Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is fine and dandy, but what happens when your current software no longer meets all of your needs and you’re forced to leverage tools and capabilities from other systems to bridge the gap? ERP System Integration.
Read on to learn how to integrate ERP solutions to make the most of your technological investment, as well as where our senior-level ERP consultants can fit in your organization.
What is ERP Integration?
ERP integration is the method of connecting your Enterprise Resource Planning software with other systems and applications across an organization, and it is designed to facilitate more efficient data management and integration across business units, create a single source of truth, and improve productivity through integrated business processes.
ERP integrations enable companies to…
- Extend the functionality of new and existing ERP systems to optimize business functions
- Improve the mobility and scalability of your ERP software solutions
- Access real-time data across systems to improve decision-making processes
- Connect all business processes, including Finance, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain Management, in one integrated system
Common ERP Integration Methods
Here are a few of the most common ERP integration methods to consider…
Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) Integrations
The enterprise service bus method provides an on-premise software architecture to enable different applications within each software system to manage data more efficiently, communicate with each other, and translate data to and from specific formats depending on the needs of each software or specific integration.
While ESB integrations are a great choice for on-premise systems and companies that only scale vertically across the organization, it often adds an extra layer of complexity to integrations that require integrations with SaaS solutions and other third-party tools and applications.
Point-to-point integration involves the connection of one individual software to another, and they are oftentimes the quickest and most simple integrations because they only require two pieces of software for connection.
However, they are few and far between in today’s modern world as IT departments in many organizations can’t handle the volume of software and amount of connections required to accurately and efficiently connect each solution.
Custom integrations give individual companies the tools and resources needed to build core integrations that are customized for their own business needs.
While these integrations do take quite a bit of time and often require the help of technical developers and other technical resources, they allow for advanced software matching between a specific software API code and the ERP system a company is wanting to integrate with.
Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) Integrations
As a cloud-based approach to software integration, iPaaS integrations typically require no complex coding or programming in their initial setup, making it much easier for companies to connect their systems and applications quickly throughout all necessary business units.
iPaaS ERP integrations are designed to connect SaaS solutions directly to a company’s ERP system, and they help companies save time, money, and unnecessary headaches throughout the software integration process by providing a more flexible architecture than traditional on-premise integration methods.
Main Types of ERP System Integrations
1) Ecommerce ERP Integration
Ecommerce integration helps companies expand the functionality of their online store and create a better online shopping experience for customers by seamlessly connecting the Ecommerce system itself with a company’s core ERP system.
With Ecommerce integration, companies with online stores are enabled to maintain accurate front-end data across all areas of the organization, improve data accessibility for all users involved in managing the Ecommerce store, and automate the financial auditing process for quicker turnaround times.
2) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) ERP Integration
Integrations between ERP and CRM systems help companies keep all of their valuable customer and company data in one place, reducing the time it takes to retrieve information for time-sensitive tasks and improving the overall customer experience in the process.
With CRM integration, companies can not only leverage a more standardized data management process across the organization for improved efficiency, but they can also streamline business processes and improve decision-making with better data and more comprehensive insights.
3) Human Resources (HR) ERP Integration
Integrating your Human Resources processes with your internal ERP system can help manage and automate core HR business processes, including payroll processing, recruiting and onboarding, time and attendance tracking, and more.
And, while companies most often use HR and ERP integrations to simplify their data management processes to reduce overall costs and improve the employee experience, such integrations can also be leveraged to automate essential reporting processes and simplify the assessment and review of employee performance across the organization.
4) Business Intelligence (BI) ERP Integration
BI software functionality can be built directly into your ERP system, but more often than not, the capabilities that come with pre-built functionality like this are not powerful enough to handle larger data volumes or more complex data coming into the system.
With integrations between business intelligence software and ERP solutions, companies can leverage advanced reporting tools and analytics to improve the accuracy and efficiency of their data management processes and handle larger volumes of customer data more effectively.
5) Project Management ERP Integration
Creating integrations between project management software and ERP functionality enables companies to better understand workflows across all departments involved in any given project and solve minor system issues before they turn into bigger problems for your employees, customers, and organization as a whole.
Project management integration allows users to determine project costs, allocate resources properly across business units, view project progress and system updates in real time, and enhance communication and collaboration between each department involved to improve project efficiency across the board.
