Connecting your existing business systems with your ecommerce platform…Nowadays it’s common for clients to integrate their ecommerce store into their existing information systems. Whether accounting, warehousing, shipping, CRM or email marketing there are a number of reasons why it might be desirable to link your business platforms. Magento 2 is an extremely advanced and flexible platform that integrates well with 3rd party information systems. Nevertheless ensuring your existing business systems can communicate with Magento correctly requires a Magento agency with the development expertise and experience to implement your requirements properly. Yoma have successfully undertaken complex integrations for a broad range of clients using both Magento 1 and Magento 2. So what exactly is an integration, what’s involved and what do I need to consider? Yoma senior frontend developer, Andy Pimlett, discusses some of the important factors involved in integration projects.
1) What exactly is a Magento integration?An integration is in essence establishing a connection between Magento and one or more systems. Whether that’s posting ecommerce sales into your accounting ledger, updating stock in your warehouse management system or sending out emails to customers who have abandoned baskets via your email marketing platform, some degree of Magento integration will be required for one system to pass data to the other.
2) Understand what you are trying to achieveFirstly it’s important to understand what it is you’re trying to achieve, what problem are you solving. Sometimes clients think an integration is absolutely necessary but it’s important to evaluate any potential benefits vs the cost of implementation, maintenance and support. A good starting point is to draw the business process as it exists, or as it would exist without automation or the convenience of integration. Then draw the process as you envisage with integration. From here it can be pretty easy to see where potential costs might exist for any manual processes e.g updating stock records in your warehouse management system. Integrations are desirable where you wish to accurately transfer large amounts of data from system to another or automate frequent tasks. However, for infrequent processes it may be easier to consider the implications of managing manually; at least as a phase one approach. Of course a major incentive for integration is in the removal of potential human error involved in administering transactional processes. The point is, a clear understanding of your goals is essential in making an informed decision.
3) Appreciate and accept limitationsIt’s often said in bespoke software development that anything is possible. Whilst there is some truth in this, it’s important to remember that Magento is an ecommerce platform. If the requirements of a complex integration, or customisation, end with more custom code than native Magento, then you could be asking too much and may be better considering alternative solutions or narrowing your requirements. This is not to say Magento cannot comfortably handle customisation but the primary function of the system should remain ecommerce.
4) Systems don’t automatically talk the same languageA great deal of progress has been made to make it easier for software systems to effectively exchange information. That said in most circumstances communication isn’t automatic. At the most basic level some configuration will be required and custom development for more advanced needs. Depending on the nature of the integration this may be required on either the Magento side, the 3rd party platform side or in some cases both. Be sure to understand the needs of both systems, the reasons for change and the implications on existing processes. Remember to include change management of existing offline processes.
5) What about B2B?Magento is traditionally a retail platform but with features introduced in Magento 2, along with 3rd party extensions and custom integration it is now capable of performing as a B2B platform where traditionally ERP or completely bespoke systems would be required. Magento offers multi-store features to drive wholesale or trade sites whilst maintaining a separate retail experience using discrete price lists with further customisation providing greater potential. Of course there are limitations and trade offs when choosing an off the shelf platform but this may be worth considering given the substantial savings in choosing Mangeto over a completely bespoke enterprise system.
6) What about cost?Magento Community Edition is an open source ecommerce platform, maintained by a large number of committed developers. The fact that there is no up front software cost for Magento should not imply that it is necessarily a cheap way to build an enterprise grade ecommerce website. Getting the most from Magento requires a team of expert and experienced designers and developers and particularly when dealing with complex integrations. Set aside the fact that the native Magento platform is free and consider the following cost implications:
- Design and development of the website
- Magento integration
- 3rd party integration fees*
- Internal team cost
- Support, maintenance, security
Note: ‘You may need to have your existing technology partners adjust their own systems to adequately interface with Magento’