nevertheless has worked to assuage those fears by hearing their concerns and noting the options available to small marketers. The PSC also will conduct educational workshops for marketers this summer, D'Aloia says.
Though EDI certainly will impose costs for the small marketer, "it's not going to be prohibitive," D'Aloia says. If a marketer is unable to fund EDI, it should be able to contract out EDI-related services, a market that D'Aloia sees as burgeoning.
"The market for EDI services is growing every day," he says. To meet the needs of the small marketers, "we're depending on the vitality of the e-commerce market."
Wait for XML, the Next Technology?
To those anxious to get EDI rolling as quickly as possible, the PSC, burdened with a multitude of decisions while trying to please all stakeholders, appears indecisive. Yet another option that the New York PSC, like other state commissions, has devoted time to considering is whether it should pass over EDI in favor of the newer Extensible Markup Language (XML). XML is said to be a more user-friendly and flexible data format than EDI.
In spite of XML's advantages, the PSC in its April 12 order concluded that "significant work would still be required to arrive at a consensus on an XML standard for the energy industry, and it could be as long as two years before XML becomes a widely accepted EDI data format."
In order to move as fast as possible (the proceeding has been going on for over a year-and-a-half already), the PSC says "ASC X12," the most prevalent EDI standard, would be the best option. Besides, points out D'Aloia, a commitment to X12 would not preclude XML implementation at a later point, since XML can be "layered onto" X12. All the EDI work, therefore, wouldn't be for nought.
"We didn't close the door on XML," D'Aloia emphasizes.
Bill Hunsicker, director of e-commerce at Excelergy, a provider of customer information and transaction management technology, has "been involved with a lot of different states" in making decisions about EDI standardization. So what standard does he recommend: X12 or XML?
"I don't really have a preference. I see the benefits of EDI for a shop that is already EDI-enabled. However, [for] a shop that is not EDI-enabled already, XML gives you the benefit of being able to transfer a lot of data electronically without the high investment of an EDI shop."
And what if a state wants to implement EDI now? Is the X12 standard the best - and only viable - option, because XML is not fully developed?
Hunsicker, who also serves as vice chair at the Utility Industry Group, which works to advance EDI in the utilities industry, doesn't necessarily agree. Part of the reason many states are gravitating to X12, he says, is simply that other states already have implemented the standard.
In fact, XML is ready for implementation, but you have to go north of the border to the deregulating market of Ontario, Canada, to find a jurisdiction that has plunged into XML. Testing of XML there will begin