Although traditional EDI is still the main “glue” that connects businesses electronically, with rapid technological advancements and new business practices, contemporary businesses need more advanced EDI capabilities. “The movement of electronic data over the internet has transformed EDI enabling technologies and best practices. In addition, service-oriented interfaces have broadened end-to-end integration options,” reflects James O’Leary, VP of Product Strategy, EXTOL International. To stay in tandem with such technology-driven changes, EXTOL constantly invests in upgrading their EDI offering. This includes adoption of event-driven processing, web services and other new integration methods in support of electronic commerce, omni-channel retail, multi-modal transport, and other contemporary business models.
According to O’Leary, logistics providers are important drivers of new business models and technological change. As supply chains distend with complexity, logistics companies respond creatively with new value chain integration capabilities and methods. Behind the scenes, the software and service capabilities that EXTOL offers help transportation, distribution, and logistics businesses to speed time to value. EXTOL’s expert integration consultants are important to that outcome, helping clients formulate and execute client-specific integration strategies. “We also bring to bear a substantial library of pre-built integration deliverables that incorporate best practices for business-to-business integration,” explains O’Leary.
Streamlining the EDI Process
EXTOL’s original product, EXTOL EDI Integrator (EEI), is a software application for integrating external partner transactions with internal applications and data on the IBM i platform. It is the only native EDI software offering in the IBM i market that continues to be enhanced and fully supported.
EXTOL’s flagship product for Windows and Linux, EXTOL Business Integrator (EBI), integrates not just EDI transactions but also XML, flat file, spreadsheet, and database content. “The ability to integrate non-standard transaction data is important for many of our transportation and logistics customers, who must satisfy trading partner-specific document and connection requirements,” explains O’Leary. EBI can also integrate applications and data within a business, and replace slow, error-prone manual processes by automating processing steps, end-to-end. “With EBI, one can create powerful business processes by visually configuring and linking a few integration objects, without programming,” O’Leary said.
One EXTOL customer, Datatrac, a logistics broker based in Atlanta, used to connect customers to their logistics network using custom-programmed interfaces.
Communicating Securely with Trading Partners
As communication with trading partners is an essential element of B2B integration, EXTOL supports a variety of Internet transports, including File Transport Protocol over SSL (FTPS), SSH File Transport Protocol (SFTP), and web services using REST and SOAP conventions. Other options include EXTOL Secure Exchange (ESX), which uses the AS2 standard protocol, and EXTOL VAN (Value Added Network), which connects trading partners using a variety of Internet transports and VAN interconnects, through a single connection. “We participate in certification tests to verify that ESX is interoperable with AS2 offerings from other providers. This assures our customers that ESX will connect reliably and securely with trading partners who use AS2 solutions from other vendors,” states O’Leary.
Increasing Innovation and Time to Value
Delivering unique technology for the maximum benefit of their clients has always been important to EXTOL. In pursuit of that goal, the company has invested heavily in two areas—agile product delivery and automated testing capability. Agile delivery speeds the development and evolution of new products and features. And automated testing speeds the detection and resolution of defects in the software before delivering it to users.
EXTOL has capitalized on these investments to deliver rapid product improvements. EXTOL’s new Project Generator is one example. The EBI feature speeds time to value by applying automated reuse principles that reduce implementation time by more than 50 percent. “The Project Generator slashes the time needed for trading partner onboarding,” says O’Leary. “That’s especially valuable to logistics firms with high customer ‘churn’ rates, who need to connect new partners rapidly and at low cost.”
EXTOL’s latest Project Generator works on the principles of automated reuse and reduces more than 50 percent of implementation time for customers
Increasing transaction throughput at lower cost is another important need for logistics organizations. With that in mind, EXTOL is introducing major scalability improvements to EBI. “Our upcoming EBI release will increase scalability and improve system availability, at the same time,” states O’Leary. With 96 percent customer retention rate and the industry’s highest net promoter score, EXTOL’s focus on such innovations reflects its commitment to ever-higher customer value. “Our benchmark for customer satisfaction is reflected in our company name,” concludes O’Leary.