The FSDE Standard

In the floor covering business, professionals often depend upon many different software programs (also called “applications”) to run their businesses efficiently and profitably. For example, a retailer may use business management software, estimation software, labor scheduling software, an automated cutting machine, etc. In the past, integration between these applications was limited. Often the programs simply were not compatible with one another, and had to be used separately. Sometimes the business owner had to purchase particular products based solely on integration factors and not on preference or performance. If by chance the products were compatible, the user was typically faced with the daunting and complicated task of exporting the data to a file, locating the saved file, and then importing that file into the receiving program.

It is important for flooring professionals to be able to exchange data seamlessly and effortlessly between the various software programs that help them run their business. The Flooring Software Data Exchange (FSDE) Standard was created for that end.

How is this different from the B2B Standard We Hear So Much About? B2B refers to the transfer of product-related information between two separate companies, i.e. a manufacturer and a retailer exchanging pricing agreements, P.O.’s, and invoicing. The FSDE refers to the exchange of internal customer and job information between different software programs normally used within the same company, which allows the programs to work together to keep the business process smooth and efficient. The FSDE data exchanged typically has to do with the processing of customer proposals and orders.

The FSDE Standard consists of two parts:

  • Data Format – All data to be exchanged must be transferred in an understood or agreed upon format.
  • Application Discovery & Interaction – As part of being FSDE compliant, the software programs will provide information on their data-transferring capabilities, how they interact with other compliant programs, and the degree of their interaction. For example, software for window-coverings may interact to a different degree and in a different manner than floor-covering business management software. This will be spelled out in the application discovery process.

This FSDE Standard is of enormous benefit to the end user (the flooring professional), not to mention the floor-covering industry at large. First, it allows programs created by different companies to integrate in an easy and unified manner. Secondly, it allows users not to be bound to any specific software vendor for their end-to-end needs. In the past, business owners sometimes purchased less-than-desirable tag-a-long programs simply because they were compatible with another program they already used. Now they can pick and choose the best products (and the best vendors) for their specific business needs. And as long as those vendors support and are compliant with this FSDE Standard, flooring professionals have no worries about data compatibility. This makes their business processes run much more efficiently and smoothly, start to finish.

Standard Overview

The FSDE Standard enables a flooring retail business to seamlessly exchange data among different software programs. The software must be compliant with the Standard for this to happen. The Standard defines a set of XML tags for the data exchange format and provides a methodology for the software to discover and interact with each other. Let’s look at an example:

Let’s assume that a flooring business has four different software applications provided by different vendors: an estimator, a scheduler, business management software, and an automated cutting machine. Since these programs are not from the same vendor, they most likely are not capable of understanding each other’s data, or exchanging that data. Therefore, the user most often intervenes manually, taking information from each of these programs to complete a business transaction. On the other hand, if these programs are compliant with the FSDE Standard, the user can quickly and efficiently complete his/her transaction, without all of the manual effort, and thus save a significant amount of time and money.

As shown in the following diagram, with FSDE, the user can create, modify, and manage his job estimate accurately and completely in an estimation program, then schedule the job for installation using scheduling software, continue on with the order processing and invoicing in his store management software, and even transfer data to his cutting machine when the order needs to be fulfilled.

The goal of FSDE Integration is to provide a seamless connectivity between a flooring professional’s various software systems, and to do so in a reliable and easy-to-use manner. In order to achieve this, it requires the following:

  • Any set up and configuration must be automatic on the user’s end, without requiring complicated procedures. This is both to ensure ease-of-use and reliability.
  • The transactions themselves should be quick and easy, without a lot of user intervention.
  • The end user will not be forced into purchasing new software. Older software can easily become FSDE compliant, with a few minor changes. If the software vendor is unwilling to become compliant, users can still continue doing their business in the traditional manner, while surrounding themselves with newer software applications that do support the standard. The non-compliant software will just not be part of the automated solution.
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