Photo appears courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik. Do you have a separate solution for every business process? There's one company that handles your Webstore, one that that deals with your warehousing, another vendor for your ERP and the list goes on. No one really knows what the others are doing and you feel like you are in the middle of a major metropolitan spaghetti bowl! There is another way...
Now that companies are getting over their fear of spending money, integration is going to be more prevalent in the SMB sector. Not just for the enterprise level anymore, the ability to integrate your business processes, especially Webstores, in the near future will be as important as having a FAX machine was 20 years ago. Robin Smith from Virtual Logistics writes in his blog, "All in all integrating a shopping cart to an in-house ERP package or 3PL sounds like a relatively simple exercise until you actually get into it. The devil is in the details and that is why integration costs money. If people tell you they can do it for cheap, they don’t know what they are doing or you are going to get very limited functionality." Therein lies the problem. Integration, when done correctly, does not come cheap.
My job is to convince you that it's worth every pretty penny. I have seen some solutions that claim to be a one-size fits all magic pill, saving you thousands of dollars. There is no such thing folks. Different systems deal with different data formats so it's like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. In browsing some message boards, just a few of the complaints I have seen from these so-called one-size-fits-all integration solutions include: no training in processing Web orders, separate tech support for different functions (i.e. POS support does not talk to Webstore support) no any-to-any data translations, and virtually no knowledge of EDI. In the end you will have to hire integration experts like the Aurora EDI Alliance or the guys at Virtual Logistics to rescue you. And you will likely spend more money in the long run trying to go "cheap" than if you just made the investment to begin with. It’s well worth it to have integration experts spearheading that type of project.
If there's one thing we have learned from the last few Black Fridays, it's that online shopping is not a fad that is going away. It's now as much a part of our culture as cell phones. I am actually surprised (and annoyed) when I visit a Website and you cannot order directly. As a consumer, I want convenience. I want to be able to order from my cell phone. As a business, you should also want convenience (and automation) and that’s exactly what Webstore integration does for you. Just make sure you that when you are ready to integrate your business processes that you do it right. Seeking help from the right people, who have expertise in your particular solution(s), will make the difference between disaster and success.
Click below to read a whitepaper on what data integration can do for your business.