Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Common Questions about E-Business
- What is EDI?
- What is XML?
- What is CICA?
- What is ASC X12?
Questions about X12 and International Standards
- How are the X12 standards developed?
- How is DISA involved with the X12 standards?
- What is a release and/or subrelease?
- Are releases and subreleases compatible?
- Which release or subrelease do I use?
- What are X12 Technical Reports & Guidelines?
- What are Workbooks & Alphabetic Code Lists?
- What is UN/EDIFACT?
- Who develops and maintains UN/EDIFACT?
- What are the UN/EDIFACT Directories?
- What are MiDs?
- Where can I find a listing of UN/EDIFACT messages?
- What are UN/ECE RECOMMENDATIONS?
- What will I need to implement X12 and UN/EDIFACT standards?
Common Questions about E-Business
What is EDI?
It's Alive and Kicking!
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the computer-to-computer exchange of business data in
standard formats. In EDI, information is organized according to a specified format set by both parties,
allowing a "hands-off" computer transaction that requires no human intervention or rekeying on either end.
All information contained in an EDI transaction set is, for the most part, the same as on a conventionally
Organizations have adopted EDI for the same reasons they have embraced much of today's modern technology-enhanced efficiency and increased profits. Benefits of EDI include:
- Reduced cycle time
- Better inventory management
- Increased productivity
- Reduced costs
- Improved accuracy
- Improved business relationships
- Enhanced customer service
- Increased sales
- Minimized paper use and storage
- Increased cash flow
The EDI standards are developed and maintained by the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12. The standards are designed to work across industry and company boundaries. Changes and updates to the standards are made by consensus, reflecting the needs of the entire base of standards users, rather than those of a single organization or business sector. Today, more than 300,000 organizations use the 300+ EDI transaction sets to conduct business.
What is XML?
It's Working in Concert with EDI!
XML, or Extensible Markup Language, is a high-powered Web language developed for e-business. Unlike HTML that displays text and images now found on Web pages, XML enables the exchange of structured data over the Web.
Uniting EDI with XML provides win-win, affordable and easy-to-use business solutions for all organizations. By enhancing EDI processes, ASC X12 can evolve the current infrastructure into something more universally accessible. XML, with EDI as the foundation, provides ubiquitous connectivity and interoperability. Developing cross-industry XML specifications represents a huge standardization effort that includes:
- Exchanging transactional data
- Developing messaging and protocol infrastructure
- Creating code-value dictionaries
- Devising trading partner agreements
- Defining business processes performed in conjunction with business-to-business exchanges
This great integrator-XML-broadens the scope of interest to include such applications as trading partner agreements so that e-business communities and their information supply chains are fully integrated. Any XML-based infrastructure can establish a dynamic trading network instead of a few key connections. By establishing uniform XML standards, organizations can accelerate the intro-duction of new products and reduce costs.
ASC X12 is working diligently to enhance communications around the world by collaborating on Electronic Business XML (ebXML) initiative-a worldwide effort to develop a common framework for XML business messages. The XML standards proposed by X12, based on over twenty years of rich business semantic development, will be fully compliant with ebXML recommendations. X12 membership dues support this cross-industry XML standards development effort. Through ASC X12 membership, your company can be an active participant and supporter of this e-business standards development process.
What is CICA?
CICA (Context Inspired Component Architecture)
CICA stands for Context Inspired Component Architecture and is a revolutionary approach to message design to help resolve the costly proliferation of differing and often incompatible XML messages used for business-to-business data exchange. A flexible architecture populated with an ever-growing collection of reusable components designed to fulfill intra- and cross-industry data interchange needs, CICA is the result of years of collaborative development by business process and technical experts from multiple vertical industries. CICA is a syntax-neutral architecture, which supports both business content and implementation information. CICA message ("documents") can currently be expressed as XML and will, in the future, support additional formats such as X12's EDI syntax. CICA message definitions will also be expressed in RDF (Resource Description Framework) and OWL, a Web Ontology Language. CICA enhances message structure reusability and interoperability, and makes it possible to use the same architecture as future markup languages are developed.
What is ASC X12?
In 1979, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) chartered the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) X12 to develop uniform standards for interindustry electronic exchange of business transactions-electronic data interchange (EDI).
Common questions about X12 and International Standards
How are the X12 standards developed?
The members of ASC X12 come together three times each year to develop, maintain and build on uniform standards for EDI, known as X12 standards. This process is open, involves discussion and consensus, and results in ballot, approval and standard registration with ANSI.
How is DISA involved with the X12 standards?
In 1987, in response to the rapidly growing number of industries employing X12 standards, DISA was chartered by ASC X12 to serve as their Secretariat for the X12 standards development process. DISA publishes, and is the only official source for, X12 standards.
What is a release and/or subrelease?
A complete set of X12 standards is called a release. Twice a year, following the February and June ASC X12 meetings, the X12 standards are republished in a "subrelease," which contains changes made since the previous release. Each release and subrelease represents a "snapshot" of the X12 standards database that is continually evolving.
