28 Jun ERP Integration: A Seriously Powerful Way to Improve Performance
How ERP system integration streamlines, increases visibility, drives revenue and reduces overhead.
ERP Integration is the process of connecting your back-office software, line of business apps, customer relationship management and other software tools to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. ERP integration removes or reduces the need to export and import spreadsheets from one system to another. An integrated ERP system allows a business to automatically share data across solutions to reduce manual data entry, improve data insights and enable a unified “truth” in a single system. With real-time data updates, ERP integration allows financial teams to gain the most accurate and complete view of their financial performance.
Why is ERP Integration Important?
ERP software is a powerful accounting solution; however, it lacks out-of-the-box functionality for many tasks that are essential to most businesses. Integrating applications such as time and expense management allows users to expand the functionality of their accounting system.
Like we said above, ERP system integration enables greater visibility and streamlines processes by reducing manual labor. As accounting departments are more focused on strategy than ever, a holistic approach to corporate finances is increasingly important. A unified view of data across the organization is key to this mission.
How ERP Integration Drives Revenue
An ERP system integration unifies data across solutions and departments. With a more 360-degree view of the business all from one application, financial leaders are better equipped to make strategic decisions based on real-time data insights. With this powerful tool it is easier for them to drive revenue through strategic planning. And since accounting teams spend less time on manual tasks, they have more time to focus of forecasting and planning, which brings us to out next point…
How ERP Integration Reduces Overhead
With less data entry, there are fewer errors. In accounting, even small errors can be costly. What’s more, financial teams spend less time tracking down information. This can significantly decrease the amount of time spent on getting the data into the system and therefore reduces overhead associated with data management and data entry.
How ERP Integration Improves Compliance
With fewer errors and better traceability, ERP system integration helps improve a company’s ability to comply with mounting regulations. Data continuity and accountability are also improved which is critical to compliance. Lastly, ERP integration improves reporting capabilities so you can streamline your various financial audit requirements.
Examples of Solutions Commonly Integrated with ERP
While the different types of software that can be integrated into ERP solutions are theoretically innumerable, there are few common uses for ERP integration. These solutions Include:
- Customer Relationship Management
- Tax Automation
- Billing Automation
- Payables Automation
- Business Intelligence
- Time & Expense Management
- Customer Portals
- Project Management
Further Reading: ERP Hosting Services: What and Why?
Depending on the application you are trying to integrate into an ERP solution, there are different methods of integration. Some applications are purpose-built for direct integration with a specific ERP solution such as QuickBooks, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics, Syspro, Epicor and more. Some require a third-party integration management software. Let’s take a closer look at some of the different ERP integration methods.
ERP Integration Solutions
For many businesses there is no simple way to answer which method of ERP system integration is the best option. As most businesses have a hybrid cloud and on-premise IT ecosystem, they will probably use various methods of integration to connect their applications. Let’s take a look at a few of the possibilities.
Point-to-point integrations are pretty much what it sounds like: connecting one specific solution to another. In the case of ERP integrations, this would include integrating a payroll solution with ERP. The limitation of point-to-point integration is that data only travels from point A to point B. If you want to then integrate the payroll solution with ERP and a tax automation software, another integration is required. Now imagine doing that multiple times for multiple solutions and you will see how this method can quickly become an overly complex and difficult to mange.
Custom Integration Solutions
Again, custom integration solutions are pretty much what they sound like. A business develops its own adaptor software to integrate various solutions. Custom integrations are a good option for businesses with a large IT development budget as they can be tailored with custom workflows and updated to meet changing needs. The limitation is that keeping them working long term may be a challenge as a business grows and more SaaS solutions are added to the overall IT infrastructure.
Enterprise Service Bus (ESB)
An enterprise service bus is primarily an on-premise architecture solution. The service bus works as a centralized solution where multiple apps can be webbed together for a broader integration approach over point-to-point integration. Data comes into the bus in a specified file format—XML being the most common. This requires data from your payroll software, for example, to be translated into XML and then translated out to fit your ERP system. ESBs are a fairly complex approach and integration for SaaS solutions may be difficult or impossible.
Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)
This is a cloud-based method of software integration in which a company outsources it’s complex integration to a provider. With iPaaS, users are able to develop custom integration flows that connect applications in the cloud or on-premises and then deploy the integration, often without requiring any hardware or middleware such as Integration Manager.
ERP integration is key to getting the most out of your financial software and your associated apps. While there are many types of integration and many ERP integration solutions, there is not a single right way to perform an ERP system integration. In most cases, a complex IT infrastructure requires a complex approach to integration. Therefore, businesses must assess their broader integration needs and take a holistic approach. With hybrid and multi-cloud scenarios, multiple methods of integration will likely be used across applications.