Wednesday, December 5, 2018

EDI and Kilo-characters

Jeff Lanford is an experienced IT professional specializing in EDI, system integration and application development. When not consulting, Jeff Lanford continues to stay abreast of the latest technologies and leading trends of the industry through training and quality business relationships.

What is a kilo-character? In the EDI industry, service providers will typically bill transactions by the volume of kilo-characters. A kilo-character corresponds to one thousand characters in a file. A character corresponds to a every single character, every single space, and every single delimiter contained within an EDI file. When an entity like OpenText bills a customer, they typically bill by the number of kilo-characters for a given month. To determine the number of kilo-characters, you divide your total number of characters by a thousand. Most operation systems (windows, mac) will allow this information to be readily available by simply viewing the file properties.

There is a trend in the industry that involves billing to occur by transaction (or message) rather than kilo-character. This takes the complexity out of the equation by ignoring the volume of data contained within a message. A message equals one specific business transaction. An invoice or shipment advice would be an example of one transaction count.  There can be one or more transactions within a file.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Why EDI Truly Is a Success

Jeff Lanford served as an EDI developer for Kids II, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia for over 16 years. In this role, Jeff Lanford evolved the company's EDI platform into a best-in-class solution that helped grow the company into a half a billion dollar business.

Will EDI ever be replaced by another technology? It’s my opinion that EDI will be around forever (or as long as business involves an order, shipment and invoice).

When I began my career in EDI in August of 2000, there were a lot of discussions being had in the technology arena that EDI would eventually be replaced by another solution. During this time, one of the first threats to EDI as touted in popular trade articles was XML. Sure, XML filled a great need as a data format to be easily defined, exposed and consumed from system to system. However, its highly extensible model was too broad for it to become a replacement for EDI. As such, while XML gave rise to new tool sets for interpreting and processing data from system to system, it never took hold as a major player in terms of a data standard that businesses use to exchange electronic documents.

Next in line as a potential threat to EDI was the advent and adoption of web services and APIs. What made these such a viable threat to EDI was the near real-time component that web services and APIs have by design. This movement has been successful yet it still hasn't become a replacement to EDI. I believe the primary reason for this is due to the fact that there is still a strong need for IT architectures to isolate the processing of electronic data. Web services and APIs typically leverage a synchronous transaction model where line-of-business systems are being altered by external trading partners in a real-time fashion. Traditional EDI maintains a layer of protection to the line-of-business systems where validation is isolated from the core business which minimizes the corruption of a given organization's system of record. Web services and APIs do offer validation capabilities and many support this approach, but in my experience, organizations are a lot more effective when employing EDI versus web services/APIs because by isolating validation from the core business, users have a lot more trust in their data and as a result makes them more apt for quick decision making.

What are some other technologies that have posed a thread to EDI?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Lyoto Machida Moves to Bellator

Information technology consultant Jeff Lanford worked with Kids II in Atlanta, Georgia, building a wide range of skills in e-commerce and applications development. When not consulting on IT issues, Jeff Lanford enjoys watching a sports, including mixed martial arts. His favorite fighter is Lyoto Machida, a Japanese-Brazilian fighter who has been successful in both his 2018 bouts.

Lyoto Machida reached a verbal agreement with Bellator in June 2018 to join the mixed martial arts organization. His contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ran out after his recent bout with Vitor Belfort, and the former UFC light heavyweight champion now has his eyes set on a Bellator belt. He still maintains friendly relationships with many UFC fighters and personnel, but considered the Bellator offer to be in his best business interests.

Machida has no specific fighter he is interested in fighting during his debut, but is interested in fighting as soon as possible. He would prefer to make his Bellator debut during September or October, and would like to have the chance to fight on the same card as his older brother, Chinzo Machida.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

EDI - What It Is and How It Works

Jeff Lanford recently served as a developer of EDI applications for Kids II, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. In this role, Jeff Lanford led the migration of the company's EDI platform.

EDI stands for Electronic Data Interchange. It enables the electronic transfer of business documents from one business partner to another, thanks to the presence of a standard electronic format. It is a computer-to-computer system, meaning that it eliminates the need for user-operated email, postal mail, and fax systems. With EDI, one computer creates and sends a document directly to another, and that other computer processes the document as necessary.

EDI streamlines the communication process and greatly reduces or eliminates the possibility of user errors. Even in a more traditional paperless system, employees must still generate documents and email them to a partner organization, where a representative must receive the document and take the appropriate action. For example, if a buyer sends a purchase order to a supplier, that organization would then enter the order, print the invoice, and send it back to the buyer for processing.

In an EDI process, however, the buyer's system sends a purchase order directly to the relevant application in the supplier's system. That application can then begin to process the order with no need for user participation. This requires both parties to have the same EDI standard and version, just as two human beings communicating need to speak the same language.

In most cases, EDI documents travel from one company to another. The process is extremely streamlined and can remove days to weeks from applied processes.