Are releases and subreleases compatible?
Different releases and subreleases are NOT compatible. Transaction sets, segments, and data elements must all be used at the same version/release level. Releases and subreleases are designated by a six-digit code that represents a version, release, and subrelease level. For example, Version 3, Release 6, Subrelease 2 is designated "003062." When referring to releases and subreleases, drop the first two zeros of the code. This catalog employs this abbreviation.
Which release or subrelease do I use?
The decision on what standards are needed is influenced by many factors, including what version(s) current and possible future trading partners use. The four-digit code in the last column indicates the release or subrelease in which each standard was first published; the standard appears in each subsequent release and subrelease unless otherwise noted. With over 300 transaction sets approved and continuously maintained since their inception, X12 standards can be used to conduct nearly every facet of e-commerce.
What are X12 Technical Reports & Guidelines?
Technical reports and guidelines are ASC X12-approved documents to promote consistency and coherency among information processing systems utilizing X12 standards.
To encourage uniform standards implementation, X12 technical reports are in three formats: type 1-tutorials, type 2-reference models and Type 3-implementation guides. Tutorials walk users through a specific standard and convey the developer's intended use of that standard or transaction set. Reference models illustrate the use of a group of transaction sets as they relate to each other and business applications.
Guidelines disseminate the technical and logical concepts reflected in the standards, or convey information on the "state-of-the-art" as it relates to EDI, the X12 standards, or a particular aspect of the standards. Guidelines are not specific to a single X12 standard or version/release.
What are Workbooks & Alphabetic Code Lists?
Workbooks and alphabetic code lists provide an up-to-date "snapshot" of the X12 standards. Both are updated and distributed after the ASC X12 meetings held in February, June and October. The "lifetime" of workbooks and alphabetic code lists is approximately four months.
What is UN/EDIFACT?
In 1986, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) approved the acronym "UN/EDIFACT," which translates to United Nations Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport. UN/EDIFACT is the international EDI standard designed to meet the needs of both government and private industry.
Who develops and maintains UN/EDIFACT?
The UN/EDIFACT Working Group (EWG), a permanent working group of the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), develops and maintains UN/EDIFACT.
What are the UN/EDIFACT Directories?
The UN/EDIFACT message equates to a transaction set in ASC X12. Messages, which have been registered with the UN/ECE and approved for international use, are known as United Nations Standard Messages (UNSMs) and published in the UN/EDIFACT directories.
Directories are available for two message formats: batch and interactive. Each has its supporting segment and composite data element directories. Common to both are the simple data element and code directories. United Nations Standard Messages (UNSMs), which have been registered with the UN/ECE, are approved for international use and published within the UN/EDIFACT Directories. The UN/ECE maintains a list of Messages in Development (MIDs), which are considered to be work in progress. Twenty-eight MIDs were under development in mid-2001. The D.01B Directory contains 194 batch and 14 interactive UNSMs. The AUTACK, CONTRL and KEYMAN messages, while UNSMs, are excluded from the Directories and found with the syntax documentation.
The syntax applied to the UN/EDIFACT international standard, as agreed by the UN/ECE, is ISO 9735: Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport (EDIFACT)-application level syntax rules. The Joint Syntax Working Group (JSWG), which is composed of representatives from both ISO/TC 154 and UN/CEFACT, maintains the syntax rules. The EDIFACT syntax and work of the JSWG can be found at www.gefeg.com/jswg.
What are MiDs?
Messages in Development (MiDs) are not included in the UN/EDIFACT directories but are published by the UN as a stand-alone document for information only. The UN/EDIFACT Message Design Rules define consistent rules for message developers to apply in accordance with the UN/EDIFACT design philosophy. The formal definitions relating to the syntax rules are found in the UN/EDIFACT Syntax Rules (ISO 9735). UN/ECE representatives cooperate with ISO representatives in syntax development and publication.
Where can I find a listing of UN/EDIFACT messages?
The UN Web site www.unece.org/trade/untdid/ provides a listing of UN/EDIFACT messages and supporting directories, data maintenance request statuses and a listing of MIDs. Henry's Yellow Book on the Net www.itsedi.com/henry/ explains, in general terms, the many messages that have been developed.
What are UN/ECE RECOMMENDATIONS?
UN/ECE Recommendations are Trade Facilitation Recommendations. They consist of 26 recommendations, including ISO Country Code & Currency Code, Numerical Representation of Dates, Times, Periods of Time, UN/LOCODE, and other maritime recommendations. The UN/ECE recommendations are available from .
What will I need to implement X12 and UN/EDIFACT standards?
The X12 and UN/EDIFACT standards specify only the format and data content of e-business transactions. They do not define how interchange partners shall establish the required communications link to exchange EDI data. Users may choose any EDI and communications software that supports use of the standards. The standards do not address this choice; they simply establish the format and define the data contents of the EDI messages and control standards.