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Integration – Question Number One

Most companies are searching for more efficient ways of working, which means that integration between their business IT systems very quickly becomes a point of focus.

This may be between websites, ERP systems, private dealer portals, accounts systems, clocking systems, payroll, CRM or any other business software in use.

The conversation inevitably starts with the oversimplified statement of “we want to integrate our systems”. The first question from me, as an integration developer, is always the same:

“What do you actually want to integrate?”

This really is the most important question – and often not thought about sufficiently, which is where we come in! For example, if integrating a website to an order processing system, we need to think about:

  • Are your web customers retail/public who register online – thus where is the “master” list of customers?
  • Do you want to process all web customers on one ledger account, or create a new account for every new customer?
  • Will pricing come from your accounts/ERP system or be maintained via the website admin?
  • Which system sends customers confirmation emails/notifications on point of order, despatch, etc.?
  • Are the field sizes the same? For example, if the accounts system can only take a phone number up to 20 characters, the website needs to be limited the same (or risk missing data!)
  • Will the website sell to other countries? If so, are exchange rates updated automatically when changed in the Accounts system or separately, as accounts may be processing transactions a few days behind? The same question applies to VAT.
  • Where are stock codes/products set up? If accounts, does it have enough information – e.g. pictures?
  • Where is the product catalogue structure set up?

Before starting an integration project, we take a “low tech” approach – and draw the data flows out on paper or a whiteboard. Then, for each identified “touch point”, we work out what fields are required. For products to a website, this may be fields like stock code, description, category 1, category 2, RRP price, etc. Whatever the link, the field list needs to be identified.

For what appears a “simple” integration, it really is essential to identify the actual transfers required, as an integration project taken on by Enhanced, simply will not progress until this exercise has been completed.

If you're thinking of starting an integration project, and you'd like to find out more information, get in touch.

Contact us

Author: Andrew Oborn, 24 March

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