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Integrations are complex. They require translating the language your business uses (including your specific processes, systems and rules) into one that is accepted by and readable for your trading partners.
Which means the process is not always smooth.
Data inconsistencies, connectivity issues, and mapping failures are just some of the challenges you may face, all with the potential to put your business at risk by causing delays or eating up your time with isolating and resolving sources of error.
To avoid any lost business, you need an integration partner with the expertise and resources to support you through the entire integration process; someone in your corner, outsourcing the complexity from your business so you can focus on what you do best.
Let’s talk about the true value of experience and expertise in a fully-managed integration service.
Having a trusted team of experts is essential during the set-up of your integration. Given that your business and trading partners will have specific requirements, your integration partner needs the depth of experience necessary to deliver a solution that meets your needs.
As such, a typical set-up will begin with extensive requirements analysis, where your provider will liaise with trading partners, system providers, and third party system implementers to understand the scope and specifics of the integration. Facilitating these connections on your behalf does alleviate the burden of consulting different parties from your business, but it’s important you feel you can trust your integration partner when inviting them to look under the hood like this.
Set-up also includes mapping data fields. An experienced team will not only understand the various input formats of your trading partners, but be able to build them into your integration with ease, surfacing the data that matters most to you and your business processes. Specific business processes, such as having a freight line appear as a line item on a purchase order but as a charge on an ASN, are accounted for with implemented logic.
The final key to a typical integration set-up is testing. Firstly, your integration will undergo internal testing, then end-to-end and user acceptance testing (UAT), during which the integration undergoes simulations that examine individual components as well as the whole system to ensure its ready for deployment and use. A team with experience and expertise will be well-positioned to conduct thorough testing, using their history of working with integration to ensure the connection built is robust, with any issues identified and addressed through comprehensive troubleshooting.
When it’s time to push the integration live and move beyond betas and testing, experience and expertise make for a successful deployment.
The deployment stage involves several critical components, including moving from the production/testing environment, installing and configuring the integration on live servers/systems, and ensuring proper connectivity. This stage requires attention to detail and a deep understanding of the entire process.
Data migration is another area in which your business can leverage the expertise and experience of an integration partner. By getting to know your specific business case, your partner can oversee the migration of data no matter its source, moving it from the staging environment but also from any existing system you use as well. Through a close review of EDI messages, during and after deployment, a fully-managed service provider can identify any errors and make any tweaks necessary. These tweaks can prevent small issues from becoming larger problems that could derail the entire integration.
A go-live is an exciting part of your integration journey. Not only does having a team of experts mean this process will go smoothly, but also ensures that all parties are aligned in terms of their expectations and timelines. You’ll want a proactive project manager who understands your processes, whose work and communication is in line with your business and needs as they follow up with your trading partners.
An often underrated component to working with an integration partner who combines both experience and expertise is the support you receive after your integration is live. Any breaks or disruptions have the potential to flow on to your supply chain, so it’s paramount you have a robust integration service with a support team of specialists to ensure supply chain continuity.
Generally, there are two types of problems you may need support with: system issues and a business process or user issue.
Resolving system and data issues
On the system side, data quality is the most important factor. If there are issues with inadequate or incorrect data not conforming to the system’s requirements, it has the potential to halt the process. Similarly, incorrect SKU codes, or SKU codes not existing within your Inventory Management System, cause mismatches and stop the integration from working smoothly. A common example we see is when a new product hasn’t yet been uploaded into an SME’s system, causing the API to raise an error. An experienced team will understand the value of communication in these cases as well as how to best leverage self-support services in conjunction with more in-depth support.
Resolving business process issues
On the other hand, business process or user issues may cause troubles with integration. Examples include outdated security protocols or a large queue that overloads the interface. By working with an integration partner with whom you have a long-term partnership, business issues are mitigated through a deep understanding of your business processes. With communication streamlined, any issues are able to be swiftly resolved.
In any case, a fully-managed integration partner with proven experience and expertise will provide the support necessary to navigate any issues that arise and ensure that your integration is successful now and in the future.
When the potential cost of a poor integration to your business is so high, it’s important to understand the true value of an integration partner with the experience and expertise that will ensure your business’ success.
At Crossfire, we partner with businesses throughout the entire integration process. Our intimate knowledge of the industry means we can confidently handle all aspects of your integration requirements and project management to deliver cost-effective and tailored solutions.
If you’re wanting to get integration right in your business, don’t underestimate the value of partnering with a service that has a proven track record of experience and expertise. Talk to us today about how our team can help you with tailored integrations for any business challenge.