Working behind the scenes, your ERP and ecommerce systems help you manage your online business. What if they could work better together?
Integration certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all project, but it’s a process that many business can utilize to create a seamless workflow. Unifying ERP and ecommerce technologies helps companies minimize mistakes, mitigate risks, meet customer expectations and make informed business decisions. In many ways, it’s the medicine for the headaches that often accompany business growth and increased consumer demand.
If you’re considering making the move to unify your systems, here’s what you need to know about Magento ecommerce and Sage ERP integration:
As your order volumes increase, there’s too much data to justify manual entry. Taking this long way round can cause delays from processing to packaging to delivery and increase the chance of error. You can hire more employees, but this can be a costly solution that proves fruitful for only a limited time. Rather than resorting to a larger workforce, companies can choose to integrate their systems to streamline the process, reducing the time spent on processing orders and mitigating issues related to data errors, such as incorrect delivery location.
In today’s online shopping world, consumers expect companies to fulfill their orders in a timely, accurate manner. Integration helps eCommerce sites meet these expectations, aiding in inventory maintenance and budget management. This solution can further help businesses understand exactly what’s happening on their website, providing real-time data to inform sound business decisions and facilitate more efficient collaboration between departments.
Preparing for integration
While the advantages are great, integration is no small project. It takes careful considerations and proper preparation for the most successful execution. Make room for these preliminary steps when defining the scope of your integration project:
1. Upgrade your systems
If you’re an existing Sage ERP or Magento user, it’s important to be on the latest version of each system to ensure proper integration. In general, best practices call for constant upgrades for optimum performance. You’ll also want to be mindful of future proofing and avoid coding into the Magento core, as this can create problems down the line when it’s time to upgrade.
2. Prep your data
It’s important to make sure all of your data is clean and consistent before integrating your systems. Large product catalogs especially should be scrubbed and made suitable for the web, which can take a significant amount of time depending on the complexity of the catalog.
3. Define business processes
To identify the necessary touchpoints for each department, consider all of your business processes and determine how integration will impact them. This can help guide the integration design.
4. Plan your budget
Integration projects range in pricing depending on the number of touchpoints and approaches that business choose to utilize. You’ll want to understand pricing and identify overages at the beginning of the project, factoring in potential costs for IT enhancements and post-go-live updates.
5. Get an expert opinion
Whether you lean on internal resources or external consultants, make sure you get expert input for ERP backend support. While it adds an extra layer of preparation, someone may foresee an issue that can be corrected well before go-live.
Following the road to integration
After proper preparation, integration becomes a multi-phase project. You’ll first want to establish a baseline for ERP integration at the beginning of the project. Once you have a prototype up and running, you’ll feel more confident that it will work after go-live. From there, you can focus on the details of ecommerce development, such as mapping, payment processing and shipping methods. When that’s complete, you can finish the ERP integration.
Next, you’ll need to enter a robust testing phase. Integration projects are vulnerable to failure without sufficient testing during the development stages, so make sure your project scope includes testing scripts to ensure the integration will work before it goes live. Along with testing technical elements, you should run through all of your business processes to ensure the integration will run smoothly. Proper development and testing environments can eliminate future issues and mitigate risk early on in the process rather than resorting to implementing changes on the fly.
After testing and deployment phases, you can begin training and content support, plus implement any live changes or updates.
Understanding the types of integration
If you’re working on a small scale, file-based integration is a tried-and-true method for transferring data. While straightforward, this batch processing can be constricting and inefficient for large amounts of data. Real-time integration is the preferred method, as it allows for more complex projects and enables immediate updates. Plus, it works with multiple ISPs, so businesses experience minimal downtime if one goes down temporarily.
There are also two types of integration systems: direct and hub. The former integrates Magento directly to the Sage ERP system and is often priced with a one-time fee for installation. A hub is a cloud service or software on a web server that connects Magento and Sage but further includes spokes that allow for additional integrations. As such, hub integration is a more robust form of integration infrastructure and offers businesses the option to increase scale over time. Pricing for this type of integration system is often subscription-based, so project budgets should consider these after-live payments.
Choosing integration touchpoints
Integration allows business to utilize several touchpoints, such as product categories, category navigation, customer accounts, price lists, orders, shipments and invoices. The ones you choose will depend on your business needs. For instance, B2C websites tend to opt for more simple integrations that include sales orders, inventory, status updates, tracking numbers and so on. B2B customer portals, on the other hand, typically require far more complex integration with touchpoints such as customers records, pricing, terms, invoices, statements and more.
Starting with the best practices
If you’re ready to dive into an integration project, make sure to keep these best practices in mind:
• Avoid duplicate data by defining master and secondary systems (typically ERP and ecommerce, respectively).
• Implement error and exceptions handling, such as text and email alerts.
• Consider upgradability and scalability, planning for a system that can support at least ten times your current order value.
• Identify strategies for ongoing and emergency support.
As a Magento partner, Pixafy can help you get started on your integration project. Along with our sister company Net at Work, the top Sage Partner in North America, we offer a network of consultants, development specialists and similar partners that we bring together on projects, providing significant value around ERP change management.