Home > Articles > Information Technology

How Does Biztalk Relate to EDI and Workflow?

  • Print
  • + Share This
Jim Koblieus explains how Microsoft's BizTalk initiative defines an environment in which EDI and workflow can operate across the Internet.
James Kobielus is a contributing editor for Network World and writes its popular column "Above the Cloud." He is the author of more than 150 columns, books, feature articles, and buyers' guides. This article is excerpted from his book BizTalk: Implementing Business-to-Business E-Commerce (Prentice Hall PTR, 2000, ISBN 0-13-089159-2).
Like this article? We recommend

As with traditional B2B EDI, BizTalk applications support information flows between companies engaged in routine online transactions, such as purchasing, inventory control, and logistical coordination. The flow of control in such transactions follows the procedures that allow one company to interface its internal processes to those of its trading partners, including customers, contractors, distributors, and suppliers. These procedures, in turn, follow business rules that are codified in the trading partners' various business contracts, operating agreements, and internal policies. And these business rules come to life in the programming code upon which the trading partners build their e-commerce and supply-chain applications.

In the usual flow of point-to-point B2B EDI connections, corporations map data to and from a common format for transmission between their otherwise incompatible back-end applications. Note that traditional EDI applications often use traditional X.25 or frame-relay value-added networks (VANs) rather than the Internet or Internet Protocol (IP)-based extranets.

BizTalk doesn't replace traditional B2B EDI; it supplements it and takes it to a new level of openness, flexibility, and Internet-orientation. The BizTalk Framework uses the EDI and workflow feature set of Microsoft's existing Site Server Commerce Edition as a baseline. The BizTalk Framework defines a standardized electronic "envelope" for routing and handling structured and unstructured business documents. Each BizTalk message may contain two or more linked business documents to be processed as a unit. A BizTalk-enabled B2B workflow, in turn, may involve one or more BizTalk messages transmitted as e-mail attachments, riding on the Internet's ubiquitous Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). However, BizTalk-enabled transactions could just as easily ride over the Web's HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), or any other network "transport" protocol. Each transport protocol that carries a BizTalk message wraps it a second time within an envelope appropriate to that transport. Consequently, a BizTalk-enabled workflow or transaction can run over several transports.

The essence of BizTalk—what makes it a powerful alternative to "EDI as usual"—is what's in the header of a BizTalk message envelope. The BizTalk message's header includes some simple fields that allow applications to specify how a particular business document, contained in the message, fits into a broader workflow (or, in Microsoft's term, into an "orchestration"). The header also allows the message to specify how the document is to be processed when it reaches its destination. As such, a BizTalk message can describe its precise role within an ongoing business transaction.

One might say that a BizTalk message makes the workflow of which it is a part "self-describing." Traditional EDI, by contrast, has never had anything resembling self-describing workflows. Rather, EDI has always focused on exchanging just the content of a transaction, encoded in standardized "transaction sets." There is rarely any "process state information" contained in EDI transaction sets that specifies where a particular document fits into a precise routing and processing sequence. All the state information in traditional EDI resides in the business applications that generate and receive the transaction sets.

One reason for this is that EDI has historically been a point-to-point solution, requiring any two companies to spend a great deal of time and money to establish specific connections and processes that apply to them—and only to them. Within each of the trading partners' networks and systems, the transaction sets usually follow a rigid chain of routing and processing steps involving one or more databases. Often, these internal processes are totally hidden from direct tracking by EDI trading partners.

EDI will not mature until it becomes part of a much broader, more general-purpose e-commerce infrastructure that applies to all companies, not just to big companies that can afford to build specific connections for a specific application. In such an environment, companies will be able to view each others' B2B workflow "process models" in a standardized format. They can merge, concatenate, and otherwise interface internal business processes to establish a new trading partner relationship. BizTalk will a fundamental technology for establishing just such a general-purpose, e-commerce infrastructure.

BizTalk will also be a catalyst for transforming traditional EDI into a full-fledged workflow-management environment. A workflow-management system is one that supports the structured routing and tracking of documents and other information throughout a business process. For EDI to count as a true workflow-management environment, it must support intercompany processes that specify the precise routing and processing sequence that a transaction follows. This allows each company to track (and possibly control) a transaction path into and through its trading partners' systems.

Furthermore, BizTalk will be a catalyst for transforming traditional workflow systems into e-commerce environments. BizTalk's routing envelope addresses a gap in the workflow market that has heretofore stymied implementation of robust interorganizational workflow. There are no widely implemented standards in the workflow management market. As a result, workflow-management tools have been applied primarily to intraorganizational business-process re-engineering, within intranets that revolve around a single vendor's proprietary workflow product.

Clearly, a single-vendor workflow solution is not a viable option for B2B EDI. You are not very likely to impose a single monolithic workflow solution on all your trading partners.

About the Author

James Kobielus has more than 15 years experience as an analyst in the distributed computing and telecommunications industry. He is a recognized authority on strategic telecommunications and information systems topics, and is an occasional speaker at network-computing industry conferences. He is a contributing editor for Network World, and writes its popular column "Above the Cloud." He is the author of more than 150 columns, books, feature articles, and buyers' guides, including Measuring Business Value of Information Technologies (International Center for Information, 1987, ISBN 0-9450-9802-2) and Workflow Strategies (IDG, 1997, ISBN 0-7645-3012-7). His latest book is BizTalk: Implementing Business-to-Business E-Commerce (Prentice Hall PTR, 2000, ISBN 0-13-089159-2).

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020