ExtenSys Inc.



Electronic Business Transactions

Today the exchange of large volumes of data between business partners means that business dealings are possible that were unthinkable even a decade ago.  The reliability of the Internet as a data exchange medium, the emergence of XML (eXtensible Markup Language) as a vehicle for describing data in English language terms and the availability of modern security methods for data messages have converged to facilitate data communication that can drastically change the way business is done.

Why Is This Important?

Information exchange has always been fundamental to business, but in today’s day and age, the volume and speed of data is considerably greater than just a short time ago.  In the case of a pharmacy, permission must be sought from insurance companies operating employee drug plans before prescriptions can be filled and charged to the benefits plan.  Authorization is required from credit card providers before purchases can be charged to credit cards.  Or, in the case of Ontario’s retail electricity market, retail customers must be enrolled with utilities, electricity use data must be provided to retailers for billing, and retailer bill items must be communicated to utilities for billing to end customers.  These are just a few examples of the importance of data exchange through electronic means, and areas where ExtenSys has experience.

The Fundamentals

Fundamental to the success of any data exchange is a clear concise definition of the data formats and transport mechanisms to be used by all parties.  It is not sufficient to define the transport mechanism or data format alone.  A good standard will define both, and will relate these clearly to the business rules under which the various data exchanges take place.  The objective of a complete data exchange standard is to define the business conditions under which the various data transactions should be sent, and how the recipient should respond.  The definition will ideally include the timing of responses (i.e., how long after receipt of a data transaction should the response be returned) and the data to be returned.  The transaction definitions should specify the data contents of each transaction, the meaning of the data and the type of data expected.

Every transaction sent needs to have a defined response, both at the transport level and the business (application) level.  In this way, it is possible to determine that the data message was received correctly (the transport level response) and that the business logic (application level) processed the data in an appropriate fashion.

The Technology

Vital to any business to business data exchange is P.A.I.N., and if the data exchange is properly engineered, the pain should be avoidable.  So what is the PAIN that is needed to avoid pain?  Simply:

  • Privacy – only the two organizations exchanging the data should know the details of the transactions.  Encryption is the key to ensuring privacy.
  • Authentication – any organization should know who it is dealing with for every data exchange.  User names, passwords and digital signatures should be used to identify unambiguously who is involved in any data exchange.
  • Integrity – what one party sends is what the other party receives.  The data is not changed in transmission between two organisations.  Digital signatures ensure that no data is altered from transmission to receipt.
  • Non-repudiation – neither the sender nor the recipient can deny its participation in the transmission of data between two organisations.  Archiving and digital signatures should be used to ensure that both participants in a successful transmission of information are recorded for historical and legal reasons.

Other characteristics of a good business to business data exchange system include reliability, high performance, fault detection and recovery, retransmission, archiving, audit trails and reasonable cost.  ExtenSys strives to incorporate these characteristics in its data exchange solutions.


For more information on Electronic Business Transactions Including B2B, contact Jim Stewart at (416) 481-1546