Questions to Consider When Integrating ERP and eCommerce

So you’ve built your online store and you’re starting to see some orders coming in which is great! After some time however as daily order volume increases, problems start to occur. The time and effort of manually transferring order details from the eCommerce website into your back-end accounting system starts to become unmanageable. What’s more, keeping the online store up to date with inventory levels, item details, and shipping status (stored in the ERP system) is nearly impossible.

So what’s the solution? For many, the answer is ERP and eCommerce Integration.

It sounds easy enough. But before you start searching for integration solutions, there are a few things you should consider.

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How Much Automation is Required?

One of the most important things to consider is exactly what you want the integration project to achieve.  At first, you might say something like “we just want the ERP and eCommerce applications to talk to each other.”  However, there are several ways that software applications can “talk to each other” – everything from fully-automated self-running integration that happens behind the scenes to semi-manual import/export routines that are assisted by automation.

What Records Do You Want to Integrate?

You should carefully consider and map out exactly what records you need to integrate. Do you just want orders transferred (or “pushed”) from your online store into your accounting system without any manual re-keying?

Or are there other records that you need to integrate such as shipping and tracking details, updated stock levels, customer account data, and other transactions that might require bi-directional integration?

The number of records and level of detail will play a part in determining which integration solutions will work for you and which ones won’t.

What eCommerce Platform(s) Are You Integrating With?

Sometimes businesses are running several different eCommerce platforms - like eBay, Amazon, and Shopify for instance – that all need to integrate with a single ERP system. In this case, you’ll need to consider integration to 3 different stores.  And in some cases, your order volume on one of the platforms is so low that it does not justify the cost of integration.

Also when you’re integrating between widely-used software applications like Sage, Microsoft, or SAP on the ERP side and Magento or Shopify on the eCommerce side, you potentially benefit from a wider range of integration tools and technology providers that have a depth of experience with those systems. If you’re integrating with a customized or home-grown online store, you may find that your options are more limited and costly.


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What’s Your Budget and Timeframe?

The type of integration (fully automated or semi manual) and number of touch points (one-way or bi-directional) will significantly impact the cost of the project and time required to implement. Timeframes for integration projects can be anything from 4 weeks to a few months and it depends on several moving parts.

Integration is NOT One Size Fits All

Not every integration solution is created equal. eCommerce and ERP integrations are not one size fits all - because no two businesses are the same. 

While this is not an exhaustive list of options, here are a few common integration solutions you’re likely to discover:

Custom-Coded – this type of integration is built from scratch for your specific needs. Price range is all over the map from very expensive (like anything that’s “custom”) to ‘too good to be true’ cheap.  If it sounds too good to be true, beware. There are a lot of integration providers that are here today and gone tomorrow – leaving you stuck with proprietary custom code that nobody knows how to modify or update. And if you need to upgrade either your ERP system or eCommerce platform to a new software version - without breaking the custom-coded integration - good luck!

Standard Integration – this is a pre-built integration, usually between two widely-used eCommerce and ERP applications.  While this solution may be among the least expensive, it’s also likely to be more restrictive because it’s not built around your specific business rules and processes.  You get what you get as standard – which for some might be a decent start, but for others is not a total solution.

For instance, at Fisher Technology, we leverage the power of BPA Platform (formerly TaskCentre) to offer a ‘Standard Integration Package’ that delivers many of the most commonly-requested integration points. The package has been developed based on experience working with our clients’ eCommerce integration projects. This standard integration connects widely-used ERP applications like Sage, Microsoft, and SAP with popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Magento. This integration can be implemented ‘as is’ with no changes – or leveraged as a good starting point and then modified to your needs.

Tailored Integration – this type of integration falls somewhere in between custom-coded and turnkey. Using a set of integration tools like those you’d find in BPA Platform, you get the best of both worlds. Because you can leverage pre-defined integration standards (so you don’t reinvent the wheel) combined with the ability to tailor the integration workflow and behavior to your specific business rules. You get codeless drag-and-drop integration mapping without any of the messy technical detail and ‘under the hood’ coding. 

Conclusion

If you’ve just had an ‘ah ha’ moment and decided you need your online store and ERP system to ‘talk to each other’, be sure to take time to ask the right questions and ensure you’re not implementing automation for the sake of technology. One size fits all does not apply - your integration solution should fit your business and result in real and measurable business benefit.

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