Each generation has its challenges and responsibilities. Some born during the period from 1915 to 1950 were challenged to invent electronic commerce and tasked to implement a major component of it. The component is called "electronic data interchange," or EDI.
In the evolution of this new technology, something wonderful has happened. For the quarter century following 1975, a worldwide cooperative effort has resulted in a global reach for communications and commerce never before thought possible.
People worked at this in a spirit of service to company, industry, country, world, and each other. Their work significantly contributed to the outstanding improvement in economies that was experienced during the 1990s, and will continue to be effective for many years to come, even considering a cyclic economic setback like that beginning in year 2001.
By the year 2000, this phenomenon was called "electronic commerce" or "eCommerce," terms not known or used with any frequency until the 1990s.
Steadfast in their belief and firm in their commitment were several people in leadership roles who inspired their associates to "dig deep" within themselves for an understanding of exactly what was the goal. Then with that, and armed with the skills and experiences each brought to the endeavor, they were to forge "something" that would lift world communities to new plateaus, offering broad advances based on a compassionate understanding of the results of their work and the usefulness and quality for any tools or procedures created or discovered. Make no mistake about it. The goal was not to invent Electronic Data InterchangeÂ—EDI, as it is known today. There never was such a term as "EDI" at the beginning of the project.
There were goals, however, but they were stated in terms of effects to be achieved: elimination of inter-company paperwork, absolute accuracy, timeliness for key processes, complete control over repetitive processes, protection of the databanks of individual participating entities from each other and invasions from outside, cost reduction, and catalyst to stimulate ever increasing customer satisfaction.
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Ralph Notto was the systems engineer in the endeavor to develop electronic methods to replace paper-based methods for exchange of data, information, and value between a company and its trading partners. This meant that the delivery of these items had to be transmitted electronically hands-off from a computer in a sending company to a computer in the receiving company. The exchange had to be error-free, secure, quick, and acknowledged. Further, the use of these methods had to coexist with the old methods for some period of time until all trading partners were electronically capable.
The ultimate result was complete accuracy, cost reduction, and customer satisfaction. While some types of jobs eventually disappeared because of this, employment increased since companies were able to invest in new endeavors. Notto was especially recognized on three occasions for his work in this endeavor and personally knew and worked with hundreds of people who helped to establish eCommerce. Because of this, he was able to provide insights into the behind the scenes human story.
With extensive studies in history and journalism, Notto was able to capture the story while it was happening. During an eleven-year period, seventeen of his articles were published in EDI Forum: The Journal of Electronic Commerce; thirteen of which were history-related. He was invited to speak on electronic data interchange at several conferences in North America, Asia, and South America.
Challenge and Consequence will help millions of corporations worldwide that use EDI. It is also useful to educators, historians, libraries, the political community, and to new groups that will be given equivalent challenges and are looking for examples of how to organize and manage their new endeavors.
The book was written during the period 1987-2002.
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