Majority of mid and large size companies run on SAP. However, they are at different stages of their digital transformation. Whereas some organization have ensured homogeneity in marketing their products across channels like web, mobile, print, electronic data interchange (EDI) and phone calls, others are yet to create their respective road-map. This article is meant to bring out the challenges that a company may face in integrating multi-channel commerce.
Why integrate a third-party online commerce with SAP?
Though SAP provides a good solution in this space, an organization’s web commerce business may not be so big as to justify a multi-million-dollar investment for the same. It may be justified to choose robust online commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, ATG or BigCommerce instead. Of course, the chosen would need to exchange information with SAP for an efficient business cycle.
a. Complex business validations
SAP comes with many configurable business processes as far order to cash cycle is concerned. It may have an overlap with web commerce as well. Also, there could be custom developments which impact the way products are sold to end customer over the web. Simple examples are minimum order quantity, credit check, listings and exclusions. Price computation is also another complex integration consideration since the functionality provided by SAP is tremendously complex to achieve in other systems.
b. Ensuring flexibility for e-commerce manager
While SAP is the driving system in setting up the master data and controlling the transactions, e-commerce team may find it extremely difficult to set up promotions to drive sales over web. Integration with SAP, thus, should allow for flexibility to allow e-commerce system to over-ride rules set up in SAP.
c. Enhancement to change control process
Every system evolves with time. Changes to SAP or web commerce may have implications to the other system and hence must be included in the review of change control.
d. Complex processes to integrate
As per our experience, the following processes are the ones which are difficult to integrate between the applications. The foremost as mentioned is price determination as it is dependent on multiple factors. The second important feature is determining availability. Lastly, as you might have got it, is the process of integrating returns. Special challenges come when the integration is for B2B processes.
e. Calculating the ROI
it is difficult to calculate ROI for the e-commerce integration. This is specially so if you are enabling existing customers to place order or providing and integration for B2B cycle.
Recommended solutions to over SAP integration eCommerce
The following steps can help an organization do an efficient web commerce integration. Some of the aspects need to be in the planning phase, others in execution and the last in analysis phase.
A. Planning related considerations – These are the list of items to ponder about even before you start the integration project.
- Determine the elements that you need to integrate between the applications. These could be entities like orders, prices, shipment etc.
- Decide the direction of synchronization for each identified element. For some of the elements you could easy find the system of records, however for some other elements, you may need you may need a two-way sync. Remember that bi-directional sync is always more complicated than uni-directional exchange of information and can have impact on your budget and timelines.
B. Points to consider during execution
Real time versus batch sync – Many complex scenarios could be integrated by doing a real time call to SAP. This could be for example for price computation and availability check. Even if SAP is enhanced later, there are high chances that the integration would work. Downside of this approach is that performance could get affected due to load on SAP. Also, if SAP is down, it would also affect the web-commerce cycle. It may also be useful to define manual condition type and drive pricing determination in third party applications for specific cases. For these scenarios you can use a cron based sync of data instead of real time exchange of information.
C. How to analyze your ROI
You want to find the benefits of implement the eCommerce application integration. Certain pointers in this regard is to measure average order to cash cycle time (days), % of orders which need manual intervention, average customer complaint rate. If you have managed to improve upon these factors, it means you have done a good job with the assignment.
Conclusions and about us
Integrating the applications can be a complex task. However, knowing the challenges and planning your way around then can come in very handy. We sincerely hope that this article would have done just that. Veon provides SAP integration services. It has pre-built connectors and project accelerators which can speed up for integration project.