Challenges with ERP System Integration
Every ERP integration comes with its own unique set of challenges, but here are a few to look out for before jumping headfirst into a complex integration project…
Supporting Multiple ERP Systems
While organizations do typically tend to leverage modules from the same vendor from the start, as their business needs and requirements grow and change over time, it’s essential to have a system that can not only extend its functionality to update existing integrations, but also build new integrations for modules added on from different ERP vendors.
And, without the right ERP solution or functionality needed to mange multiple systems at one time, companies could find themselves drowning in a sea of unnecessary expenses or operating rigid integrations between solutions.
Navigating ERP Complexities
From navigating issues with poor data quality to filling the gap of inefficient communication between departments, fighting resistance to new ERP software by internal team members, and simplifying core planning processes, an ERP integration project can bring with it many additional complexities.
On one hand, outlining a well-defined integration plan can help users and other key stakeholders understand the requirements of their new ERP system and make the most our of their project investment. On the other, user enablement and adoption should fall at the top of the priority list to ensure employees understand the need for change, the nature of their new system, and how the new system operates, no matter what.
Building Flexible Customizations
When it comes to integrating an ERP solution in your organization, finding the right solution with all the modules and capabilities needed to meet business requirements can be complicated, especially if one solution only provides some of the functionality you need.
But, by proactively identifying the areas of your ERP software that needs improvement and building flexible customizations that help align capabilities of each area of the solution to align primary business objectives with process efficiency goals, your company can find the right solution to meet all of your needs in one place.
Maintaining Project Budgets
ERP system integration offers suites of advanced capabilities, tools, and resources that not only help bring legacy systems with outdated functionality together in a new system with a single source of data, but they also improve usability and productivity across your organization.
And, while the benefits of ERP integration do far outweigh the drawbacks, one critical aspect many companies overlook in their planning, implementation, and integration processes is their budget (and maintaining that budget throughout the entire integration project).
If your software is not effectively integrated throughout each department (and its core functions), the department and your organization as a whole can suffer from misaligned business processes, reduced ROI, and longer cycle times across the board.
ERP Integration Best Practices
Whether you’re integrating your ERP system with other tools for the first time or your team has done this 1,000 times, here are a few things to consider every single time…
1) Understand current business processes.
Before your company can even consider beginning an ERP integration project, you must first assess the current state of your organization and the accuracy, efficiency, and reliability of your business processes across the organization.
This way, project leaders and team members can better understand which processes are working effectively (and, which are not) and identify the best solution for those that need improvement.
2) Select the right ERP vendor.
When it comes to choosing the right ERP vendor (i.e., JD Edwards, Infor Lawson, MS Dynamics, etc.) for your business needs, it’s important to consider the tools and resources required from your ERP solutions and the integrations you will need between each internal system or third-party tool.
And, whether your organization operates with built-in Workday functionality, needs to integrate UKG with a third-party tool to optimize operations, or requires integrations between SAP and other inventory management resources, selecting the right system and tools for your needs is critical to your success.
3) Define and set project targets.
Are you interested in eliminating the need for manual data entry processes throughout your organization? Do you need functional integrations between your Enterprise Asset Management software and existing ERP functionality to streamline and ensure production?
Wherever your business needs lie, you must define the end result you want to achieve with ERP integration and set project targets to ensure each step stays on time and within budget throughout its full project lifecycle.
4) Create a plan for integration.
Before you begin an ERP integration project, it’s important to consider a few things…
- What kind of information needs to be integrated between systems?
- Why are ERP integrations necessary for your organization?
- How will information be sent and received to and from each data source?
- Are there any gaps in your data or current ERP systems?
Once you have assessed current operations and future needs within your ERP system and core integrations, you can build a project team and outline a plan to streamline ERP integration processes and make the most out of your ERP investment.
5) Emphasize collaboration between teams.
Teamwork makes the dream work, right?
Without effective communication and collaboration between teams, departments, and other areas of your organization involved in the ERP integration process, your company will suffer from underutilized resources, poorly-informed decision-making, and a lack of cohesion among teams and key decision makers throughout your organization.
How Can We Help?
Whether you need help outlining an ERP integration plan that meets your business needs, additional support navigating integration challenges, an extra hand managing the data from each system in a centralized data repository, or anything in between, Surety Systems is here to help.
Our team of senior-level ERP consultants has the technical skills, functional expertise, and personalized experience needed to help you manage any ERP integration project (and find success in doing so.)
Getting Started with Us
Interested in learning more about our ERP consulting services? Ready to get started on an ERP integration project with our team?
Contact us today to get connected to our top-notch ERP experts!