At first glance, this seems to be a valid question. And honestly, this question reminds us that in the past there was already a similar question: “Will XML replace EDI/B2B?” The clear answer was no.
And my answer to the current question is the same: No, it cannot be expected that a replacement will happen. We rather expect that API and EDI/B2B processes will complement each other.
A lot depends on the question if real-time or batch oriented processes suits better for the business process. Let me illustrate this with a typical supply chain process: order to cash.
As part of their digitalization strategy many companies seek additional sales channels to win new business. They may open own webshops or offer mobile apps to their customer groups.
As a consequence they need to be able to provide real-time information on these sales channels to their customers/prospects (price, availability etc.). And once a customer orders online/mobile he also expects instantly a confirmation. Here only an API-led connectivity makes sense.
The same is necessary for track&trace of ordered goods that you may want to provide via an app to your online/mobile customers. You need to feed this app with real-time information. A typical example: Logistic provider DHL offers an API to enable tracing of delivery. A customer-friendly approach integrates this functionality into the webshop where the customer ordered – this is API integration.
But think about your large customers that constantly order defined articles. They do not need/want an API connection. Here EDI based ordering is established and is best for the purpose of an efficient (and still fast because automated) ordering process. And these customers also prefer your invoices in the same way. Same day is way enough in most cases. Too many files rather add complexity as each file potentially can create technical issues. Less files, less issues. As long as business is still happy with daily invoicing.
There is another aspect to add: Often you need to send your customer with the order confirmation additional information. Examples are technical /engineering files that describe details. Such files are sensitive and often pretty large. What is necessary is a secure and yet uncomplicated file transfer of such data. Methods like eMail, FTP or Dropbox type public cloud services do not provide this security, store data where you do not want it to be or are simply not working (eMail attachment beyond 10 MB as example). What is required is a “Managed Filetransfer”.
Therefore the answer to our initial question is even broader. To support digitalization of business processes companies should invest into an integration platform which covers all kind of integration patterns!
Also according to Gartner, APIs and API management complement, rather than replace, traditional B2B technologies such as EDI and MFT. See for this also our earlier blog where we explained that Gartner is seeing SEEBURGER as a representative vendor for what they call a Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP).
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Written by: Axel HaasCo-CEO, SEEBURGER AG