Q&A: the benefits of XML

Q: What is XML?

A: XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. With XML it’s easy to create electronic documents and messages that can be ‘understood’ by another computer or by another human.

Q: Are there accepted XML standards?
A: The BASDA eBIS-XML initiative provides a standard for labelling the information in an invoice or purchase order so that it can be emailed from one brand of accounting system to another.

Q: How does it differ from EDI?
A: EDI works in a way that is beneficial to a few companies. EDI tended to be inflicted on small companies by large ones, such as supermarkets or DIY stores wanting to deal electronically with their suppliers. However, small companies did not always have the capability to generate and process EDI messages automatically, so they had to do it manually. With XML, the smallest companies can generate and process electronic invoices and orders within their own accounts package without any extra trouble or expense.No special equipment is needed – just an ordinary email system.

Q: What are the business benefits of XML?
A: Up to 95% of computer input is computer-generated. XML has the power to abolish the boring and error-prone work of re-keying bits of paper.

For the FD, the true potential of XML is to allow the people within the organisation that are today re-keying those documents, to stop and do something more rewarding and potentially much more valuable to the business – like talking to customers! That old-fashioned idea!

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