Today's blog was written by David McAlister from McAna EDI.
Many people that call requesting information about EDI translation software have jumped in the lake without a life jacket. Lucky for me (and them), EDI software vendors have just what they need. And no, there is no perfect solution to fit every need they might have. Every requirement is different and every corporation’s climate is different. Sometimes decisions are made for reasons that cannot always be explained. The important thing is that their understanding of terms are clear so that they can communicate in a highly technical environment and make a decision they feel comfortable with.
Many people erroneously think that translation only means mapping. Some EDI translation software packages include a mapper, but their main function serves other purposes. EDI software verifies the EDI data format and some content. It performs communications tasks to send and receive data. It also generates functional acknowledgements. Some translators generate reports of the transactions. The software plays more of a role of being a traffic cop than anything else. You go here, you go over there and you stop right there. They route data just as traffic lights do for cars in intersections.
A mapping tool MAY also be a part of the EDI software. The mapping tool does not translate the data, as it is a development tool for integration tasks. Let's say the body shop or repair shop is at the intersection. The car comes out with a chopped top, spoked wheels and a bright chrome. In the same respect, the mapping tool reaches out into databases and formats the original message into a different data set with additional data from other locations. The mapping programs in the EDI software are then executed within the EDI translation software. When the EDI translation software gets data from a trading partner, it recognizes that it is, for instance, an EDI 850 purchase order. The software then executes a mapping program to format the data into, for example, a Great Plains database record. It then sends out reports or alerts letting the user know that the order was created and sends back a response to the originating trading partner that the transaction was received, either successfully or in error.
Lots of technical stuff going on there. If you are a detailed person like me, you will want to know more, get into the details and ask more questions. Others just say, "Hey get this done...I have other things to focus on in my business." EDI software vendors are there to listen, explain and be helpful...whatever your needs are. I had one client that told me she hated EDI. We later worked on a project that tested both of us to try to get the order to go through her current production system. One day it finally all came together. We collaborated, tried different things and finally found the right direction. I have not seen anyone so excited over EDI! So challenge yourself to understand the details of EDI translation software before you invest in your future. The results of your upfront efforts will pay off in the end.