Let's start with a simple definition of what is ERP integration?
ERP integration is the bringing together of a company’s online ordering solution with their accounting and inventory management systems.
In our case at OrderEase, it is the harmonization of our OrderEase online order platform and our clients’ back-end systems providing a company’s customer base with real-time data on their products and current inventory, while automatically receiving orders directly into their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.
When Should my Business Integrate its ERP System?
The short answer is, now. In the past, many businesses were inclined to overlook integration since it was very costly and difficult to implement. Online commerce was predominantly geared to the consumer and the online solutions supported the B2C marketplace. The B2B world was just fine e-mailing and faxing their orders the old fashioned way.
However, many of those same consumers are also business owners and want the same convenience of the B2C experience in their B2B relationships. With more and more large companies adopting fully-automated integration of all their systems, it's no longer a case of “Should I or shouldn’t I”. It’s a case of “I have to get my butt moving or my business is going to miss the boat!”
Not to mention, with the adoption in the B2B world of conducting business via your mobile device, more and more businesses are making sure that they are covering all their bases to provide their customers with an “anytime, anywhere” integrated online ordering solution and re-structuring their website and online ordering solution to be responsive to the mobile marketplace.
Why Should my Business Integrate its ERP System?
Most businesses purchase and deploy an ERP system long before they consider an online ordering solution. When the purchase decision is made to have online ordering, it is typically kept separate and there lies the problem. If your ERP and Online Ordering Solution have their own databases, you will consistently have to worry about keeping the data and product information synchronised. Whether it’s an online user placing an order or an ERP user from your staff who updates product availability, any changes implemented in one system will have to be transferred to the other.
Considering this is a manual process, having to wait for a database to update before you can, for example – process orders, replenish inventory levels and update availability for customers will result in slower operations and an increased risk of database errors.
So in short, integrating your ERP will result in...
- Increased Transparency and Information Sharing. Response time and efficiency increases when other departments have immediate access to information, documents, or files that they need.
- Data Accuracy. ERP accurately stores all information in an easily accessible place, which in turns limits errors and time-consuming manual processes.
- Automation. When your ERP system is integrated with your other business platforms it eliminates the need for redundant and manual data entry.
- Real-Time Data Access. You can easily view everything in one place when you need it. No more waiting around for data to be delivered tomorrow, next week or next month, it is always at your fingertips.
What are the Different Types of ERP Integration?
ERP integration can be broken down to two main functions, one-way integration or two-way integration. Each type of integration has 3-4 different levels.
One-way integration is as it sounds. Your data tables are “pushed” to your online ordering solution through an established API framework, typically either manually or at scheduled intervals automatically. The information only goes one way.
Two-way Integration or fully-automated integration synchronizes the data between systems and keeps everything up-to-date in real time. Data is passed back and forth between your ERP system and your online ordering solution.
For example, here is a quick view of a typical breakdown of OrderEase’s integration solution, OrderEase.
|One-Way Integration||Two-Way Integration|
Universal Plug-in - ODBC Integration
Universal Plug-in - ODBC Integration
Are there any common ERP Integration challenges?
When not approached correctly, ERP integration can have multiple stumbling blocks.
Complexity. An integrated ERP system is highly complex and requires expertise to manage and operate. When you have existing integrations that are tightly coupled with the system, this can add more to the complexity especially when you are looking to modify it.
Cost. This can be a big factor for some people, while the integration will be nowhere near the price of the ERP software, the knowledge and ability of the developer that will do the integration comes at a cost. And then you still need to maintain the integration and make any modifications you see fit down the road.
Customization. The ability to have a custom middleware or custom interface can be great because it allows you to meet specific needs for departments, but it will inevitably add a layer of complexity and risk.
Training. With any new system, staff will need training to understand and utilize the new integrations. This will again add to the overhead costs.
While none of these challenges should be deterrents to creating an automated, data driven and accurate business process, they should be known before diving head first into an integration.
If you've been wondering how you could take your business to the next level, an integrated ERP system might be the answer. Give your staff the access and increased communication they need to perform at optimum levels anytime and anywhere with ERP integration.
Learn more about inventory Integration