Build vs. Buy: How it applies to Enterprise Software

Nowadays, enterprise software is used almost everywhere and at different levels within organizations. It is the lifeblood of most IT departments. One dilemma that tech company leaders face is whether to build a business solution (i.e. custom software) from scratch or to buy commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) products and mold them according to business requirements.

Some key points when deciding whether to buy or build software are:

  1. The core business requirements, the scope of the problem in question, and the how complex the solution should be in order to fit the business needs and size
  2. Available resources and skills in terms of people, software, hardware, tools, etc. capable of building, maintaining, and supporting the business solution
  3. The amount of time required to develop the solution in-house

Companies that decide to build their own solution tend to overlook issues and expenses, such as:

  1. Replacing existing technology, adding features and functionality to a legacy system is extremely tough and a complete reengineering and rebuilding of business solutions may be needed
  2. A learning curve always comes with building a new software or recruiting additional people with specific skills to build in-house solutions
  3. Higher costs and potentially longer implementation compared to integrating COTS products

One of the biggest software building failure stories is the Bank of America’s MasterNet case study. According to “The Incremental Commitment Spiral Model: Principles and Practices for Successful Systems and Software” by Barry Boehm, Jo Ann Lane, Supannika Koolmanojwong, and Richard Turner:

“In the 1950s and 1960s, Bank of America (BofA) was the leading pioneer in banking automation with its electronic check processing capability. Subsequent BofA leaders had other interests, allowing BofA’s banking automation capabilities to degrade over time. In 1981, BofA’s new president, Sam Armacost, had an agenda to regain its automation leadership by “leapfrogging into the 1990s.” After an in-house effort that spent $6 million and failed to develop a workable trust management system, Armacost appointed a new executive vice president of the trust management department, Clyde Claus, with the charge of either modernizing the department or discontinuing it.

“…[However,] system problems continued…[and] clients began dropping off, with BofA’s base dwindling from 800 to 700 accounts and from $38 billion to $34 billion in institutional assets.… Eventually, in May 1988, BofA transferred its whole trust business to other banks, after an overall expenditure of $80 million and more than four years of project effort. The previous president, Tom Clausen, replaced Armacost in late 1986, and Claus resigned in October 1987.”

Advantages abound in buying COTS products and then customizing them. Some of the pros of buying software are:

  • Lower up-front costs
  • Clear and definite processes available for customization
  • Ready-made solutions available immediately
  • Less time has to be spent on customization and getting a product into the market
  • Readily available customer support

Although buying software may cost more than building a solution at the outset, it does provide better ROI over the long term.

Astera Software provides powerful, commercial, off-the shelf data extraction, integration and processing software including ETL tools which can be easily integrated and adapted by enterprises and companies to reduce time and effort required to perform data extracting and processing tasks and in turn improve revenue.

Some of Astera’s available software include:

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  • Centerprise Data Integrator delivers a powerful, scalable, high-performance, and affordable integration platform that is easy to use and cost friendly. It is robust enough to overcome even the biggest and most complex data integration challenges. A complete data integration solution, Centerprise includes data integration, data transformation, data quality, and data profiling in a flexible environment that enables users to choose from multiple integration scenarios. It comes with job scheduling and orchestration for automatic scheduling, file drop events, and API calls.

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  • ReportMiner enables you to extract business data from PDF, TXT, XLXS, XLS, etc. formats. Data can be integrated into the main database system and used in electronic applications for business operations and business intelligence. ReportMiner provides an easy to use interface and helps the user to identify desired data, build the data extraction logic, and save the extracted data in a number of destinations. The best part about this product is that it can be used efficiently by business users with no technical background, but is robust enough for IT professionals.

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  • EDIConnect is a complete solution for handing EDI documents such as EDI 834 and 837. EDIConnect offers a user friendly and intuitive user interface to accurately and efficiently handle bi-directional EDI data integration. It is scalable and powerful enough to fulfill entire EDI transaction processes.

Astera Software also provides training and support. Customers can learn more about the products, view the demo, and reduce the learning curve. In conclusion, Astera Software provides easy to use, robust and manageable off-the shelf products to support companies and provide them with powerful data mapping, transformation and processing tools that are not only budget-friendly but also have a sizable advantage over building in-house business solutions.

EMR and HL7 within EDIConnect

In October, we went over two healthcare EDI transactions: EDI 834 and 837. This week, we’ll take a look at two more healthcare facets of EDIConnect: the ability to handle EMRs and compliance with HL7.

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)

Electronic medical records (EMRs) are electronic records generated and maintained by hospitals and healthcare organizations. They are a vast improvement over paper records. They allow more than one person to use a patient’s chart, are better organized, eliminate illegible handwriting, and allow storage of more information.

The demand for healthcare systems with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) interfaces is rising. This increase is due to many factors, including the growing adoption of EMR systems and emerging clinical healthcare data standards such as HL7.

