When and When Not To Deviate From Standards

Yes, we wrote an article before on deviating from EDI Standards. Our conclusion was that in-place EDI Standards, coupled with adequate “Trading Partner Conventions” are a very strong and robust set of tools. The Standards are “bigger than a bread box” and hold the possibility of solving any trading partner issues that arise. But this article is DIFFERENT. For simplicity, let’s call it more TECHNICAL.

When two trading partners agree to send each other electronic documents. They begin by describing what EDI documents they will exchange and how the documents will flow. They should also exchange EDI specification documents.  EDI usage or specification documents describe what fields and what segments a trading partner will send or expect to convey the information necessary to complete a transaction.  It doesn’t matter if we are ordering widgets, or invoicing, or transmitting catalog data, or checking insurance claims eligibility, the EDI needs to contain the data that the two parties need to communicate.  To explain this, and document it to that both trading partners know what is expected, we must create an EDI usage specification. Let’s use the most popular term: Trading Partner Convention. There is no “law” that says what this like. It could a typed document or a “file” (which we will explain later).

So what is required? What is optional? Best description comes from EDI guru Harold DeWayne: “It’s been my experience that (M)andatory is used to mean the X12 standards demand it (and therefore also commercial translators)… (R)equired has been used more by the trading partner to mean that WE REQUIRE it for our own use”

EDI Specifications
In the larger sense, the EDI specification is the set of rules that define each document type, the segments they contain, and the size and type of data in the elements.  When we talk about the EDI Standard Specification, we are talking about the whole set of valid EDI document types.  If something is valid EDI, then it complies with the EDI Standard Specification.  However, this large, all encompassing specification is not useful in coordinating the exchange of documents between two trading partners.