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Everyone approaches an eCommerce integration project for different reasons, but regardless of the purpose, the integration strategy is a crucial aspect of the process. When discussing an integration strategy, the technical aspects fall away and the focus is on the business strategy. Who will own what data and which data processes? Answering these questions helps to prevent inefficiencies throughout the project due to miscommunication and logic duplication.
Understanding and following a few rules will ensure that your B2B eCommerce site complements the ERP system, and does not try to replace it.
The best way to go about planning an integration strategy is to focus on the Golden Rules of Integration: don’t duplicate data (unless you know why), keep the business logic where it belongs, and use an integration methodology that’s appropriate for your project and organization.
Data is the lifeblood of an eCommerce engine, and the data needed for an integration project typically already exists in the ERP. This makes it critical to set a strategy around the data integration. It is crucial to determine where each data element should be stored and which system “owns” the data. Careful consideration should be given to data points such as Customer Master data, Item/Catalog data, and Customer Order Information.
After it is decided where each data point should reside, who owns it, and how it will be shared, a data map should be created so that ownership is clearly defined and documented. A great mantra to keep in mind is: “There can only be one source of the truth.” This will help to establish whether the eCommerce or ERP system should own the data.
After it’s determined whether the eCommerce or ERP system owns each piece of data, consider the business logic required to process an eCommerce order. ECommerce systems typically include functionality that is duplicated in the ERP, such as item pricing, taxing, and order processing. In considering these redundancies, look to keep a business function within the system that is best suited for processing that function.
A great example is the pricing engine. Most robust ERP and eCommerce systems alike have very flexible pricing engines. However, the eCommerce system will typically feature powerful promotion and discount modules as well. Duplicating the ERP pricing engine into the eCommerce system can be a daunting task, and generally is not recommended. The project team must look at the business logic and determine which system handles the functionality best.
Our standard integration strategy looks at ten different integration points and related business logic and processes. The goals of each project determine which integration point is needed, and how it is used within the overall project. Typically, our project use four to six integration points, but we have had projects with only one or two, and projects using all ten.
A good example of an integration point is inventory availability. The first business decision to be made is whether or not the eCommerce site should expose inventory availability to the shoppers. Not every eCommerce site does, and those that do use a few different methods for sharing this information. Some sites show the actual number of products available, while others share a red, yellow, or green light to indicate availability. Another option is to simply provide an ‘In Stock’ or ‘Out of Stock’ flag on the site. These business decisions drive the type of integration required, and how timely the update needs to be.
Following these rules is a great start to your eCommerce and ERP integration, and these tips will help make the process as smooth and successful as possible.