 

Health Level-7

Health Level-7(HL7) refers to a set of international standards for software applications used by healthcare providers for clinical and administrative transaction data. The HL7 standards are produced by the Health Level Seven International, an international standards organization, and are adopted by other standards issuing bodies such as American National Standards Institute and International Organization for Standardization.

HL7 International specifies a number of flexible standards, rules, and procedures for healthcare systems used by hospitals and other healthcare provider organizations to communicate with each other.  This helps information to be shared and processed in a uniform and consistent manner and allow hospitals and healthcare organizations to easily share clinical information.

Electronic data interchange (EDI) format also plays a very important role with EMR files and records. It helps to share clinical and other administrative data and medical records across different healthcare systems as well as individuals. Patients can also access their medical records through internet, allowing them to stay well-informed about their health status and ongoing medical treatments.

 

EDIConnect

Astera Software provides a complete solution for handing documents such as EMR and many others such EDI documents. EDIConnect offers a user friendly and intuitive user interface to accurately and efficiently handle bi-directional EDI data integration. It is scalable and powerful enough to fulfill entire EDI transaction processes.

 

EDIConnect Benefits:

  • Handles electronic medical records and HL7 documents.
  • Powerful and scalable
  • Fast, comprehensive and accurate data exchange
  • Easy to use graphical interface for both technical and business users.

Review our Products, Get a Gift!

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It’s the holiday season, and we’re giving our wonderful customers the chance to win something spectacular! We’ll give you a hint as to what it is: it’s new and shiny and rhymes with, “Snapple Swatch.”

If you use ReportMiner or Centerprise and give us a verified review on G2Crowd, we’ll give you a present back: a $25 Amazon gift card! In addition, you’ll be entered into a raffle to win an Apple Watch Series 2.

The links to review are down below:

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We look forward to hearing from you – remember to get your gift card, and post your review by December 22nd to have your shot at a new Apple Watch. Happy Holidays!

Multi-Column Support

Many documents have newspaper-style formatting, which contains more than one column with a repeating pattern of records. As a result, the layout is more complex than a single-column document, and extracting useful information can pose a challenge.

ReportMiner 7 now provides a Multi-Column layout option to handle documents with multiple columns.  In the past, if documents had more than one column with a repeating pattern, it would be very difficult to extract information from all the columns in a clean and efficient manner.  This was due to the way in which the software looks for information: it scans the data in horizontal sweeps. With the latest version of ReportMiner, you can now process your multi-column documents within minutes for perfectly editable and searchable data.

Here’s how to use ReportMiner 7’s Multi-Column feature: 

First, load your multi-column document in ReportMiner.

Add a Data Region to create matching patterns.

In this case, we’ll create a matching pattern for Names and Phone Numbers in the document.

Next, add Data Fields for Names and Phone Numbers in the document.

When previewed, the data is displayed accurately in a list format.

As seen in the screenshot below, a blank bar appears as soon as you check off the Multi-Column option in the Data Region. Click on the bar and a black dotted vertical line will appear indicating a column boundary. If a line is placed incorrectly, click on it within the bar to remove it and try again. Make sure that the line is flush with the left side of the first column of characters in your document.

Since there are three columns in the sample document, another column boundary is added just before the start of the second column. All records in both columns have now been successfully identified.

Preview your data and export it to a destination file type of your choice with easy access to the extracted information.

From one column to multiple columns, Astera can extract information with ease. Thanks to ReportMiner7, your data is more accessible than ever before. 

EDIConnect EDI Transaction Process

Many businesses use Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to send and receive messages. Last week we covered EDI source files and parsing. This week, we reach our number one feature for Centerprise’s EDIConnect connector: the EDIConnect Transaction Process.

  1. EDI Builder and Destination File

To build an EDI document, use the EDI Builder feature. There are two steps in this process. First, build the EDI message using EDIConnect Visual Designer. Next, validate it against Partner Standards and send it out.

EDI Builder

Select File > New > Dataflow.

To create an EDI file, select the EDI Message Serializer from the Toolbox on the left as shown in the screenshot below. Drag and drop the EDI Message Serializer to the Dataflow.

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Setting EDI Builder Properties

Right-click on the EDIBuilder message and select Properties. A dialog box opens as seen below. First, point this file to a Trade Partner Profile: this automatically selects the transaction type for the outgoing EDI message.

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EDI Builder Structure

The EDI builder now has a structure for the selected transaction type in the previous step. Any problems and errors that occur during a preview are shown in the Errors section.

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EDI Destination file

EDI destination files can also be selected from the toolbox and dragged and dropped into the Dataflow. Use the file properties to specify the location of the output file and the Trade Partner Profile data.

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Mapping

Finally, map the EDI Builder file to the EDI Destination file as seen in the screenshot below. This Destination file will contain the final EDI message.

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EDIConnect can be used to handle entire EDI transaction process. It supports all EDI message standards and customizes transaction documents: EDI transactions have never been easier.

