EDI and APIs: A Match Made for Modern B2B Integration

There are many scenarios where it makes sense to use EDI and API Integration together, generating numerous benefits. Here are some examples.

We recently published an article that explains when you would choose EDI vs. APIs for B2B integration and vice versa. However, you wouldn’t choose one over the other in many cases — you would choose both. Read on to learn about EDI and API integration:  


Why Are More Companies Using EDI and API Integrations Together? 

Several recent trends have driven companies to create hybrid integration solutions that leverage EDI and APIs. These trends include:

  • Growing demand for omnichannel services. Most B2B and B2C customers today want omnichannel fulfillment options when they place orders online — like buy online pick up in store (BOPIS) and ship-from-store. EDI lets organizations transmit massive volumes of data among suppliers and trading partners, and APIs enable real-time access to that data. You can use EDI and APIs to better integrate with trading partners and enable omnichannel fulfillment options.
  • Staggering increase in the volume of online orders. eCommerce and supply chain companies have seen a dramatic increase in the number of online orders they need to process. They need automation and orchestration to keep up with the sheer volume of orders they see daily. With both EDI and APIs, you can automate and streamline workflows across the supply chain, reducing the time to process, fulfill, and ship orders.
  •  The need to create new and innovative customer experiences. The competition among businesses, for both B2B and B2C companies, increases every day. Modern consumers expect companies across industries to provide fast, connected, and seamless customer experiences. The best way to compete in today’s digital world is by creating new and engaging experiences across different channels. You can accomplish this by using EDI and API integration together.

Real-World Use Cases for a Blended EDI and API Approach

Companies in every industry can leverage EDI and APIs for B2B integrations and workflows. Here are a few real-world scenarios:

Supply Chain
You can use EDIs and APIs together to streamline supply chain processes, making them faster and more efficient. For example, you could use a natural language processing (NLP) API to enable your system to answer questions from trading partners like, “what is the status of PO #95400?” The API would answer that question automatically in real time, and EDI could provide all the documents related to that purchase order.

You can use EDI and API integration for a wide range of eCommerce tasks. For example, you could use EDI to transmit documents — e.g., purchase orders, inventory logs, invoices, and bills of lading — to trading partners, and APIs to get real-time information from those systems. Real-time information might include the status of a purchase order or the current location of a shipped order. Also, an API could help a customer find what they need through an online store, and EDI could then start the order process with the supplier.

Many opportunities exist for healthcare, auto, home, and life insurance companies to improve processes with EDI and API Integration. For example, a healthcare provider could use an API to check insurance member eligibility in real time and, if eligible, submit claims for payment with EDI. An auto insurance company could use APIs to offer instant insurance enrollment. When required, they could then use EDI to send loan servicers and servicing bureaus notifications of auto insurance coverage.  

Today, most financial organizations use EDI to transfer electronic payments and payment information because it is highly secure and in a standardized format. With EDI, banks can securely report account balances and summarize financial transactions. Financial organizations can use APIs to create customer-facing applications that connect with internal banking systems, providing real-time information to end users, like checking and credit card balances.

A standard automotive industry workflow involving EDI usually includes a delivery forecast, a shipping notification, a receipt for goods received, and an invoice. Automotive suppliers could use APIs to create a transactional path for advanced shipping notices (ASNs) and then EDI for other items like receipts and invoices. ASNs are somewhat time-sensitive, and with APIs, you can send ASNs faster. 

B2B Partner Onboarding
You can use APIs to offer partner self-service integration for EDI and APIs, and automate parts of the partner onboarding process. For example, you could provide self-service onboarding for EDI data exchanges and automate the process of arranging EDI data into the proper format. With APIs, you could perform automated credit checks when onboarding new partners and let partners customize integrations to suit their systems, whether they choose EDI or APIs.

How Do You Leverage EDI and API Integrations Together for B2B Integration?

When it comes to B2B integration, you need to create a solid technology foundation that supports your business partner ecosystem. That foundation should include multiple integration capabilities that allow you to connect in a variety of ways, including:

  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) – To support communication in a standardized format or prefer EDI for B2B integrations. EDI is also needed to batch process complex payloads and deliver large data files. This must support EDI translation, partner management, routing, and multiple protocols and standards. 
  • Managed File Transfer (MFT) – To support the exchange of files between partners, systems, and applications, enhance the security of file transfers, encrypt data in transit and at rest, manage and audit exchanges of business data, and confirm receipt of digital files.
  • API Management – To support the development, management, security, visibility, and self-service capabilities for connecting. This includes:
  • Outer APIs – For connecting external consumer or partner-facing mobile and web applications to backend systems and data.
  • Inner APIs – To connect internal services provided by different groups within the business.
  • Messaging – To enable asynchronous publish and subscribe (pub/sub) capabilities with the ability to trigger or schedule messages.  

You won’t find one silver-bullet solution or product that includes everything you need to use EDI and API integration together. You will need to create your own platform by combining different integration tools. Examples of integration tools include API gateways and iPaaS. Your platform should also provide visibility into APIs, transactions, messaging, operations, and data.

You also need to include API management tools in your B2B integration technology stack. And those tools should allow you to create and nurture an API ecosystem. 

Using EDI and APIs Together

As you can see, there are many scenarios where it makes sense to use both EDI and API integrations. When using them both, we recommend that you:

  • Coordinate real-time transactions (API) with batch transactions (EDI). Don’t manage them separately; manage them together to avoid confusion. Our Eliassen Group Visibility portal can provide visibility and simplify management across these transactions through a single view. 
  • Enhance your existing EDI integrations with APIs to add real-time capabilities and automation. 
  • Use APIs in your Managed File Transfer or B2B gateway to facilitate faster partner onboarding — for EDI or API integrations — and reduce the time and costs of onboarding.
  • Use APIs to improve EDI success rates. You can do this by adding supplemental data to inbound or outbound transactions.

Another tip: make agility a top priority when choosing a B2B integration solution so that you can quickly respond when partners change their requirements or the market changes, and you need to pivot fast.

Using EDI and API integrations together can not only improve efficiency, it can enable you to create new and innovative experiences throughout your partner ecosystem by tapping into more data sources and leveraging cloud, AI, IoT, and other modern technologies.  

Taking the Next Steps

APIs (application programming interface) and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) are vital to modern business processes. Still unsure whether you should use EDI, APIs, or both?

We can help you figure that out. 

Schedule a call with one of our B2B integration experts today.