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Are APIs faster than EDI?

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We’ve heard some businesses say that they “want to go to API because it’s so much faster than EDI.” Before you prescribe the solution and rebuild existing, working messaging connections— let’s take a few moments to unwrap that idea.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI for short) simply means enabling electronic commerce messaging between two business partners. While the industry has used EDI as shorthand for X12 standardized messaging, sending an API with a JSON payload to transfer the data isn’t all that different. Whether that message is sent or received in one format or another should not affect the speed of the process since you’ll be utilizing the same connections. One company may use a legacy EDI system, and its trading partner utilizes APIs. Transfer of data, transformation of data, and delivery, in most cases, takes just a fraction of a second.

The transformation may have nuances specific to each of the companies involved, and variables exist in both the API/JSON messaging as they have with X12 messaging. Even with data standards, setup, and testing, checking both partners’ formats and making sure that the field mapping is right and conforms to the message recipient’s standards. A simple example of this: Supplier Co. uses a MM/DD/YYYY format for dates, and their trading partner uses a DD/MM/YYYY format. The transformation ensures that the intended message is conveyed accurately, so the request intended to be for January 3 doesn’t get delayed to March 1. Once the setup has been tested and confirmed, the processing speed should be the same – whether the messages sent between these two companies are X12 to API, API to X12, or API to API.

The real-time factor comes into play when you look at the process. If your messaging is feeling a little slow, and you’d like to find improvements, investigate the following:

  • Is your electronic data being held for a period of time before it is sent to (or called for by) your business partner?
  • What protocol is being used? Is data transferred using AS2, SFTP, FTP, or HTTP(s)?
  • Are messages being sent one at a time or a batch at a time?
  • What is the process for message error resolution? (And what delays might be introduced if a message errors out?)
  • Are you running translation software in-house and running into hardware speed limitations when message volume is high?
  • Once you’ve answered these questions, you will likely have ideas for improving the speed of cross-company integrations. If you’d like some help looking at options to improve your business message speed or reliability, Kleinschmidt would be glad to help.