EDI Service Plays by New Rules

EDI and e-commerce may employ universal standards, but every business has its own rules for dealing with exceptions, as well as varying messages for trading partners. The trick is to be able to automate these processes as much as technically possible.

That’s the challenge undertaken by Harbinger Corp. (Atlanta) in the latest version of its Web EDI service. Harbinger Express Version 2.3 includes a feature called "live forms," which enables companies to build business rules into EDI documents. Live forms ensure all documents are valid and complete by providing online feedback and direction to users as they enter data. This helps eliminate the need for follow-up phone calls and EDI exception errors.

Harbinger Express, first unveiled in July 1996, is a Web-based service for both large hub companies and their smaller trading partners. This intermediary service presents EDI data to non-EDI companies over the Web in HTML format. Trading partners can exchange EDI documents with larger hubs by connecting to the Harbinger Express World Wide Web site and navigating through HTML forms. Trading partners access incoming EDI messages -- such as purchase orders sent by a Fortune 1000 hub -- and then respond by remitting an invoice or advance ship notice. Harbinger Express translates the response into EDI format, and transmits the document back to the hub company.

These features are providing granularity to EDI operations at Union Pacific Resources, an oil and gas exploration company based in Fort Worth, Texas. "Our independent contractors have always submitted paper invoices in various formats," says Tom Marranzino, manager with Union Pacific. By using the service, payment information is gathered "in a uniform way," he notes. The service also captures additional information "about the kind of activities performed on our behalf. This allows us to more accurately analyze the costs of our leases."

In addition, Harbinger Express now integrates with the Web-based catalogs of trading partners, from which companies can order directly. The supplier will receive the order in EDI format and be able to return a purchase order acknowledgement or invoice to the customer’s Harbinger Express mailbox.

Harbinger has also announced support for one-to-one marketing in this latest release. Harbinger Express will reference users’ log-in information to enable hub companies to "push" marketing or informational messages -- in the form of display custom HTML pages -- to different trading communities. Electronic Spoke Setup (ESS) capabilities facilitate the rapid addition of new trading partners. Harbinger also offers a Java-based document manager with status reporting and document tracking capabilities.