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Integration Advisor – Key concepts of a Message Implementation Guideline

Introduction

In this blog post, I would like to give you an overview of the key concepts of the Message Implementation Guideline (MIG) that forms one of the key building blocks of the Integration Advisor.

As I am sure you may know from reading other introductory blog posts such as the introduction to Integration Advisor itself, the Integration Advisor is a powerful new intelligent integration tool that simplifies the implementation process for interfaces. In this blog post, I describe the message implementation guideline, a conceptual enhancement to the traditional message interface specification. It provides all the information that is needed to implement a customized message interface based on a certain type system and within a specific business context. As an implementer you will no longer need to reference any other documents or sources, and this guideline can be unambiguously understood by every user who is involved in the process.

As the above diagram illustrates, the Message Implementation Guidelines, or MIGs for short are one of the key design-time building blocks of any Integration Scenario implemented using Integration Advisor, and in the main section of this blog post I will explain some of the key concepts that make this such a powerful part of the Integration Advisor.

Key Concepts of a MIG

Creation of MIGs from a well-defined structured standard

MIGs are developed by selecting pre-defined message definitions from one of the many Type Systems that Integration Advisor provides. The fundamental advantage of this is that the design template is provided for you out-of-the-box and follows one of the many publicly adopted standards for message integration in the market. Examples of such Type Systems are listed below:

  • ASC X12
  • UN/EDIFACT
  • UN/CEFACT
  • cXML

In addition, the well-defined and publicly published Types Systems commonly used to integrate with SAP Products are also available. Below is a short subset of these:

  • SAP Ariba
  • SAP S/4HANA IDOC
  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud SOAP Web Services
  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud OData Services

We are already working on future enhancements that will allow you to import your own Type System libraries and add huge flexibility and extensibility to this already powerful product.

By basing a MIG definition on these pre-defined message definitions you are ensuring an interface specification can be developed that is fully compliant with whichever EDI standard or A2A API standard you have chosen.

In many cases, if you were to try and generate this yourself using some other standard mapping tool, the task could be laborious, labour-intensive and error-prone. The Type System information that has been gathered into the libraries within Integration Advisor are in many cases gathered from numerous documents (often in PDF form, so difficult to machine-parse) that many EDI standards such as UN/EDIFACT are based on. By using Integration Advisor and its Type Systems, that chore is eliminated. In addition, as new versions of such standards are published, they are incorporated as Type System versions into the Integration Advisor Library.

Graphical creation of MIG with easy adaptation

The Integration Advisor provides an easy to use, graphical user interface that has been designed to be intuitive for anyone to use. This removes the need for a technical developer to perform the task.

Some of the many features include:

  • Hiding columns and displaying only those needed
  • Filtering/Searching on 90%+ of the columns
  • Filtering out non-selected segments and fields
  • Select and De-Select All at any level in the structure hierarchy.
  • Expand and Collapse-All at any level in the structure hierarchy.

Intelligent Implementation proposals

One of the core features and advantages of Integration Advisor is that it is intelligent and growing more intelligent by the day. Under the covers, Integration Advisor is powered by an innovative set of Machine Learning algorithms that build more intelligence into the Knowledge Graph, the heart of the Intelligence Engine. The engine is ‘fed’ by crowd sourcing; the more customers use the Integration Advisor, the more Message Implementation knowledge and Mapping logic is fed into it, and the smarter it gets.

This means that in many cases you can ask the Integration Advisor, based on a particular business context (such as Industry Classification, Business Process, Geo-location, and other criteria) to give you a proposal for your Message Implementation Guideline. As a result, you do not start from scratch each time. You can scroll through the definition proposal (each of which has a confidence rating allocated – based on number of past uses) and decide which portions to accept, which to remove, and finally which additional fields or segments to enhance the Message Implementation Guideline definition with. Your new Message Implementation Guideline definition, once signed-off and activated, feeds anonymously into the Knowledge Graph and adds to the possible proposals for the next user (which may be you!). Similarly, you may already benefit from mappings that other contributors have already added to the Knowledge Graph and this is where the community sharing capability enhances your own productivity. Many customer have similar dealings (and exchange similar messages) with many trading partners. Once you have implemented your definitions with your first trading partner, these can automatically become part of the proposal of the next trading partner, and so on.

Provision of business domain information

One of the key differentiators you will notice when looking at a Message Implementation Guideline in the MIG Editor is the abundance of functional and business domain level information that is available. For each segment and field, where available in the standards documentation you will find:

Business-centric names – Rather than just an obscure technical name, a meaningful human understandable name is provided. This removes the need for a technical developer to explain field meanings to the business analyst or functional consultant.

Additional notes – Additional notes may be available (or can be added) that provide information such as Usage and Constraint.

Documentation – More detailed business-relevant documentation describing the purpose of the field or segment is often specified. This is official documentation provided as part of the Standards specification, or the API documentation.

Code-Lists – Providing possible values with meaningful descriptions that are only relevant to the particular message type. This is key as many code-lists are typically re-used across multiple message types and so form a super-set of values. The MIG Editor reduces that list as it understands the business context and restrictions per message type.

In-built Status Review Capabilities

The MIG Editor provides a built-in capability for reviewers to add comments and requests for change to each field definition in a Message Implementation Guideline. As the definition of each fields moves to completion they can be signed-off. By reviewing the graphical Status icons in the structure list, the level of completion of a Message Implementation Guideline can easily be accessed, and the fields needing further rework or discussion can quickly be identified.

Message Implementation Guideline Comparisons

Integration Advisor provides the ability to compare MIGs that are based on the same Message Type and Type System. Comparisons are made across Structure definition, Properties, Documentation and Code-lists. This allows easy identification of similarities and variations across Message Implementation Guideline definitions.

Full customization capabilities

The business-focussed names, the code-lists and the documentation are all information that is automatically pulled in from the Type System Definition, and best of all, these can all be enhanced and customized in the MIG definition to meet specific integration scenario requirements.

The focus in terms of documentation moves away from typing in a Word document or on a Confluence page and shifts to documenting in the actual building blocks themselves. This enhances the value of the final key concept discussed next.

Automatic generation of Documentation

One of the key features provided by the MIG editor, is the capability to generate comprehensive documentation automatically. The days of having to continually edit Word documents manually generating version after version are gone. Any required changes to a Message Implementation Guideline can be discussed and agreed between the involved parties. The changes can be input directly into the MIG using the editor, and a new fully comprehensive set of new documentation can be produced.

Summary

The Message Implementation Guideline of the Integration Advisor is one of the core building blocks of the design-time framework. It contains several innovative and ground-breaking features that are intended to implement a paradigm shift – moving the role of building interface definitions and mappings into the hands of the business domain experts who are best trained to perform such tasks. A second paradigm shift is for more emphasis and work to be applied to the Message Implementation Guideline; by building in more knowledge and business semantics within it; the result is a much simpler Mapping Guideline (MAG). The need for complex technical functions in mappings is dramatically reduced and, in many cases, eliminated.

The intention is that the MIG Editor and features will continue to be enhanced to add further business context related capabilities and reduce the reliance on technical intervention or know-how.

Please re-visit our blog posts on a regular basis for further updates.

Further Reading

Read the following blog posts for more information on Integration Advisor and Message Implementation Guideline creation:

Integration content advisor: Overview of components and further reading

Integration Advisor: Create a custom interface using the MIG Editor

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