIME Encapsulation of EDI Objects." With the emerging encryption mechanisms and standard E-mail attachment protocols, E-mail may prove to be the most economical way to conduct EDI among trading partners.

EDI represents a continued migration to an electronically based world. It takes time to adjust to the new frontier. Begin the process now. Spend time on the Internet and get used to the idea of electronic transactions. I recently purchased a new modem through a Web page at 6 p.m. and it was on my doorstep the next morning. While this is a simple example, it does help adjust your paradigm and expectations. Be prepared for all business transactions to become much faster.

Russ Haynal

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