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Subject: RE: The initial ebXML business vocabulary - A call for a list ofcandidates

 On Abid Farooqui: Wednesday, June 20,  wrote:
> In my opinion these needs are tackled even today by systems like
> EDI but I think that traditional EDI's weakness is in its complexity, lack
> of similarity between document standards across verticals, its non-tagged
> nature and its price (both the purchase price and the maintenance price
> because you literally need to employ and EDI person to keep the maps
> up-to-date, keep the software up-to-date and deal with new partners that
> come onboard etc.). 

Interesting statement - EDI is, indeed, implemented differently across
verticals.  I believe you'll see the same thing happen with whatever markup
recommendation comes out of ebXML.  

> You need an EDI consultant basically and that is simply
> not going to work in the 21st century. 

Somebody better tell this to the Global 1000 using EDI to conduct e-business
today.  Whatever happened to the concept of leveraging and extending
existing investments in technology?    The best approach is usually to
preserve what works and extend it to integrate with others.  

> Moving on to XML based standards ... XML is simple and it provides
> flexibility. However, flexibility requires responsibility. What I mean by
> that is that if we over engineer the solution (business document standards
> etc.) even with XML then you end up just like with EDI after everything is
> said and done. Too complex, requires a consultant almost full-time and so
> on. That is no improvement, its just change of hands. 

This appears to be where we are headed.  

Many companies that have already adopted existing XML "standards" have had
to replace or extend them because the "standards" didn't reflect their
internal semantics.  A realistic example is a large EDI-enabled corporation
using XML to communicate with SMEs.  Most XML "standards" do not support all
of the fields in a typical EDI Purchase Order.  Further, most existing XML
"standards" only support a few business transactions (e.g. Purchase Order,
Invoice, Shipping Notice).  Other transactions (such as Freight Receipt and
Invoice or Materials Safety Data Sheet) are simply unavailable.  

Someone suggested that ebXML adopt XEDI to begin defining markup - XEDI
supports every X12 and EDIFACT transaction from any version - including the
examples just mentioned.  See www.xedi.org for more info.

> If we are really
> serious about solving the business problem then the requirements are
> simple,
> make a solution that is not necessorily perfect but applies to 90% of the
> scenarios, make it simple to use, administor and add partners with and
> it work across industry verticals because business does not happen in a
> vaccum. If we should ever learn something from recent history it should be
> lesson from Microsoft. When they first came out with Windows, the
> system was hardly even a contendor for even close to perfect (it isn't now
> even) but it was simple to use. It provided the end user an interface that
> is much more intuitive (visual, GUI) and it had software running on it
> solved most of the common problems. This provided a marked advantage
> over
> Unix like operating systems even though they were and perhaps even today
> are
> more robust than windows. Yet you can see that windows has taken off.

Microsoft was building on top of an already established "standard" called
DOS.  DOS wasn't pretty, but it worked (much like EDI itself).   Using
XML-based representations of EDI transactions makes them easier for non-EDI
companies to create and consume.

ebXML seems to be looking to adopt an XML standard that is already prevalent
in the business community.  I suggest that we should be looking at broader
e-business standards - restricting ourselves to custom XML-based initiatives
will be much more difficult (since most XML-based initiatives are rather
immature when compared to EDI).  

There are currently far more companies using EDI than XML (or, more
correctly, XCBL) for e-business.  That said, ebXML should define its markup
using the dominant e-business standard (EDI) as a foundation.  

> In essense in this particular situation with ebxml, if we are to develop a
> solution, we need to develop it so that it solves most of the problems not
> all (the ROE ... Return Of Effort, in going from most incrementally to all
> is too large to justify even trying) and that it is asstandard across
> verticals as possible to reduce complexity and is easy enough to use that
> any decent computer user can administor and maintain it. 

Agreed - again, EDI is already a standard across many different verticals.
Defining markup for these verticals should leverage the metadata associated
with existing standards.  XEDI would seem to provide a great starting point
for markup development since it already represents over 3000 business
transactions (all of which are derived from the X12 and EDIFACT metadata

> I still favor the concept of a universal PO, a universal FNACK and so on. 

Its already available - its called an 850 Purchase Order and an 855 Purchase
Order Acknowledgement (or, in the case of EDIFACT, Orders and OrdersP).
Granted these are EDI standards, but a quick look at the associated metadata
helps you realize that these documents contain the fields that most
companies use to conduct business.  

> Specific
> extensions
> to these universal document(s) can be applied by each industry group if
> are really really needed (I discourage these from the bottom of my heart)
> and as that happens software patches (perhaps even optional components)
> can
> be released by vendors to deal with these extensions. If things are kept
> simple I don't think moving from today's systems to the new ones will be
> painful as you might think.

Your description sounds suspiciously like EDI today.

The real value that EDI can provide to ebXML is in the metadata - ignore the
cryptic syntax and associated VAN requirements.    Leverage EDI's
comprehensive set of metadata to define the schemas for ebXML and avoid
re-inventing the wheel.

John Evdemon
Regional CTO/Director of Engineering
Vitria Technologies

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