One of the things you may have noticed about Me when I blog, is that I tend to find a quote or a saying or a song lyric or a … something … that makes sense and drives My thinking. The title of this blog comes from the 1995 film by (and starring) Mel Gibson called “BRAVEHEART“. For those that don’t know, it’s the story about fighting for freedom in Scotland in the … 1500s? One of the more “famous” quotes is when Mel Gibson yells out something about how they may kill them (the Scots) but they’ll never take their freedom!
Freedom, however, in something as strict and regimented as EDI may seem like a far fetched notion, but it’s there. Sure, we’ve got those lovely guides – those HUGE books – of standards and “rules” for the data we’re sending – depending on the document – that tell us what we can send and how it should be formatted and all the rest. Those standards tell us we should send this information in this loop in this segment in this element and it should be between 2 and 30 characters in length.
But in that rigidity – in that structure – there’s still some freedom. Just look at the last sentence in the above paragraph – we’re given some freedom in the data – that it can be between 2 and 30 characters. So there’s some freedom right there. Then there’s is such a plethora of data and information we can include – information and data that just may not seem like it belongs in the document we’re using. But we can include it.
We can even have some freedom in what we use to separate our data – whether an element seperator, a segment terminator or whatever. We have a choice of characters we can use and put into the data flow to show where this piece of data ends and the next begins.
Then, of course, we have a wonderful MSG segment – in which we can include all sorts of “free form” data that can be anything we want to include. Again, more freedom. More abilities and places to put information that doesn’t “fit” any one of the stricter and defined elements and segments of the document. We can send anything – and I mean ANYTHING – in an MSG segment that may be of use to us (as the sender) or to them (our trading partner – the receiver)… It could be a “please pack in pretty pink boxes” or “have a happy Friday” or “this information is solely for the use of the receiver” or … well, you get the idea.
And that freedom is an important part of EDI. Just as freedom is an important part of nearly every aspect of our lives – from where we live, what we do for a living, who we love, what we drive, what we wear and so on. However, there are times that those freedoms can be curtailed.
Maybe your employer enforces a dress code – you can only wear dark colored slacks, white shirts and simple, mono-chromatic ties. You can’t have facial hair. You have to wear black shoes. You can’t have any personal stuff on your desktop. Shades of “9 To 5” – an 80’s-era gem of a movie with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton… Where the workers rebel against their boss and take control of the division and suddenly life is good and it’s a better place to work! Ties back into that freedom that William Wallace (Gibson’s character in “Braveheart“) wanted so desperately for his fellow Scots.
These attempts at conformity can truly alter – and not always for the best – the way that the job can function. If, for example, that MSG segment wasn’t allowed in EDI – and if it was confining and restrictive – we wouldn’t be able to send some of the information to our trading partners that ARE important. For example – we request that many of our vendors apply pricing stickers to our products. And we request a certain format and that they include certain information – such as our internal CLASS of the item – on that price tag. And we use a MSG segment to get that information across to them. We send, in the PO Item loop a MSG segment with that class number as the data – and we even use another MSG segment to let them (our trading partners) what that MSG segment contains – the data needed for “TICKET ID”.
Sure, I could probably find something in the PO1 line item that I could use to get that data transmitted from My side to theirs, but it’s just … easier … to use the MSG segments, instead. Maybe there’s not a perfect fit in the existing standards that will “match” up to our CLASS code. There may be similar things – but maybe I’d rather have the freedom to use that element or data code later on. Maybe I’ll suddenly have to start sending some other piece of data that the “similar” element was originally intended for. Where’s the freedom in that?
By putting forward too many restrictions – too many rules – too many standards – you limit what you’re able to do. You limit what can be done with the data or what you’re sending. You limit your ability to effectively communicate – and to effectively work – and to effectively get your ideas and points across. What if I wasn’t able to use movie quotes and song lyrics in My thought process? You’d not be reading this blog – or – worse yet – it would be boring, dry and as exciting as a textbook on “Analyzing Algorithms about Data Trends in Modern Day Accounting” or something just as … exciting.
Some people have claimed that XML is the “NEW FUTURE” for EDI and that we don’t need standards and we don’t need rules and governing … committees … to tell us what we can and can’t send and how to format it. They see EDI standards as … constricting … and they can’t see the freedom that is allowed them.
There is freedom all around us in EDI. The trick is to find it and take it.
“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom!”Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/