The Creation of the BMS

10-01-2021 04:42 PM By Stacey Phillips
Following CIECA’s creation of the collision industry’s original data standard—the Estimate Management Standard (EMS) in 1994—the organization worked toward establishing the Business Message Suite (BMS). BMS was designed to support electronic commerce across the collision industry ecosystem and includes more than 200 business functions today.

To learn more about what prompted the creation of the BMS and how it has been utilized by the industry, CIECA reached out to Fred Iantorno, CIECA’s executive director from 2001-2019, and Charley Quirt, CIECA’s technical project coordinator from 2002-2020

Q: What were some of the issues facing the industry that led to the decision to create the Business Message Suite (BMS)? 

Fred: At the end of the 1990s, prior to my role as executive director, CIECA was discussing the creation of its next generation of industry standards. The EMS had come out in 1994 when the Internet was in its infancy and electronic communication had significantly grown. At the same time, insurance carriers and other large companies were investing in Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) at a national level. Many referred to the new generation of industry standards as EMS 3.0 at the time.

CIECA committee members met quarterly, which wasn’t as often as they do today. Different people would show up at the meetings and it was challenging to get things accomplished. I was brought in as the executive director in July 2001 and we started meeting more regularly. Charley joined CIECA in June of 2002.

Charley: The EMS was a great success and widely implemented throughout the collision industry for many years. When it was created, the intention was for it to only be used in a repair facility. Over time, it was unintendingly being utilized for other applications by other users. One of the issues companies have found with EMS is that all of the information is shared with trading partners, even if it isn’t needed.

CIECA’s goal has always been to develop messages that are singularly focused and send the necessary information to the proper parties quickly. An important part of standards development involved EDI, which was great to use but expensive to implement. Small organizations often could not afford EDI implementations.

Q: Who was involved in the process to create BMS and what was the initial goal?  

Fred: The goal of the BMS project was to replace the EMS and EDI messages. One of our first tasks was to form a group in February 2003, co-chaired by Dave Meiser of State Farm, to develop procedures for CIECA. That group was known as the Architecture Committee, which still exists today.

Committee members were tasked with developing and recommending new technical methods and ensuring the deliverable had industry acceptance, functionality and compatibility. In addition, we set out to provide a forum and method to develop and maintain objective, unbiased and uniform electronic commerce standards and guidelines that encouraged open competition and free choice. This included offering instructions independent of a particular network technology, syntax or computing platform. We also offered a robust and scalable framework for the exchange of collision data. Ultimately, the team wanted to create a win-win situation for the mutual benefit of a common strategic direction for the evolution of products and services.

CIECA had a document in place called the Standards Development Methodology but it was rudimentary. We decided to expand that and also created new design standards. Back when CIECA was establishing the next generation standard, the organization based the new BMS on a set of design specifications from the Interactive Financial Exchange (IFX). When we set out to create the BMS, we committed to always reference that the standards were based on those specifications, thus used the acronym BMS.

Charley: The original group primarily included insurance companies, information providers and glass companies. It wasn’t long before rental companies came into the picture as well. Our goal, besides developing specific messages for a specific purpose, was to develop a framework for the standards. We reached out to other industries, including finance, travel and petroleum, as well as vehicle-related organizations, to gain knowledge on what worked for them and what did not as well as what they would have done differently. The primary document we used was based on information from the financial industry.

Q: What did the process involve?

CIECA had already started work on the BMS when I joined the organization, but the messages were not yet being developed. They had only completed the structure and rules for the messages. These developments are what exist today in the BMS Sections 1 and 2.

When BMS XML message development began, we defined all the data points in the EMS and EDI messages. Then, we deleted those that were no longer needed and expanded the information to include many new data points. This resulted in the XML implementation being significantly more robust.

The biggest principle we agreed to adhere to was “reuse.” When the first message was completed—the estimate message—the assignment message was quickly developed because it reused many of the information pieces (aggregates) that were already developed for the estimate.

