March 21, 2024

EDI vs. API – What Works Best with SYSPRO?


With more than 5,600 data centers globally as of writing, it’s clear the world is run on digital information. That also means transferring information efficiently and securely between businesses is becoming increasingly important. There are plenty of ways a company can share electronic data but not all options function or scale the same way. For businesses operating in the SYSPRO environment, electronic data interchange (EDI) and application programming interface (API) are commonly used. So knowing the ins-and-outs for distinguishing between EDI vs. API is important if you’re prioritizing intercompany data sharing.

As we explained in our blog going deep into SYSPRO & EDI, “EDI is a set of document standards that have been in use for decades to provide a consistent, secure, and reliable method for exchanging transactions between organizations. So, simply put, you can buy and sell and exchange other kinds of information with your trading partners using electronic data interchange.” Before getting into comparing EDI vs. API, you’ll want to check out that blog. Then we can assume you know the basics of EDI as we continue with our comparison of how best to communicate documents with your partners.

Can API Work for You?

API is an industry term that describes a set of rules and protocols that allow different software components or systems to communicate. It’s not industry standard per se, as it’s more of a customized development environment, resulting in different standards in each industry. Still, almost 40% of the world’s biggest companies were using over 250 APIs internally in 2023. They leave room for more innovation for a specific business, which is clear in the estimated $6.8 billion spent from 2020-2023 on APIs. With all that said, there are really two ways that the API can be implemented with SYSPRO.

One is a mutually developed solution when you and your trading partner agree on and develop the rules & formats for exchanging information through some method. Usually, it’s XML, HTML, etc. that the data is formatted in. When there are no established requirements for the data that you want to exchange with your trading partner, that is typically when you would use the API instead of an industry standard like EDI.

The other way is using established tools that your system and your trading partner’s system support, which are documented and can be connected. For example, a lot of web-based e-commerce sites allow this type of connection through common, lightweight protocols like JSON or XML to exchange information.

The bottom line is when deciding what method is best for your organization, it’s going to depend a lot on what your trading partners are capable of and have embraced as a method going forward for their own B2B interactions.

For reference, some key advantages of API are:

  • It provides real-time data transmission
  • It’s web-based and uses documented protocols and file types (XML, HTML, HTTP)
  • It’s highly customizable
  • You can have a very fast implementation time depending on the requirements of you and your trading partner

You have a choice as an organization and don’t have to go with traditional EDI. We have a SYSPRO development team that works on API-based solutions all the time and we have many customers that choose to go that route. It’s not a “one or the other” thing. You can have a mixed environment where you’re doing both depending on the trading partner and the type of information that you’re going to exchange. In the end, EDI can be considered a standardized method of data exchange whereas API is a customized way to exchange data between two or more companies.

With more than 300,000 companies relying on x.12 standards globally, in North America largely, what EDI offers is consistency because of the industry standards. You have a consistent way of implementing the solution. Whatever documents you’re going to exchange, the other trading partner will understand. For example, they will know that an “850” is a purchase order while an “856” is an ASN and they will understand all of the basics of what goes into that document. It really comes down to the individual elements of how a trading partner does business with those documents. The security, again, is also based on industry standards and technologies for both communication and for validation of the information. The other factor is that once you have started trading documents with one EDI partner, it becomes progressively easier to bring on additional trading partners with the same type of configuration. In that sense, EDI is highly scalable where you can have one trading partner, 10 trading partners, 100 or more. This solution fully supports adding those multiple trading partners and managing them within the software.

When it comes to SYSPRO, most users are probably familiar with the capabilities of SYSPRO. Most of the integration through the EPI uses to push information into SYSPRO. For that reason, EDI is viewed more often as an industry standard and more structured in terms of how you can transmit and receive information. Many trading partners in the EDI world are extremely strict on the implementation of those EDI standards. Imagine having hundreds or thousands of clients or trading partners – small variations can make a big difference in terms of how smoothly information flows through the two systems. Not to oversimplify the EDI vs API conversation, but EDI provides a highly structured environment that’s widely accepted whereas API is more of a “sky’s the limit” kind of thing. It’s really up to you and the trading partner to decide what works best for both of you. If you’ve been using EDI and are curious about exploring API options, want to see how you might leverage either option more, or want to get started with EDI – our SYSPRO team is here to help.

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