EDI and API can feel like two technologies on two different wavelengths. EDI is the traditional route for B2B integration and still underpin many mission-critical processes today; APIs are the new wave of digital connectivity.
For businesses, the question isn’t whether to use EDI or APIs. EDI remains critical to B2B integration while APIs enable continued digital transformation. The question is one of API EDI integration. How can APIs and EDI coexist in a way that they can support one another, while keeping a consistent platform experience?
In a recent webinar, experts from Axway and Loren Data — our Axway Business Network partner — spoke about connecting EDI and APIs to solve modern B2B integration challenges. Here are some highlights from our roundtable talk.
Bringing together different integration patterns in a platform experience
As Tony D’Angelo, CSO at Loren Data — a pioneer in EDI network services — noted in the webinar, EDI runs more than 75% of the supply chain. It’s a testament that EDI is here to stay, but it’s also important to acknowledge the growth of this B2B integration pattern in other industries, too.
Case in point: did you know the healthcare EDI market is expected to reach $8.44 billion by 2030?
At the same time, APIs are growing at a rapid pace. The global healthcare API market is expected to reach more than $336 million by 2027 — with the goal of making data more accessible and improving patient satisfaction and care.
This sentiment, as highlighted by Todd Gould, CEO of Loren Data, is echoed across the board.
“What we’ve found now is the market is extremely ready, optimistic, and interested in web service and web-service APIs,” Gould stated in the webinar.
EDI and APIs are top of mind with the Axway Business Network. The B2B VAN complements Axway’s B2B Integration platform in letting businesses preserve EDI investments made over the years while embracing the modern agility of APIs and the new use cases they provide.
API EDI integration: using APIs to improve EDI operations
At Axway, we think of APIs interacting with EDI in three categories:
- Configuration APIs: these offer more control and access over integration
- Operational APIs: for visibility into and monitoring of operations
- Transactional APIs: to optimize the exchange of data and documents
In our roundtable discussion, Axway B2B General Manager JB Bentz and Jamie Berkoff, VP Sales Engineering North America, shared some real-world use cases of these APIs and how they can be used to complement EDI.
A configuration API example
API configuration is possible with models available in Axway B2Bi. By building out tools and capabilities from these models, businesses can enable internal resources to set up partnerships without being EDI or B2B experts.
You can preconfigure trading partner flows based on individual communities and, in doing so, add a layer of efficiency to traditional configuration workflows.
An operational API example
With a centralized EDI team and a global sales team, one customer reported that their EDI team would receive pings at all hours of the night. The question was always “did you receive my order?”
Using APIs built into the B2B integration platform, the customer built a chatbot to have this conversation. Sales team members could get the order intel they needed, and EDI teams could get their sleep back.
AmerisourceBergen uses APIs with B2Bi in just such a way:
“We are also harnessing the API capabilities of the Axway solution to deliver EDI metadata directly to the business,” explains Scott Marshall, Director, Application Delivery Services – EDI Technology, AmerisourceBergen.
“For example, on the outbound side we’ve created a workflow that automatically shows users when their message has been sent and acknowledged by a partner. This deflects calls away from our EDI helpdesk, and frees our team to focus on other development and support activities.”
A transactional API example
Healthcare insurance customers have been using EDI for quite some time to enable claims processing, as one example. While trying to modernize back-end operations, easy-to-consume REST APIs are needed on the front end.
We’ve been working with customers to build implementations that provide a representation of claims eligibility and use tools to map EDI flows. This preserves legacy EDI investments while identifying opportunities to add more channels to traditional EDI flows that are supported by APIs.
OneHealthPort is a good example of a healthcare organization – in this case, a U.S. state’s electronic health information exchange – using APIs to broker between the existing infrastructure that had been built around files and EDI.
An emerging use case in healthcare focuses on prior authorization: hospitals and practices in the United States need a faster answer from insurance. Customers could ask via a FHIR API, triggering an EDI process to get an answer or vice versa, and an EDI process could ask a more modern partner using APIs.
Further reading: Ruby Raley, VP of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Axway, explores some possible use cases of APIs in healthcare to bridge technologies across a complex partner network in this article.
What API EDI integration means for the current and future workforce
The convergence of APIs and EDI unlocks new opportunities to make businesses more agile and resilient. However, hybrid EDI and API implementations have a human element to them – which brings up the divide between today’s generation and the next generation.
The people who built legacy EDI systems are retiring. It’s the education of the workforce’s next generation that will keep things up and running.
At the same time, this new generation can educate these EDI experts on the value of bringing APIs into the fold. This cross-training can feed into a true API EDI integration that yields a positive ROI now and for the future.