Businesses today understand there is no one system that can meet all their requirements – from selling online, to order & inventory management. This has made them conscious of the need for integrating their E-commerce and ERP systems. They understand that integration is the only way these systems can be made to work with each other seamlessly.
Despite this, what businesses fail to comprehend is the complexity associated with integration. Because of which the success rate for integration is not very encouraging. A successful integration is not one that merely synchronizes data from one system to another. We define a successful integration as one that gives businesses a platform they can use to grow their business to the next level.
In this blog, we will explore the top 5 challenges that we have witnessed businesses encounter and that they must overcome for a successful E-commerce ERP integration.
1) Lack of clear understanding of requirements
This, without a doubt, is the most important step and the biggest challenge that businesses face with E-commerce ERP integration projects. Often businesses and their integration partners do not spend enough time understanding the businesses’ integration requirements, which eventually leads to project delays and cost overruns.
Before the project begins, businesses must ask themselves (and their integration partners) the following questions for ERP e-commerce integration success.
- What am I trying to achieve with integration? What challenges am I trying to address with integration? Which specific instance (or instances) has triggered this need for integration?
- What systems should I integrate?
- What data should I synchronize between the systems identified?
- What processes or workflows can and should I automate?
Your answers to these can have a dramatic impact on the entire project, from who should you partner with to what benefits can you expect, and more. For example, consider this
You are a retail business, with an online e-commerce store and ERP in the backend. You are looking for a connector to sync order information from e-commerce to ERP. Your immediate then goal is to sync only order information – not customer, product, or inventory information.
You find a solution that can do just that and implement it. But, after you implement the solution you realize that order sync alone will do no good for you. Because orders are associated with a customer (and by not syncing customer information you have incomplete information in the ERP system) and they also impact the inventory you have on hand (and by not syncing inventory information you have incorrect data in your e-commerce system).
2) What do you do with the historical data?
Yes, you have read it right. On a number of occasions, we have seen customers struggle with this. They are convinced on the ROI of E-commerce and ERP integration and they know that they do not have to worry about data once the integration is in place. However, what worries them is all the historical data they have in multiple systems.
Businesses thrive on data that runs into terra-bytes accumulated over years of business. For businesses to get more out of integration, it is imperative to feed the historical information into the integrated system (historical data from one system into another and vice versa). Hence, it is important to discuss this with your integration partner and ensure that you have a strategy in place to deal with this.
Remember, if you decide to synchronize historical data between the systems then you and your partner have to invest time in cleaning the historical data, synchronizing data to appropriate systems, and checking for any data integrity issues.
3) Getting the required commitments and budgets
Let me ask you a question, who benefits from ERP and e-commerce integration? Did you just answer the IT DEPARTMENT? Well, you are right and wrong. Right for obvious reasons and wrong, because it is not just the IT department that benefits from the integration. ERP and e-commerce integration benefit everyone from sales, marketing, IT, operations, customer service, e-commerce, and management.
But, don’t worry, you are not alone. This is a very common belief in a number of organizations. That is why supporters of integration very rarely receive the required commitment and budgets to make the project a success. Even if they do manage to get that in the beginning, they often find the support tapering off as the project progresses.
Hence, it is important for businesses to keep the stakeholders motivated and involved while keeping the budgets from moving to a different project.
4) Dealing with internal and external resistance (or lack of an effective change management process)
E-commerce and ERP integration is an important step for businesses; one that we have seen has an organization-wide impact. This means that multiple people, across departments, will have to change the way they have been doing business (including end customers). They will have to learn new technology, follow new processes and changes like these are never welcomed. Because of which they will make every possible attempt to derail this process.
Often, lack of effective communication is the most cited reason for the resistance. Lack of effective communication manifests into various reasons like lack of proper employee consultation process, lack of employee transition process, lack of proper training, systems usability issues, and business operational issues.
Hence, businesses must invest time in formalizing a change management process – anticipate the concerns both internal and external stakeholders might have and devise a strategy to mitigate or address those concerns. Failing which, you might have the best integration solution implemented with very poor adoption.
5) Getting the right support after Integration
This is by far the most cited reason why customers have migrated from their existing integration solution to i95Dev’s integration solution. We have even heard stories where customers had to wait for weeks to resolve a small issue, and that after multiple escalations to the senior management.
Businesses need support for various reasons like training, reporting and fixing bugs, do customizations and more and the availability of right support can be the difference between an integration project and a successful integration project.
Hence, it is important to do necessary validations and make the necessary investment to work with a partner who can provide the adequate support that the business requires.
E-commerce and ERP integration has far-reaching benefits, but only when it is done right. Plan ahead and overcome these challenges, you will find integration pay for itself in no time. Don’t give integration its due attention integration will become a black hole consuming all your time, energy and resources.