Integration is not a new concept and has been around for ages. With the numerous programs and platforms that are necessary to run a successful business and the inter-dependencies between them, businesses for long have experimented with techniques to make systems talk to each other. Come 2016, integration still holds the key, only the end systems have evolved and so have the integration techniques.
In the context of e-commerce and ERP, integration plays a crucial role as it not only helps businesses run efficiently but also helps them drive omni-channel experience to their customers. In this article, we will explore the possible ways in which businesses can sync their e-commerce and ERP systems and the pros and cons associated with each one of them.
Broadly, the data can be exchanged between systems in the following ways
- Manual Data Transfer
- Automated Data Transfer
- Extract Transform Load (ETL)
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
- API based Integrations
For this article, we will limit ourselves to the automated data transfer techniques.
1) Point to Point – Extract Transform Load (ETL)
ETL was the first and most basic technique first used to automate and move away from the manual data transfer.
- Extract – reads data from indicated source and pulls out the relevant subset of data (post filtering)
- Transform – works with this acquired data – using rules or lookup tables, or creating combinations with other data – to convert it to the desired state. Surrogate keys or new key values are applied to similar data from different source systems prevent key collisions in the future and provide a cross reference across systems
- Load – writes the resulting data (either all of the subset or just the changes) to a target database, which may exist or is created.
While the ETL process can be kick-started both manually and automatically, it is usually automated using schedulers. ETL is ideal in situations when large volumes of data are transferred between two systems and there are no workflows associated with the data that is transferred – like transferring historical data between systems.
2) Point to Point – Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI came next and revolutionized how transactional data was exchanged between two systems, or two parties (business and suppliers). EDI is a communication technology used to transmit data from one system to another.
- EDI, the required data in the source system is translated into a standard EDI format using appropriate segments and data elements depending on how the internal data is mapped.
- EDI uses private data network communications network called value-added networks (VANs) to transmit standardize transaction data between two systems.
- After translating the data into the standard format, the connection is established with the destination system and the data is transmitted.
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