How to use interfaces to integrate all your B2B systems?
Traditional ecommerce software is developed to serve online retail, B2C web stores. These platforms run ‘autonomously’. This means, the ecommerce platform is able to do all the work itself, without the help of external systems. It exists of functionality to render the web store pages, to setup navigation structures and allow for web store management. On top of that, these ecommerce systems also calculate the orders, the discounts and taxes, store orders, store customer and assortment information in their own database.
Although all this sounds like a logical thing, it is as well the starting point of something we call ‘interfacing’.
Hooking up these kind of traditional ecommerce systems to your administration most often start with an interface to be able to pull the assortment of products from the ERP into the web store. A second interface would then be needed to push the web store orders back into the administration and of course an interface is needed to transfer the customer information as well. What you see is that once started with an interface project and getting new insights, new interfaces are needed or existing interfaces need to be extended. Besides, the web store software supplier often does not understand the ERP environment, nor does the ERP vendor know anything of the ecommerce system. Lots of first-time experimenting is part of these kind of open-ended interfacing projects, performed on a time and material basis which makes it even worse.
But there are other, more structural things to consider. When your webshop is able to do price calculations without the help of your administration, the sum of the two systems (webshop & ERP) contain quite some redundancy – double ‘business logic’. Where redundancy could be nice when you talk about fail-over systems, in this case it is the starting point of waste of even more time and money, needed to have your webshop running smoothly.
Indeed, if you have a particular way of calculating discounts, or customer specific prices in your ERP’s invoicing system, it must be re-built in your webshop. If in your business automation you have a specific assortment filtering per customer, or a service charge which is applicable only below a certain order value, maybe shipping costs based on volume (or weight, or a combination of both), or all other business specifics which were implemented in your Dynamics – they all need to be re-developed in your webshop. Pricing models do change, and the life cycle of assortments or collections get shorter and shorter. Imagine what is needed to cope with these circumstances; all changes in the ERP do need to be reflected in the shop as well, resulting in double work, double time and double investment.
It goes without saying that interfacing webshops to ERP systems result in a lot of unnecessary work. And of course, adding lots of intefaces may look and work like an integration, but it is not. It is much more costly to setup, will give errors during operation and is extremely expensive to maintain.
The setup of an integrated webshop platform is quite different. It takes your Dynamics ERP system as starting point, inserts and merges the webshop specific objects within the ERP system, and adds the ‘common’ features for rendering (multiple) store-fronts, navigation structures and enriched (product) information. This integrated approach not only can be setup in a quick, fixed price implementation, it delivers tons of other advantages which simply cannot be met when setting up an interfaced webshop.
Single source of truth
Since orders don’t need to be synchronized afterward and are created in the ERP at the moment they are placed within the webshop, there is only one place where your business information is processed: in your Dynamics ERP environment. If your business requires business customers to prepay 25% of their orders, it’s been defined in your ERP. The integrated webshop will automatically take this into account, and will guide the customer along an online payment of 25% of the order value. Product parts and components, as defined in your Dynamics, are automatically processed within the integrated webshop, allowing for easy up-sell, or online product configuration.
Integration means that a whole new dimension can be added to the possibilities of a webshop. Being close to the engine of other integrated solutions, means that the webshop can be extended with online product configuration (which takes place within the ERP system), with extended product information management (PIM) features (based on the ERP’s master data) and with e.g. omni channel retail capabilities, using the (LS Retail’s) POS engine within Dynamics. Re-using what is already there, serving multiple channels identically.
Since parts of the integrated webshop are installed within Dynamics, involvement of an ERP supplier is essential when setting up and maintaining an integrated webshop. Your ERP supplier knows your business and has mapped the processes on the functionality of your systems. He knows how to import and merge the objects in Dynamics, which allow the webshop to be as close as possible to the ERP’s core functionality.