Given how easily Microsoft’s desktop productivity applications integrate, you might expect the same kind of plug-and-play ease between the Dynamics ERP applications on the back-end and the specific CRM, RMS, and POS systems on the front-end.
You’d be wrong. That’s the nature of enterprise applications. “There’s always some customization required because of a retail process or a supply chain process being different in the back-end,” says Asher Mathew, Channel Manager for Claremont, Calif.-based Nodus Technologies, which integrates Dynamics GP and Dynamics RMS applications. As Microsoft introduces new versions of Dynamics products, though, the integration process becomes steadily less time-consuming and intimidating.
Here are five tips to make the integration easier, both at inception and throughout data exchange.
Determine dataownership. The integration experts we polled consistently cited data ownership as one of the key hurdles for integration projects. “You have to understand who acts as the ultimate owner of the record, which can be difficult when you’re dealing with sales and accounting,” says Peter Bertell, CRM Practice Manager for IBIS, a Norcross, Ga.-based consulting firm specializing in Dynamics applications. “This is a challenge we run into on almost customer implementation. “The key to success: determine who owns which pieces of information, and give other groups read-only access.
Consider data flow. In allowing this access, you also have to consider data access. For instance, think about what customer financial information needs to appear in a CRMsystem. “The customer credit limit, their outstanding receivables, aging schedule, order history, and the list of outstanding invoices are all critical for salespeople to see, “says Dwight Specht, COO of IBIS. “Customers commonly request more of something they’ve already ordered, so the salespeople need an updated view of that.”
Lock down the data. As part of the business process, determine when a transaction is complete. At that point, it should be locked down so that the front office employees can no longer edit it. “The mechanics of that can get problematic,” says Clive Thomas, President of Interteq, a Manchester, Conn.-based Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, “but you have to make sure that the accounting system can’t be edited by the salespeople.”
Validate the transaction. No matter what tool you might use for integration, make sure the transaction is audited. Whether you’re using ODBC to copy-and-paste data, Dynamics eConnect, Dynamics Integration Manager, or Scribe Software’s EAI configuration tool, “you have to go through some rules and logic to validate the data,” says Mathew.
Consider changes carefully. Experts also stress that any time there’s a change in any business process, whether it originates in the back-endor the front-office application, you have to be aware of the implications in the other system. Specht suggests that companies focus on business process rather than functionality when considering new features.
Ultimately, counsels Mathew, companies must have insight and patience. “People need to understand the perspective of the other departments. They also have to remember that integration requires expertise, and it takes time.”
BY Howard Baldwin