What Is EDI mapping? A Beginner’s Guide

12min read



Although electronic data interchange (EDI) seems straightforward, it becomes arduous as you incorporate more partners. Fortunately, modern EDI platforms offer solutions with improved onboarding times, reduced costs, and reduced complexity through advanced mapping techniques.

EDI standardization and mapping evolved from the need to simplify communications between trade partners. When executed correctly, it eliminates miscommunication and enables streamlined automation for smoother processes. 

What is EDI mapping, and how does it work?

EDI mapping is the process of transforming data from one format to another so the recipient’s system can process and understand it. Its purpose is to connect two systems for automated communication. 

When sending EDI transactions, you must map data from your system of record to an EDI file. And when receiving EDI transactions, you must map data from the EDI file to your system of record. Mapping involves reformatting data, converting file types, and translating codes.

EDI mapping is foundational to effective logistics management. Let’s consider a simple EDI mapping example to illustrate how it works. 

Imagine your organization uses the SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage its workflows and generate documents like purchase orders and invoices. One of your trading partners uses the Acumatica ERP system to generate documents.

SAP generates documents in an IDoc format, and Acumatica uses JSON. The two platforms are speaking different languages.

EDI mapping lets you translate documents between formats. This is known as bilateral EDI mapping, as it works in both directions. 

To map documents successfully, you and your partner must use the same standard. Common standards include the Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce, and Transport (EDIFACT) standard and ANSI’s North American X12 standards. Each standard outlines what information must be included in a document and ensures nothing is lost in translation. 

Why do you need an EDI map?

You need an EDI map for the following functions:

  • Complying with EDI mandates: Many retailers and vendors require you to use EDI. EDI mapping allows you to comply with these mandates.
  • Translating incoming documents: EDI mapping lets you translate inbound documents to a format your ERP understands.
  • Streamlining communication with trading partners: Trading partners need a fast, efficient communication channel, and EDI mapping provides it.
  • Avoiding confusion: EDI mapping keeps everyone on the same page and prevents mishaps that threaten business continuity.

If you exchange information electronically, an EDI map is crucial. Otherwise, you’ll have reduced access to trading partners, experience more errors, and suffer from recurring inefficiencies.

Benefits of EDI mapping

EDI mapping provides various benefits, including:

  • Standardization: EDI mapping standardizes how you exchange information with your trading partners by implementing an established framework like ANSI X12 or EDIFACT.
  • Accuracy: With EDI mapping, nothing gets lost in the shuffle when you digitally send and receive documents.
  • Easier communication: You can communicate with ease using EDI mapping and standardized document formats, reducing friction with trading partners and setting the stage for mutually beneficial relationships
  • Automation: Leading EDI mapping tools automate data delivery to your internal systems, creating an efficient, replicable process

EDI mapping also promotes compliance with communication regulations and makes your business a more appealing trading partner. 

Challenges of EDI mapping

EDI mapping is surprisingly complex. Here are a few common roadblocks in the process:

  • Varying translation requirements: Retailers like Walmart and Lowes each have unique qualifications (and in-depth handbooks) that vary based on vendor type. Plus, integrations with third-party logistics (3PL) companies, distributors, carriers, and manufacturers increasingly diversify the transactions your EDI mapping must account for.
  • Keeping your EDI maps up to date can be tedious: Anytime one of your vendor partners updates their EDI protocols, you must alter your map to stay current. If your business ditches an old ERP for a modern solution, you must change the file formats your mapping system translates data into.
  • Choosing the right mapping software vendor is tricky: Many EDI mapping software vendors exist. Although outsourcing is a savvy cost-saving move, selecting the right partner can be difficult.

Despite these challenges, EDI mapping is a beneficial (and necessary) task you must integrate into your communication workflows. 

EDI map best practices

Adhering to established best practices will significantly ease the rollout of your EDI mapping strategy. Make it a point to check the following boxes:

  • Develop standardized in-house naming conventions: Naming conventions are agreed-upon schemes for naming files and documents. Standardize conventions to ensure every team member designates new files similarly.
  • Choose a standard that aligns with your trading partners: You and your partners must agree upon an EDI standard. If you work with North American companies, that standard will likely be ANSI X12. 
  • Invest in an EDI tool: An EDI mapping tool provides powerful integrations that expedite the flow of information and automate the mapping process. 
Software alternatives to manual EDI mapping

Without automation, EDI mapping often requires two individuals: a mapper and a developer. The former maps each field from the source to the target system within a spreadsheet while ensuring their data adheres to the latest version of each partner’s specifications.

The developer then turns the manually mapped data into code the receiving software can process. Even with the best professionals and manual procedures in place, you can expect humans to make mistakes. 

Thankfully, this isn’t the only option. Sophisticated EDI software, like Orderful, automates data mapping while enabling custom adjustments as needed.

Instead of companies executing point-to-point EDI mapping and data integrations, they can leverage Orderful’s network of thousands of existing trade partners. For many customers, this means they’re responsible for individually mapping 90% fewer connections.

They can also automate numerous functions, such as:

  • Document transformation to JSON and X12
  • Instantaneous EDI data validation prior to partner interactions to confirm accurate mapping
  • Easy rule creation for swift resolutions to data errors
  • Multiple visual interpretations of EDI data so information is both user-friendly and mapping-friendly

The bottom line: Orderful’s dynamic platform can simplify the typically painful process of direct mapping.

EDI mapping software: key considerations

When determining if your selected EDI software is up to the task, consider the following:

Conversion capabilities

Can your EDI software convert larger file sizes (such as X12) to JSON? Most organizations have adopted X12 files in compliance with North American standards, but your ERP can process lightweight file types like XML or JSON more easily. Ensure your software supports these file types.

Custom rules

Are you able to implement rules to customize EDI mapping automation settings? To accommodate partners’ distinct needs, your EDI solution must let you customize automated processes based on predetermined rules.


If your EDI provider charges per transaction or amount of data, you may be blindsided by fees. Seek a simpler pricing model based on the number of trading partners — like Orderful’s model.

Access to a specialist

Are there scenarios in which you’ll need an EDI mapping specialist? A specialist can put your mind at ease and help you navigate unfamiliar situations.


Ideally, you want a solution that’s easy to deploy and flexible enough to meet unforeseen future needs. Some programs are intuitive but challenging to upgrade; others are “future-proof” but tedious to operate. Strive for balance. 

Cloud capability

Cloud-based solutions provide scalability, easy maintenance, and affordability. The cloud-based deployment model often makes the most sense from a cost and logistics perspective. 

Vendor experience

The best vendors provide deployment and feedback to accelerate the process. They also offer EDI mapping expertise to help you navigate unexpected challenges during your implementation journey. 

Simplify the mapping process with Orderful

Orderful can streamline your mapping process with our cloud-based electronic data interchange solution. Orderful integrates with leading business platforms like SAP ERP, complies with global standards like EDIFACT, and improves data structures to optimize business efficiency.

Book a free consultation today to learn more about how Orderful can support your EDI mapping processes.


Go live with new trading partners in days, not months. Orderful’s modern EDI platform standardizes integrations and streamlines testing, getting your business connected with partners 10x faster than other solutions.

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