June 15th, 2021

You have just landed a new partner relationship, congrats! Now, here comes the fun part. You need to connect to your partner to start exchanging orders, invoices, and other business documents via EDI.

That’s where EDI mapping comes into play. Often perceived as the dark side of EDI, EDI mapping is a necessary evil so to say. Depending on the situation, it can be a huge pain in the you know what, but it’s crucial for streamlining data flows from one ERP system to another and making sure that trading partners requirements are met.

As you take on more and more trading partners—each with their own EDI requirements—EDI mapping can get complicated. Setting up or changing maps can indeed become a nightmare without canonical mapping or support from the right EDI mapping services.

But let’s proceed in order.

What Is EDI Mapping?

EDI mapping is a process in which EDI data is translated from its original format into a format that can be read by the ERP or other back-end system of your trading partner.  

Let’s think about two partners speaking two different languages. To communicate successfully, they would either need to speak a common language or use a translator. EDI mapping software is the translator that converts data from a proprietary file (CSV, iDoc, flat file, or another ERP-specific format) to the required EDI standard format (ANSI X12, EDIFACT, etc.) and vice versa.

In other words, the only way for both ERPs to talk to each other is through EDI mapping. When Partner A sends an order in its ERP-native format, EDI mapping services translate that order into the appropriate format according to the mutually agreed EDI standard and then transmit it to the other side (AKA the EDI mapping services provider of Partner B). From there, the data is translated into the internal format of Partner B so that it can be easily read by the receiving ERP. And the same goes for Partner B sending an invoice to Partner A. Once maps have been created, data can easily flow in both directions.

Sometimes a visual is worth more than a thousand words:

Direct EDI Mapping

The most common and simple EDI mapping method is called direct mapping. It is basically a 1:1 translation, as it takes each field in one format and maps it in the other format. It’s pretty straightforward. Think of elementary school worksheets that require you to identify synonyms by drawing a line from a word in the left column to a word in the right column or vice versa.

When you have just a few maps to set up and maintain, direct mapping can be very efficient. But when you have 500 partners, things can quickly get complicated, and it’s not scalable. Whenever something changes—let’s say one partner has decided to migrate to a new ERP—the maps need to be individually updated and tested per document type.

Canonical EDI Mapping

The canonical data model can provide a more scalable approach. Basically, canonical mapping aims to use one map instead of many, standardizing data into a canonical master format (CMF).

Here’s an example: Let’s say Partner A has an SAP S/4HANA ERP while Partner B has a SYSPRO ERP. Instead of having a 1:1 translation where SAP S/4HANA data from Partner A is mapped directly to the SYSPRO ERP of Partner B (Partner AàPartner B), canonical mapping creates a common framework in which data from Partner A’s SAP S/4HANA system is first mapped to the canonical master format before being mapped to Partner B’s SYSPRO ERP (Partner AàCMFàPartner B).

This primarily means two things, both of which offer a huge advantage when you need to implement and maintain maps for hundreds of partners:

1.) If SYSPRO updates their data model and something changes on the Partner B side, you don’t have to change all maps but only those on the CMF  Partner B side.

2.) Once data from Partner A’s SAP S/4HANA system has been mapped to the CMF, the map becomes a canonical map. That means it’s reusable. The map contained in the CMF that translates SAP S/4HANA data to data that can be understood and processed by a SYSPRO ERP can also be used to connect Partner A with Partners C, D, E, F, G, H, and so on. Basically, the same map can be reused for any SAP S/4HANA  SYSPRO connection, even for trading partners that have nothing to do with Partner A. This dramatically reduces EDI mapping costs and results in significant time savings.

Why Choosing the Right EDI Mapping Tool Is Important

As we have seen, EDI mapping is crucial to connect with your partners and, when done right, it can make your life easier.

When comparing EDI mapping tools, or EDI solutions in general, it is important to consider whether canonical mapping is part of the service provider’s approach. An EDI solution that offers a large library of pre-configured (canonical) maps like the SAP S/4HANAàSYSPRO example above will make onboarding quicker and much less expensive. Plus, it will offer the scalability and flexibility you need as your partner network continues to grow.

With TIE Kinetix’s extensive partner network, you can leverage a network of more than 300,000 trading partner connections and a rich library of trading partner maps.