For about 95% of our projects, there is some level of integration to a backend system.
The first step is to understand which data is to be utilized in your e-commerce environment. The next step is to determine which system contains the master record of the data. Finally, the frequency at which the data needs to be synchronized across the systems.
While we don’t explicitly include reports (or BI) in this post; as it certainly deserves its on discussions, keep in mind data management will also need to be considered.
Eleven Points of Integration
There are several integration options available, including a simple FTP process, an MQ Series, Mulesoft, Dell Boomi, or Web Services. It’s often beneficial to use an integration methodology that is already being used, but it may make sense to change to a new technology. When deciding on which methodology to use, you and team need to consider the initial programming needs, ongoing support, and technical debt.
Our standard integration strategy looks eleven 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 eleven.
These points of integration are:
- Customer and Addresses
- Payment processing
- Order processing
- Order shipment (ASN’s)
- Order history
- Vertical specific (LMS or manufacturing data or other)
Identifying how those data points will be communicated between the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and eCommerce systems will define your integration strategy.
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 and if so, in how much detail. 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 status to indicate availability. Another option is to simply provide ‘In Stock’ or ‘Out of Stock’ identification on the site. And, throw multiple warehouses into the mix and you have instant complexity.
These business decisions drive the type of integration required, and how timely those updates needs to be.
Other non-ERP Integrations
The integration between your eCommerce platform and other systems, like CRM, WMS, PIM, DAM, or other, probably won’t be as intensive as an ERP integration, but it’s still important to identify the relevant data. Focusing on the data, regardless of where it’s coming from or where it’s going, will help eliminate confusion and make sure all of your tools are working effectively.
Document all decisions! Document implementation details!
This is to help expedite future feature build, sustainment (managed services), and resource turn-over. It’s more expensive to create this type of documentation years down the road compared to proper artifacts development during the project.