Understanding trading partner identifiers for B2B

MuleSoft’s Anypoint Partner Manager is a specially built solution to enable bi-directional business-to-business transactions. In a previous article, we learned why you might need MuleSoft’s Anypoint Partner Manager for your B2B transaction processing. 

We briefly touched on partner setup that involved setting Partner Identifiers. In this article, we will go a little further in understanding what are Partner Identifiers and how you use those.

What are Partner Identifiers?

Partner Identifiers in B2B transactions are like values that help systems to identify parties involved in a transaction. 

Consider a business invoice sent by Office Things Inc. to XYZ Mart Inc., you would expect addresses written on it. This will help sender and recipient identify themselves.

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If we assume that both organizations have multi-department structure, then above example communication may mean - “Retails department from Office Things Inc. have sent an invoice to Office Stationery department at XYZ Mart Inc.”

When doing B2B transactions using EDI standards, these identifiers follow definitions defined by those standards. In the next sections, we will look at such identifiers for some EDI standards. 

X12 Identifiers

ANSI ASC X12  is an EDI standard widely used for B2B transactions in Insurance, Supply Chain, Transportation, Finance and many more industries. X12 supports many transaction sets such as Invoices (810), Purchase Orders (850), Shipment notices and many more. 

When sending documents in X12 format, the involved entities must include their identifiers in the message content. As X12 is a structured format, it is predefined where you put these identifiers. X12 support two levels of identifiers -

  1. Interchange Identifiers
  2. Group segment identifiers

Interchange (ISA) Identifiers

Interchange (ISA) envelope identifiers are primarily used to identify organizations involved.

Consider following ISA segment -

 

<code>

ISA*00*      *00*      *ZZ*OFFICETHINGS   *ZZ*XYZMART        *200915*0103*U*00401*000000018*0*P*>~

</code>

 

After ISA, there are 16 data elements separated by *, starting at index 1 (first 00 value in example). ISA05 to ISA08 fields are used for specifying partner identifiers represented in following pairs. 

 

ISA05 - Interchange ID Qualifier (Sender) (length - 2)

ISA06 - Interchange Sender ID  (length-15)

ISA07 - Interchange ID Qualifier (Receiver) (length - 2)

ISA08 - Interchange Receiver ID (length - 15)

Interchange ID Qualifiers are a set of predefined identifier types that can be used. Some of these are listed below - 

  • 01 (DUNS Number)
  • 02 (SCAC - Standard Carrier Alpha Code)
  • 03 (FMC - Federal Maritime Commission)
  • 04 (IATA - International Air Transport Association)
  • 08 (UCC EDI Number)
  • 09 (X.121)
  • 10 (DoD - Department of Defense Activity Address Code)
  • 11 (DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • 12 (Phone Number)
  • 13 (UCS Code)
  • 14 (DUNS Number and Suffix Number)
  • 16 (DUNS Number with a Four Character Suffix)
  • 19 (EDI Council of Australia Communications ID)
  • 20 (HIN - Health Industry Number)
  • 30 (U.S. Federal Tax Identification Number)
  • NR (NRMA - National Retail Merchants Association)
  • SN (Standard Address Number)
  • ZZ (Mutually Defined)

For establishing B2B transfer, you will need to know an identifier for your trading partner. These ISA identifiers MUST be unique. As there is no central system of identifiers, it is a challenge to build a unique identifier. The best approach for this can be to use qualifiers like DUNS number (01), Phone Number (12), Federal Tax Identification Number (30) etc.. 

Group Segment (GS) Identifiers

Similar to ISA identifiers, X12 also supports specifying GS-level identifiers (may be referred as an application level identifier). Consider following GS  segment example - 

<code>

GS*PO*RETAILS*OFFSTATIONARY*20210221*0307*18*X*004010~

</code>

After GS, there are 8 data elements separated by *, starting at index 1 (first PO value in example). GS02 and GS03 fields are used for specifying GS/Application identifiers.

These identifiers support alpha-numeric values (with length of 2-15 characters). These should be unique within the ISA identifiers in ISA segments. 

AS2 Identifiers

AS2 protocol was developed to help secure the messages by signing and/or encrypting them when transmitting over HTTP. It does not require content to be EDI always but it is commonly used in B2B transactions.

AS2 specification also defines how identifiers are provided when sending and receiving content. As this is HTTP based protocol, it uses HTTP headers to send identifiers. Following two HTTP headers must be added on AS2 transmissions - 

  • “AS2-From”
  • “AS2-To”

Both headers accept text values from 1 to 128 characters long. Values can be the same as ISA identifiers values or any string values agreed between both parties.

How can Anypoint Partner Manager help?

The EDI Identifier validation rules vary with each EDI format such as X12, EDIFACT, AS2 etc.. This can become confusing and difficult to maintain. 

With a configuration-driven approach, Anypoint Partner Manager makes it very easy to configure and manage partners identifiers, including your own identifiers. It ensures that these identifiers are uniquely used between all partners within the target environment. In addition to that, Anypoint Partner Manager applies identifier value rules such as length restrictions, character allowance etc. to ensure the validity of identifiers.

To extend the identifier usage, Anypoint Partner Manager also lets you define a custom identifier type - Reference Identifier. This can help you identify partners from your internal data formats such as JSON, and XML. 

Let’s see how you can configure identifiers in Anypoint Partner Manager.

Configuring Identifiers in Partner Manager

With a configuration-driven approach, Anypoint Partner Manager makes it easy to configure yours and trading partners identifiers.

On Partner Manager -

  1. Navigate to the host partner (you) profile page Or your trading partner’s profile page (under Partners) based on whose identifiers you are configuring.
  2. Click “New” under the Identifiers section.
  3. Select the type of an identifier you want to add.
  4. When adding X12 - ISA, choose Identifier qualifier.
  5. Finally provide the Identifier value and save it.

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You can then add all required identifiers on respective profile pages.

 

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Identifies added for XYZ Mart, Inc. as a trading partner of Office Things, Inc.

 

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Conclusion

EDI Identifiers could be confusing and difficult to maintain. Anypoint Partner Manager can help you configure and manage different identifiers for all your trading partners. It also helps you ensure that those identifiers are uniquely used between all partners within the target environment.  

Stay Engaged

This blog is the next entry in “Employing Anypoint Partner Manager to Solve Problems and Realize Opportunities” series. If you haven’t read previous entries, here are all entries from this series -


Considering to re-evaluate your current B2B system or Anypoint Partner Manager as a new solution? Reach out to us, we can help you evaluate and recommend the right strategy for your business.

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