In the next few posts I'm going to talk a little about Industry Standards, such as EDIFACT, X.12, SWIFT or HIPAA EDI. Although industry standards were designed to make business communications simpler, the specific and complex nature of the standards themselves can seem intimidating, and I hope to elucidate this somewhat in this and future posts.
Industry standards allow any business to transfer structured information from one computer system to another, often in different companies, with little or no manual intervention. This can include a purchase order or shipping notice transferred from business to business, or a patient’s prescription sent from a doctor to a pharmacist to an insurance company. Each piece of data is structured and sent in a mutually agreed upon manner, which is vital to process efficiency, customer satisfaction and often industry compliance. However, although industry standards are designed to enable communications that are quick and clear, understanding the standards themselves can be anything but.
No matter what industry you’re in, there will be a range of industry standard data formats that are used to enable the exchange of information between different systems and organizations. These standards may not be officially established, but accepted across an industry for the mutual benefits they provide. They might be encouraged or imposed throughout a particular supply chain by a channel master, such as a large retailer or an industry body. Or, they might be mandated by government with fines and penalties for noncompliance. Regardless of what standards are prevalent in your industry, you need to have the capability to deal with them in a timely and cost-effective manner.
For more information, see IBM's eBook 'Demystifying Industry Standards'.