After a significant portion of the work was completed, we had a face-to-face Architecture Quality Assurance (QA) meeting. We reviewed the BMS, code list, and schemas to ensure they were all in sync.

The next step was to develop sample business messages, or instance documents, to ensure the schema was developed and updated as expected. These instance documents were collected and expanded with every BMS change. Each had its own instance document to validate it was done correctly. The collection was run against the new schema to also validate that nothing was inadvertently changed. The first BMS Standards implementation was in 2004; however, it was not very robust with messages.

Fred: When the BMS was introduced in August 2004, the document was about 90 pages in length and had seven sections. It contained a common set of business messages that could be used with message processing services across multiple organizations and networks. In addition, there were Business Process Implementation Specifications or implementation guides and appendices created that provided more detail.

Q: What was the reaction from the industry?

Charley: When we first began working on the project, the initial reaction from the industry was one of interest. The CIECA Board of Trustees was supportive of the project and believed that BMS was needed for all industry segments.

During the building of the BMS, there was a lot of interest from the industry and the board in hearing what was being completed, and seeing it was moving forward. Sometimes, it seemed like there was a more urgent need. One example is when the Vehicle Damage and Imaging (VDI) Committee was working on their messages. There was a need for enhancing the estimate message for paintless dent repair, so a parallel effort was launched. Board members, including Jim Laning and Ed Weidmann from State Farm; Phil Martinez from Mitchell International; and Martin Aita and Ron Campney from Hertz; were active in the weekly committee work. Board members who were not actively involved on committees also supported the effort by identifying someone in their organizations to be part of the development. We held weekly meetings, which demonstrated the commitment to the rapid development of the standards.

Fred: After the first release of the BMS, some people went to implement it and found the messages were too big. Internet speeds weren’t what they are today. If we wanted to grow, we realized we needed to take a different approach and immediately regrouped. We had a good technical team, including Randy Bear from USAA, who all worked hard and should be credited with completing the redesign. They were responsible for splitting things out into what BMS is today—a common set of elements that make up individual messages that do specific functions.

Q: What were other changes that came out of the development of the BMS?

Charley: After the BMS was created, we hosted our first Implementation Conference (the predecessor of CONNEX) in October 2009. CIECA was developing messages but had no way of identifying who, if anyone, implemented them. It was a leap of faith that people would step forward and present what they implemented and share facts and experiences about their implementations. The first conference was a great success and it highlighted the need to create the Education Committee, which now plans the CIECA conference and focuses on other initiatives to educate the industry about standards.

As Fred mentioned, part of the creation of BMS involved putting together an Implementation Guide and Appendix C, which encompass information from the Charter, Business Plan and Workflows. The Implementation Guide details how the implementation fits in an organization and the Appendix C details what and how the information should be shared between business partners. Not only does it include information about the committee’s direction, but it also demonstrates how to use the standards. We did not want new users to be overwhelmed with multiple documents so this has helped organize all of the information.

Q: How has BMS helped the industry over the years?

Fred: With the creation of the BMS, CIECA has provided the industry with a full set of robust messages that were created to address a need. EMS focused on only the estimate. With BMS, we were able to create a repair order message, which is inclusive of everything related to the repair of the vehicle including parts and labor. The purchase order message is another example of a message that was beneficial for the industry. Before the BMS, electronic parts ordering systems didn’t exist. When BMS was created, more of these types of businesses became mainstream.

BMS also gave the insurance and car rental segments the ability to transmit information electronically. This changed the industry and helped trading partners communicate better and become more efficient. I believe when a diverse group of people sit down together to solve a problem, they identify other problems as well. By working together to create the BMS, I think they established relationships with each other and learned each other’s needs. That’s something that CIECA has provided over the years outside of its original mission.

CIECA is now working on a new initiative to create the next generation of industry standards—JSON-based CIECA Open API Standards. To learn more, email info@cieca.com.