Straight Talk: Integrating Magento With Your ERP

Integrating ERP & Magento

If you’ve been around the Magento ecosystem for any length of time, you’ve probably heard a few horror stories about Magento ERP integrations—or even encountered a few of these projects yourself. The difficulty of ERP integration has nothing to do with Magento, but everything to do with the history of the manufacturer who’s looking to launch ecommerce.

To put it simply, a manufacturer’s world revolves around their ERP system. Yet ERP and Magento partially overlap in their handling of business data. Each one wants to be the system of record. How do you work out that conflict?

I’ll give you the punchline right now: you do it with a real-time integration between Magento and the ERP. In our case, at Corevist, that means a real-time Magento SAP integration—but the principles I’ll talk about here are generic enough that you can apply them to any ERP.

First, I’ll explain why a real-time ERP integration is essential for successful B2B ecommerce. Then I’ll examine the 2 biggest reasons that ERP integrations fail.

1. Why a Magento ERP integration is essential (scalability & user experience)

For manufacturers, long-term ecommerce success is impossible if you don’t integrate Magento to your ERP. That’s because scalability and user experience will suffer without real-time ERP data.

Without integration, your ecommerce business won’t scale:

  • CSRs must rekey orders into your ERP system. Order errors will abound. Cost of order fulfillment rises with sales growth.
  • IT must maintain data in 2+ places (ERP, Magento, middleware…). That means constant manual intervention to maintain a harmonious data landscape.

Without integration, your ecommerce business will create user experience problems:

  • If you can’t display real-time inventory data and pricing that reflects the customer’s contractual terms, ecommerce is dead in the water. The customer needs this essential information to decide whether to place the order. Without it, they’ll turn back to phone/fax/email ordering–if they don’t leave you for the competition.
  • If you display inaccurate inventory data and pricing, customers will learn to distrust ecommerce. They won’t adopt your Magento store, and you may not see ROI as a result.

In other words, for your permanent B2B ecommerce solution, a real-time integration to the ERP is essential.

There’s only one use case in which a manufacturer should launch a non-integrated ecommerce store: the proof of concept. If you’re demonstrating to the rest of your organization that ecommerce is viable, or if you’re launching a new product or making a first foray into a new territory, a stand-alone store with no integration is perfectly fine. Just realize that it’s not a permanent solution. Whenever you move to a permanent solution, like Magento, it must include ERP integration.

2. Why Magento ERP integrations fall down: Technical complexity

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know how complicated the ERP integration is. Just in case you need further proof, check out this diagram:

This is a schematic of what a typical B2B web shop looks like. It’s real. Now, this particular solution has since been re-architected; but many of the technologies in this diagram are still in use today, despite the fact that it’s from 2008.

Let’s be honest. We’re all professionals, and an architecture like this isn’t actually that hard to put into production. We relish the challenge, right? But here’s the rub: a machine this complex is incredibly difficult to debug. What happens when a customer calls in because they got the wrong price? How do you track down the source of that error?

And that’s a good project, one in which the integration was successfully completed. Sadly, many integrations don’t get this far—in fact, they don’t get anywhere at all. Check out this email that came across my desk recently from a distributor who considered Corevist 7 years ago and is now back on the market for ERP-integrated ecommerce:

Me: “My records tell me that XXXX went with Magento and a local integrator back in 2011. Are they not happy with Magento or the integration to SAP?”

Consultant: “There is NO integration with SAP because they couldn’t figure it out.”

–Email correspondence, March 14, 2018

That’s option B for every manufacturer who launches ecommerce. The thinking goes, we want to get the website up; we’ll leave the integration for Stage 2, or 3, or 4… But that’s a slippery slope, and this email is a prime example of the danger. Seven years later, this distributor has no integration, and the website is dead on arrival because the customer can’t get accurate information in ecommerce.

So yes, the integration is complex. It’s a domain of expertise all its own. That’s why we recommend working with integration specialists. (In the case of SAP ERP, that’s us!)

Why are we so adamant about this? Because believe it or not, technical complexity is the easy part of integration. The real mountains to be climbed are cultural, both inside and outside your organization.

3. Why integrations fall down: Organizational complexity

Here’s where B2B ecommerce is almost nothing like the simplicity of B2C. Not only do you have to deal with the technical aspect, you have to navigate a complex map of concerns within the organization. Because manufacturers are often new to the world of ecommerce, it’s rare that they define a specific leadership role tasked with running the web store. That can lead to confusion and competing demands from different stakeholders within the company.  

Here are the stakeholders we see most often, and their concerns.

  • Customer Service: “I need real-time ERP visibility into all orders, including those from Magento, to give customers One True Truth about their account standing when they call in.” (Hint: That’s what our eTrack module is all about—but it’s not just for CSRs; it’s for customer self-service, too.)
  • Sales: “I need real-time ERP visibility into buying history so I can sell with intelligence. I may also need the ability to place orders in Magento on behalf of customers, with real-time order posting to the ERP. Oh, and what will my commissions look like after we launch ecommerce?” (Hint: Partner with Sales from the start to make sure your reps become ecommerce evangelists, not detractors.)
  • Marketing: “I need a clean, easy-to-use web store that allows me to run promotions, build our brand, and attract new customers. It should be easy for a new customer to create an ecommerce account and place an order.”
  • IT: “Don’t create more work for me. If you’re going to launch Magento, please integrate it to the ERP in real time so I don’t have to worry about batch updates, synchronization, and data maintenance.”
  • Finance: “Will the ecommerce store allow customers to place orders when they’re over their credit limit? We can’t have that. Also, will customers be able to pay down their invoices through self-service and credit card payments? That would make life easier for us.”

How can you possibly meet all of these concerns without a real-time Magento integration to the ERP? The answer to each of these concerns depends on that live interaction.

That’s why, for manufacturers, it’s essential to bake in the Magento ERP integration from the very beginning.

The Takeaway: Find a partner and integrate first (not last)

Unless you have expertise in the ERP system yourself, it’s best to find a trusted advisor who does. You need someone who understands how complex ERP business rules will interact with the Magento user experience.

If you’re dealing with major SAP ERP versions (ECC, All-In-One, R/3, ECC on HANA, or S/4), that trusted advisor is Corevist. You won’t find a team with more dedication or expertise–we have 300k+ hours of experience in SAP-integrated ecommerce. If you have a Magento manufacturing project on the table, and you’re dealing with SAP, get in touch with us today.

If your project involves a different ERP system, you can still take this philosophy to the table. In fact, we hope you do. It could save you a lot of headaches.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Wondering how a real-time Magento ERP integration plays out in real life? Download this case study on Mannington Mills. You’ll learn how this manufacturer of flooring saw 150% sales growth in the digital channel with Magento integrated to SAP through Corevist.

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