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Why is API the better successor to EDI?

Why is API the better successor to EDI?

Today’s world of data exchange is more diverse than ever, including solutions such as API, EDI, SFTP, CSV export and import. In this article, we will focus on the two most popular options, EDI and API, and will highlight their advantages and disadvantages for B2B document exchange. At the end of this comparison, it will be clear that API integration outperforms the time-honored EDI standard in terms of speed, simplicity and future orientation. 

What is API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface, which basically means that it lets two different systems communicate with each other. To illustrate this, imagine you are sitting in a restaurant and wanting to place an order. You need a waiter to deliver your order to the kitchen. In this scenario, the waiter acts as the API. He or she ensures that your order is taken correctly and submitted to the kitchen in its entirety. 

Just as the waiter takes defined orders and converts them into food, APIs convert defined inputs into results. The key component here is defining the inputs correctly, as each API requires specific inputs. An error often occurs when these inputs are incorrect. 

APIs are highly customizable and can revolutionize digital document exchange by enabling seamless communication between different enterprise software solutions such as ERP systems (e.g., SAP, Oracle and Xentral), MES (e.g. MPDV and FluxMES) and CRM systems (such as Salesforce and Hubspot). They bridge gaps in the workflow that without them would lead to endless blockages. 

Speed and Transparency through API 

Many APIs have already been developed, many of which are publicly available and are used unknowingly every day. Companies that want to grow have recognized APIs as a forward-looking option. They offer a higher level of speed, transparency and simplicity compared to EDI. 

The Old World with EDI 

EDI, short for Electronic Data Interchange, is a data standard from the 1970s that enables the automated and digital exchange of data via various protocols such as AS2 or OFTP2. Despite the multitude of disadvantages that EDI still brings with it and that have been resolved in the last 50 years, it continues to be widely used. The background to this is that for a time, it was the only option for automated, digital ordering processes.  

Nowadays, it still offers benefits, such as automating orders and reducing errors, once implemented. However, the comparison with APIs shows that it is losing speed and adaptability. 

Criteria API EDI 
Real-Time Data Exchange Yes No 
Flexibility Very high Medium 
Standardization Low High 
Costs Low Low 
Efficiency High High 
Scalability Very high High 
Security High Medium 
Future-Proof Very high Low 
Overall Positive Neutral 

The end of individual interfaces through API

In the past, the integration of software into the system landscape required extensive individual projects from specialized service providers. These projects were often characterized by long project times and high recurring costs. With APIs, things are different. Already during the development of the software and the definition of its architecture, both internal and external API functionalities are considered, which enables future-proof integrations. APIs are widely used in many application areas and industries, making them a more cost-effective and flexible solution compared to EDI. 

Step to step from EDI to API 

However, the transition does not have to happen in a big bang. Running the functioning interfaces via EDI and simultaneously realigning to API for new systems is often the most reasonable way from an economic and technical point of view. 

Transparency of Error handling through API 

Any software can contain errors, but the advantage of digital document transfer is that errors can be detected and corrected quickly. On the one hand, with an API, error codes can be converted directly into understandable error messages that are sent in real time to the appropriate interface. On the other hand, with EDI, error correction often requires manually going through all the code, which is time-consuming and costly. 

APIs as the future of B2B transactions

API-based integration offers speed, simplicity, and minimal errors. Although EDI still works and is widely used in the commercial and industrial sectors, it is becoming apparent that the future belongs to APIs. APIs not only offer lower costs, but also various opportunities. 

With our integration platform from maesn, you can realize seamless and cost-effective API integrations for many enterprise software solutions that previously could only be addressed with EDI. 

A more productive, efficient and faster way to work together.

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