That concludes our top 4 EDIConnect features! We hope that you’ve enjoyed this series and that you’ll check back next week for more exciting new information.

Top EDIConnect Features: EDI Source Files and Parsing

Businesses across the globe send and receive messages via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Last week we covered our Centerprise connector, EDIConnect’s, Custom Repository feature. Our focus this week are our number two features for EDIConnect: EDI Source Files and Parsing.

Once an EDI file has been received, validated, and once the acknowledge process is complete, it goes to a dataflow to be parsed and translated. After that, it can be transformed, mapped, and written to destination.

EDI Source File

This reads the incoming EDI messages.  First, create a new Dataflow by selecting File > New > Dataflow. Once a new dataflow opens up, drag and drop the EDI Source File option from the toolbox on the left to the dataflow.

Now, specify source file location information and Trade Partner Profile settings. These contain all information about processing incoming data using EDI Source file properties.

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To preview EDI source file data, right-click on the EDI Source File box in the dataflow and select Preview Output.

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The output is in hierarchical format as seen below.

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EDI Parser

This generates the transaction structure that can be mapped to any destination. The Parser also includes the Trade Partner Profile file: all information required to parse a transaction is in one place. From here, users can specify all transaction sets expected from a partner.

The EDI Parser can be dragged and dropped in to the dataflow using the Toolbox on the left. To set its properties, right-click on it and select Properties. The screenshots below demonstrate the EDI Parser process.

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Mapping

To map the EDI Parser to the EDI Source file, drag the Transaction Node of the EDI Source file onto the EDI Parser file.

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Destination file

Once the EDI message has been parsed, it’s ready to be mapped to a destination file, such as an XML file as shown in the example below.  Drag and drop the XML/JSON File Destination option from the Toolbox on the left under the Destinations category to the dataflow.

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Make sure you specify the output file location and provide an XML Schema file that matches the EDI Parser transaction structure to the XML Destination File Properties.

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Now, map your EDI Parser to your XML Destination File. Your output file is ready to view.

Want to know more about EDIConnect? We’ve been covering our top four EDIConnect features over the past several weeks. Be sure to check back for the final installment in this series!

Top EDIConnect Features: EDI Custom Repository

Many businesses use Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to send and receive messages. Last week we covered our Centerprise connector, EDIConnect’s, Trade Partner Management features. Our focus this week is our number three feature for EDIConnect: the EDI Custom Repository.

EDI Custom Repository

With EDIConnect, users can customize transaction sets, segments, composite elements, and elements, and store them in a custom repository.

Create a new Custom Repository

To create a new Custom Repository, Select File > New > Edi Custom Repository.

This will create an empty custom repo that contains all the standard definitions for transaction sets, segments, elements and composite elements.

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Customize a Transaction Set

In the screenshot below, all the standard EDI Transaction sets are listed on the right and each transaction set’s details can be seen and modified once clicked.

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Custom segments can also be added or deleted.

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Customize Segments/Composite Elements/Elements

As with the transaction sets, every segment, composite element, and element can also be customized: EDIConnect is robust and powerful enough to handle various EDI transaction documents with ease. The screenshots below demonstrate the numerous possibilities to customize EDI documents.

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All artifacts that come with standard EDI messages can be modified using EDIConnect and can be stored in an EDI Custom Repository.

Want to know more about EDIConnect? We’re covering our top four EDIConnect features over the next several weeks. Be sure to check back for the third installment!

Top EDIConnect Features: Trade Partner Management

Many businesses use Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to send and receive messages. Last week we covered what EDI is and two specific use cases. This week, we take a closer look at how to get started with Astera’s  Centerprise connector, EDIConnect. Below is our number four feature.

Trade Partner Management

The Trade Partner Management feature in EDIConnect allows users to set up trading partners, manage all aspects of trading partner relationships (such as inbound and outbound transaction maps definition and  separators for segments,) and has ways to customize EDI message standards and use them within trade partner definition.

Create new Trade Partner Profile

To create a new Trade partner profile, select File>New> Edi Trade Partner Profile. From there, specify the Trading partner profile name and settings, Inbound/Outbound Maps, and Sequences.

X12 Settings lets the user define acknowledgement information, functional groups, Validation settings, etc. The screenshot below shows the options available.

Specify Inbound Maps and Outbound Maps

Use this option to detail how transactions from the partner will be treated and the number of transactions expected from said partner. Choose from standard or customized versions of EDI messages, as well as standard or customized transaction processes.

Outbound maps are where the user can establish and customize which maps will be sent out to this partner. 

Sequences

All sequence generations for a particular EDI partner are controlled by the properties specified in the Sequences tab (see screenshot below.) Options such as Database Information, Functional Group Control numbers, etc., can be set via the Sequences tab.

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Want to know more about EDIConnect? We’re covering our top four EDIConnect features over the next several weeks. Be sure to check back for the second installment!