This is part 3 of 3 of a series of posts in which we examine the basic customization options for Dynamics GP. In part 1 we analyzed add-on products as the first option to better adapt your ERP to your needs. In part 2 we focused on programming tools for Dynamics.
There are situations, however, in which your business is so unique that: (a) There are no third-party applications for your company’s line of business; and (b) The work involved in programming a complete solution within your ERP using the available tools is too costly and would lead to a sort of “monster ERP” that is hard to maintain over time. It is likely that companies in these markets already have an application that they have developed or use an application that is industry-specific for their needs. This could be the case with some manufacturing companies, or companies in the medical, hospitality, or educational sectors, just to name a few possibilities.
What typically happens in these cases is that the industry-specific application provides excellent functionality for their operational needs, but generally exhibits a poor level of functionality for essential administrative aspects, which happen to be at the heart of any ERP. It is common then, to encounter cases in which the company does not want to replace or re-program the operational application, but instead wants to implement a good ERP that can be tightly integrated with it. What they are looking for is to maintain business as usual in their specialty application but purchase an ERP system that can take data generated by that application and create appropriate financial transactions and information for business decision makers. In some cases, the ERP should also provide feedback data to the specialty application to improve operational efficiencies.
Many ERPs offer integration mechanisms, but few offer the level of flexibility that Dynamics does. Dynamics GP, for example, includes different tools that provide simple initial
For relatively simple integration needs, Dynamics offers “Integration Manager”, a high-level, easy to use tool that provides pre-defined adapters to both extract data from practically every system, and convert it into valid ERP transactions of many types. So, for example, we can use integration manager to extract invoices generated by a car rental system and convert these data into valid sales invoices or GL Entries in Dynamics. Another typical scenario (especially in countries where payroll laws are unique or complicated) is to use this tool to take transactions generated by the custom payroll system and generate the appropriate GL entries and employee receivables transactions in Dynamics. The beauty of integration manager is that it is easy to use yet very powerful, offering complete data validation (does not allow the import of “garbage” into your ERP) by utilizing advanced integration mechanisms underneath.
Dynamics GP also offers direct access to some advanced integration tools such as eConnect and Web Services. These are tools that require a higher level of programming expertise from the users, so they are mostly used by customers with a good IT department. What these tools offer, however, is the capability of establishing a total connection from/to any system and your ERP, using the most popular development tools.
Web Services, for instance, is a development platform created using industry standards to allow the creation of two-way interactions among applications. Dynamics GP includes "services" that allows any programmer to search for documents, create new documents, update existing documents, and even delete or void documents in the ERP, all of which is done within the security context and respecting data integrity. One of the advantages of using these more advanced technologies is that the integrations created using these tools can work not only within your local network, but over the Internet as well, making it ideal for mobile systems.
As mentioned in the first part of these series, no system can cover absolutely all of your company's needs (at least not at a reasonable cost). Integrating your vertical systems with your ERP can be a good solution, and the tools to do this are readily available in Dynamics. If you want to know more about integrations, of any other matter related to Dynamics,