Close this search box.
Kleinschmidt logo - blue and white

Having It Your Way – APIs and X12 Considerations

model of house in neon colors

The scope of work, time, and labor it takes to create an API solution varies from project to project.

Previous slide
Next slide

Author: Paul Clegg

Have you ever been through a home renovation? Chances are you know that with customization comes time and money. A prefabricated ready-to-go garage and a custom garage with a rooftop deck differ in price as well as the amount of time it takes to construct. The prefabricated garage may be ready in a day at a fixed price. The custom garage will be more expensive, labor, and time intensive, but you have complete control over every aspect of the design. In this article, we are breaking down some of the key differences between X12 and API communications as they relate to a project I just completed… a garage renovation.

X12: Get It Done

Communication using the X12 standards is like your prefabricated garage. The specifications of the data are inherently pre-defined. Just like the prefabricated garage that has the door in a standard location, the shipment identification number is always found within the same segment of data and the same location within that segment. The shipment ID number is always found within the fourth position of the B2 segment (Figure 1). All the variables are known and accounted for. Constructing documents becomes a reliable, out of the box process. Are there possibilities for customization? Of course, but nothing that would fall outside of the predefined framework. Your trading partner gets what they need in a defined format that is easy to make and easy to ingest.

APIs: Have it Your Way

An API data integration solution is like a custom garage project. The scope of work, the time, and the labor it takes to create a solution varies from project to project. API stands for Application Programming Interface and is a very specific digital blueprint. This blueprint defines the structure, field types, allowable values, and relationships between objects. APIs embody the Burger King slogan, “Have It Your Way” because API connections are uniquely tailored to your trading partner and that trading partner alone. Even if someone tokes their “Standard API,” all that means is that it’s standard for them, not anyone else. APIs are inherently custom and the information could be anywhere, so each setup has to account for the complexity of that unique partner. Going back to our example, the shipment ID number could be anywhere. It could be neatly located within a shipment object (Figure 2), deeply nested within a series of objects and collections (Figure 3), or even in a field named “haveItYourWay” right at the top! (Figure 4).

APIs Advantages

Using APIs as a data integration solution does come with distinct advantages – customization and control. APIs can be customized to handle different data formats, business rules, and security measures. They are designed by trading partners in a way that makes the most sense for their digital infrastructure, giving them their data, their way. Companies that require API integrations are basically telling you, to do business with us, you need to build a custom garage with these specifications and as you work with more trading partners, they each will still have their custom specifications that need accommodating.

APIs Complexities and Processes

APIs can be complex or seem overwhelming if you’re the small to medium sized company whose data needs to connect with the trading partner via API. The company can’t flip a switch and suddenly have a flawless API connection with the trading partner. The company data must be mapped to the format expected by the API, which depending on their specifications can be straight forward or a convoluted mess (remember the “haveItYourWay” field?).

So…what now?

Whether you end up with a prefabricated garage or a custom one, the most important thing is that you have a secure place to store your car and other belongings that will protect them from the elements. The same thing is true for X12 and APIs, no matter which route you go down, the most important thing is that you can meet your trading partner’s specifications to ensure accurate data and communication. But like choosing between a prefabricated or custom garage, be aware that a custom one will take inherently more time and a larger investment, so plan accordingly.