The Best Way to Integrate 2 Software Solutions: Don’t.
Every non-IT person I’ve ever talked to thinks it is easy to “connect” two systems. Believe me when I tell you, it is never easy.
Before you embark on any data integration project, you need to ask:
- What information am I trying to share and why?
- What is the core purpose and goal?
- Do I really need to sync changes on both systems or will a one-way sync suffice?
- Is there another option besides integration?
Sometimes, the answer will be, “yes, an integration is necessary.” But you should only embark on that project when you are aware of the costs and maintenance needs and have ruled out all other options.
A Report Versus Integration
I recently had this conversation with a Dynamics 365 user who was ready to embark on an expensive integration project.
Client: “We want to enter quotes in the CRM system.”
Me: “Don’t you guys already enter your quotes in the ERP system?”
Me: “So why do you want to enter them in CRM?”
Client: “We want to enter quotes in either system and have it synchronized.”
Client: “So we can get a graph of our goal versus actual”
This company did NOT need to integrate its ERP and CRM systems.
I explained to them that I could just write a report from CRM that talks to the ERP system. This would save a lot of time and money.
You can use a tool such as Power BI. Let’s assume your ERP system and CRM system use the same customer numbers. Power BI will use the customer number as the connector. People in accounting can see what they need to see, and CRM people can see what they want to see.
Nothing is integrated. But Power BI will pull data from both and present it to you in a graph. You can see the forecast from CRM and the actual from ERP. If the customer number is consistent, you can get all the data you need from each system, and they do not need to talk to each other and feed data to one another.
A Push Versus a Sync
Pushing data from one system to another is much less difficult. For example, ADP needs the same payroll info from you that they need from everyone else. This can be accomplished with a one-way push; you are taking data from here (your system) and pushing it there (ADP).
What I am talking about in this post is more of a two-way sync. You want to enter the data in one system, and it is going to create itself on the other side. If it is already there, it will have to be merged.
Then the information changes, and the sync happens again.
There are just too many ways an integration can “break.”
- You do not add a unit of measure on 100 old records in the ERP system, yet the unit of measure is required in CRM.
- For some reason, you have 72 orders in the CRM system with no customer address.
Then come the variables:
- Do you want salespeople to be able to change information about a customer, or do you want to lock that down?
- If you want to lock them down, what happens when a salesperson also does customer service tasks?
No matter what anyone else tells you, a bi-directional sync between two separate systems is never easy.
One Language Versus Two or More
Many people say, “We have these two key business systems. We need info from both. No problem, we will just have IT connect them.”
If those systems were written by different developers, it is like they are in different languages.
Asking an IT person to integrate them is about as easy as me taking a book written in Spanish and translating it to Italian when I only speak English. I don’t know those languages, so I have to go through each line and say, “All right, that means this, and this means that.”
Aren’t Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central the same language?
Even though these products have the same name, they couldn’t be more different. The languages are different. An account over here is a customer over there, and an account over there is an expense or an income item. Price lists here, items over there. It’s called sales order on this line, but in the table underneath is called order.
What if somebody updates an address in ERP will it show up in the CRM system?
No, not unless they are integrated. This is important. If a company moves, you want to know in both systems. But this is a simple connection that is not going to harm the business too much if the process doesn’t work.
What if I want to see a price list in both ERP and CRM?
That is a good question because you need the price list for quoting in CRM and for ordering in ERP. One solution would be to do all the ordering in CRM and do a one-way push to ERP. You don’t need the price list at that point; you just need the order.
If that doesn’t work, you can do an integration project. You just need to know that it will be a big project and decide if it is really necessary.
Is an integration necessary?
I’m not saying never do an integration. I’m just saying that you need to know the costs and the risks. That is why we go through the process of developing a detailed process flow before every project.
Would you like to discuss the systems you want to connect and get an objective view of your options? Check the online calendar to schedule a strategy session or contact P2 Automation at (860) 426-8029 or email@example.com
By P2 Automation, www.p2automation.com