Digital initiatives can be hard to define, and are usually associated with an overwhelming number of terms and acronyms to keep straight. We sat down with our team of experts to put together a digital supply chain glossary to help clear things up.
AI or Artificial Intelligence
Any technology that can make useful decisions about how to process, validate, or use data. That sounds fancier than it is, and AI is still a very nascent technology. The gap between science fiction and real, applicable AI is very large, and most AI today are very simple, single-purpose AIs (like recognizing that Qty and Qty. are both abbreviations for the word Quantity in an RFQ).
Stands for “application programming interface”. You can think of an API like a form you fill out at the DMV, or when applying for a credit card. It’s a structured way for two computer systems to exchange information, and all data is placed in the correct spot so both sides know how to exchange that data.
The use of a physical or computer system to perform a repeatable process.
Data Integration or Data Automation
Connecting two systems directly, allowing them to exchange data without humans participating in that process.
Another way to discuss data automation, this term specifically refers to the documents typically exchanged in an eCommerce transaction. Prior to automation, those documents were usually Word docs, Excel sheets, or PDFs, and they were emailed around to buy or sell parts. These documents include part data, RFQ/quotes, POs, SOs, COs, invoices, ship notices, forecasts, and POS data.
Any type of electronic mechanism used for buying and selling. eCommerce is typically thought of as a web store and a shopping cart, but in the B2B space, it’s much more than that, and includes a lot of the jargon in this glossary including APIs, XML, and EDI. As long as commerce is being conducted in one of these ways, it’s eCommerce
Stands for “electronic data interchange,” a specification for transmitting data specific to the sales and purchase processes in a structured manner. Unfortunately, the spec is too loose, which causes EDI to be challenging to implement and maintain. Because of its ubiquity, however, it remains popular and continues to grow in adoption.
The use of digital tools for the purposes of making the process of obtaining goods or services more efficient and more effective.
Stands for “extract, transform, and load’. This is an early data transfer technology made popular before real-time API transfers were possible. ETL is still very applicable today, especially when moving large amounts of data. It’s a key part of any holistic data strategy.
A common term used for the documents exchanged in the procurement process when they are formatted as rows and columns—essentially a spreadsheet. These formats typically include Excel, .CSV, or other delimited data formats, and are most frequently seen in the ETL processes commonly used in the industry to move massive volumes of part data (they’re extremely useful for that process).
This is a process where a computer system sifts through huge amounts of data and tries to identify patterns and correlations that might be useful or relevant to a business.
Automating the transfer and/or processing of digital documents specific to the sales process. Those digital documents include part data, RFQ/quotes, purchase orders, and sales orders.
Supply Chain Automation
Use of any digital technology to automate some portion of the supply chain. This includes interactions with customers (sales automation) or interactions with suppliers (supply chain automation).
Stands for “extensible markup language.” XML is another way for computer systems to communicate with each other in a common format. But similar to EDI, XML is a bit too flexible (and it’s a rather heavy-weight protocol), which can sometimes be challenging for the exchange of large amounts of data.