The benefits of ERP integration are numerous. It improves order and inventory management, reduces errors and duplicate data entries, increases productivity, and much more. ERP integration adds value to company data, but the process can become overly complex without thoughtful planning. In this post, we’ll discuss four necessary considerations to prepare for proper ERP integration.
Understand Your Integration Potential
Not all ERP software is created equal. If you’re working with an older legacy system, you may find limitations in your integration capabilities. If your ERP offers API functions but no Web service, the integration solution you choose should have ETL functions to act as middleware to securely complete the project. Understanding how your ERP will be connecting to your integrating system is the first step to completing a seamless project. Integration consultants can help shed some light on this. Their experience with multiple software products makes them knowledgeable on what those products can do, so they can help you pivot if you’re on the wrong path.
Establish Your Data Integration Points
Not only do you need to define what information will be passing through your integrating systems, but you must also consider how often that should occur. Is it absolutely necessary to have a real-time feed of data between systems? If you have a large swath of data, a real-time feed would significantly slow down your data processing abilities. Should the integration process every 5 minutes? At the end of every workday? What makes the most sense for your data capacity and your goals?
Some common ERP integration points are the products catalog, inventory, customers, pricing, sales orders, and order status changes. However, your integration points may differ depending on your goals and the other solution you’re integrating with (ex: CRM, eCommerce, Business Intelligence software, etc.). Don’t try to go “all-in” on your integration approach. Think critically about what’s essential for your unique business processes and deploy your integration in phases to ensure a smooth transition and reduce risks. If you’re unsure which points you should be integrating to accomplish your goals, consult your integration partner and they can guide you on choosing your key fields and functions.
Clean Your Data & Prepare for the Initial Migration
A simpler way to think about integration is to imagine it as two migrations. Data is migrating from your ERP to your other system, and data is migrating from that other system into your ERP. The initial data migration from your ERP can be time-consuming, so it’s important to work closely with your integration provider to make sure the proper data is moving and there aren’t any major blips.
In addition — and I cannot stress this enough — cleaning your data beforehand is an absolute must for proper integration, regardless of the solutions you’re connecting. Due diligence on your data quality is a big part of what makes your integration worthwhile for ROI, reporting, analytics, and collaboration. Data cleaning on your own can be time consuming, but hopefully your integration provider offers built-in cleaning tools or services that will help that process go faster.
Establish Realistic Timelines
The more complex your integration, the more time you’ll be tacking on to getting it properly functioning. Aside from that, you must also consider the time necessary for your business process review and how you want your integration to coincide or even improve your existing workflows. There are also risk mitigation activities, testing processes, and compliance initiatives. What is the cadence and timing required to properly map your end-to-end integration points?
Have a discussion with your integration provider about what’s realistic for your project. Integration is not a quick fix; it’s a thoughtful, well-planned solution. Rushed ERP integrations are the result of poor planning, which can often add unexpected costs to the project and results in an integration that does not meet your needs. Start planning for integration as early as you can to avoid rushed decision-making and an incomplete project scope. Is it worth the effort?