When you send a document electronically to your business partner it is critical that you know for sure whether or not it was received. Furthermore, if the document you are sending is important, such as a purchase order for a critical item, you must be confident that your supplier not only received the order, but is committed to fulfilling it.
In the world of electronic data interchange (EDI), there are 4 types of acknowledgments that can help to answer the question: “Did you receive my document?”
What are the 4 types of EDI acknowledgements?
- Basic communications-level status message – This is a basic status message that is provided by all communications protocols from the most basic to the most sophisticated – e.g., FTP, SFTP, AS2. The computer that receives the transmission notifies the sending computer of receipt of a certain amount of data – e.g., “We received the 256 bytes of data you sent.” The data can be of any type, such as a text file, EDI data, or spreadsheets. This is a status message that is exchanged at the communications protocol level.
- Message Disposition Notification (MDN) – The MDN is a special notification that is a key component of the AS2 communications standards. Because AS2 places EDI documents in an additional envelope to enable secure transmission over the Internet, you need to know that the EDI message was successfully extracted from that envelope, decrypted so that it can be processed by the EDI translator of the recipient, and the electronic signature was validated. Your AS2 communications software will generally manage both the communication status and envelope extraction status. Having this message is a critical first step to indicate that the document arrived successfully.But, as the sender of EDI data, you also need to know the answer to: “Was your system able to open the document and read it?” Enter the FA…
- Functional Acknowledgment (FA) document – The FA is a status document that was specifically defined for the exchange of EDI documents. It is an electronic “receipt” from the EDI translator of the receiving computer to the EDI translator of the sender’s computer to indicate that the document was both received and read successfully. Specifically, the receiver’s translator was able to open the EDI envelope and confirm that the contents within were structurally and syntactically valid according to the EDI standard being used.The FA – which is often referred to as a 997 in the ANSI standard or a CONTRL message in the EDIFACT standard – is different from the communications-level status message in two ways: 1) The FA is exchanged at the translator level, while the communications status message is exchanged at the communications protocol level. 2) The FA confirms that the document was readable, which is not addressed at all by the communications status message.The FA certainly improves a sender’s level of confidence in document receipt, but, it still does not indicate that the receiver is acting upon the business-level contents. For example, if the document is a purchase order, the FA does not acknowledge that the order will be fulfilled. For that we need the next acknowledgment level – the business-level acknowledgment…
- Business-level acknowledgment – The business-level acknowledgment goes far beyond the traditional FA. It confirms the content of the document received and also that the receiver is taking appropriate action. For example, upon a supplier’s receipt of an EDI Purchase Order, the supplier responds with a Purchase Order Acknowledgment, which can tell a buyer, down to the line item level, whether the order is accepted, including quantities and shipping windows. If the supplier is unable to meet the Purchase Order requirements, the acknowledgment can include the specific information about what quantities they can fulfill, and whether they need to split shipments across multiple dates. Other examples of business-level acknowledgment documents include the Purchase Order Change Acknowledgment and Application Advice documents.The way you monitor business status will depend on your own business processes and the software you are using internally to manage those processes.
Ensuring that documents don’t “get lost in the system” typically requires tracking the progress of the document in the four ways described above. The first three apply to any standard that automates the exchange of documents. The fourth one applies only to transmissions exchanged using AS2 or AS3.
To learn more about how B2B Communications, including how acknowledgments are handled, watch this webinar, Which Communications Protocol is Best for B2B Integration?