Here’s a shocker, NetSuite ERP is not a magical all-in-one IT replacement solution. Good News: developers at Oracle built flexible code to integrate with your existing business-critical apps to plug-in with ERP.
To run a successful project, you need to understand the key phases that make up an integration. This is because most teams will need to integrate their existing systems/apps with NetSuite.
- Reading Time: 9 min
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- Who should read: NetSuite Administrator, CTO, CFO, ETL team lead
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Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is Boomi NetSuite integration and why do it
- Essentials of Teamwork
- Technology for Integration
- Integration Architecture
- Testing & Validation
- Popular Apps to Connect
REALITY CHECK: Studies have shown that up to 75% of ERP projects fail. Most ERP project mistakes occur because of inexperience with data migration and how an ERP integration should be run. As a result, applications and data connections take longer than expected, costs run over and business value is not delivered.
The ability to synchronize your IT ecosystem (the business applications that run the biz) is what sets superstar project teams apart. The implementation of new work processes, technologies and various platforms are the most significant challenges that enterprises face. The following is an overview of the stages that an ERP system integration project will go through.
SAMPLE CASE: we’ll use this case for the post, so pay attention 🙂
An eCommerce company using a basic order creation & tracking platform wants to create sales orders. Currently, each order is stored in the eCommerce database (they basically want to improve their lead to cash process). The eCommerce company decides to implement an enterprise resource planning system and migrate transactions over. To do this successfully, we need an integration process.
HINT: At this point, we have defined the two platforms that we are going to integrate together:
- ERP Database (old platform)
- The new Enterprise Resource Planning System (Oracle NetSuite)
Let’s dive into the critical steps required to integrate ERP systems:
When working with an ERP Customization partner to integrate platforms, we would need a team with a group of three teams.
- Source Team: A person or group that understands their data sources, in our case it’s the eCommerce Company.
- Target Team: A person or group focusing on the business part of the platform. Depending on the complexity of the platform or business area, each group could vary in number. In our case, it’s Oracle NetSuite.
- Integration Team: A team responsible for creating and implementing the integration. In our case study, this would be Trajectory NetSuite Partners.
Once we have defined the teams, the source and target teams must identify the elements and sub-elements to be integrated (from the source database to NetSuite). In the case of creating sales orders, the elements and sub-elements are comprised of:
- Sales Orders
Initially, we had a simple requirement, the integration of sales orders into the new ERP system. Let’s introduce a new requirement: we have identified four sub-elements to be integrated (fun twist right?):
- Sales Reps
Identify mandatory integration elements: The Source and Target teams should identify which sub-elements are critical to the integration process. Discarding inappropriate sub-elements is an important step in element identification, this saves time and money in the long term.
Share your timeline, have weekly standups: Communication is key to the success of any implementation, and this process is no exception. The two teams must share relevant information related to each platform, they should also know which sub-elements are required. If the business and technical team’s point of view isn’t aligned, we could end up moving irrelevant data. We might also request deliverables that are impossible for the technical team to accomplish.
CASE STUDY: See how the LiveOps team integrated ERP and did some serious API management. Both teams worked for hand in hand with clear comms, timelines & understanding of data.
2. TECHNOLOGY USE FOR THE INTEGRATION
To complete the integration, there are a couple of options available. You could either create your own application or pay for an integration platform as a service (iPaaS). Before you make a decision, keep in mind:
Considerations for developing your own application (not recommended):
Software licenses and hardware maintenance: this usually has a ballooning cost which you should forecast ahead of time.
Who will support your application integration? Always ensure you have a team carved out for this.
What are the timelines required to get support and resolve issues? Support is usually done in-house, but you’ll require a ticket request and management system.
Considerations for using an iPaaS, like Dell Boomi (recommended):
- Some platforms could be costly
- The development process speed varies
- The connectors are predefined, so you can work in the process flow without having to worry about the connection
- Some adapt to new requirements extremely easily
In most cases, they have a friendly user interface.
TOP CHOICE: Both Trajectory Consulting and NetSuite use Dell Boomi as an iPaaS.
- Boomi is a leading cloud integration and workflow automation solution. It enables agile integration (faster and more efficient than developing custom code yourself).
- Boomi has drag-and-drop data integration, customizable end-to-end workflows, and pre-built tools.
- Boomi’s unified platform allows customers to sync data in real-time. It also resolves quarantine issues and enriches data via a data hub. Fun Fact: Trajectory Inc is a Dell Boomi Certified Netsuite Integration Partner. Since 2006, we’ve worked with Boomi on an integration platform enabling easy rollout and flexible customization.
3. INTEGRATION ARCHITECTURE
The integration architecture is the structure to be used in the integration process. At this stage, it is important to resolve matters such as when and how to execute the integration process. Some of the activities to be reviewed include:
A – Frequency & Volume
This information is critical to defining the architecture of your integration process. Large data volumes can have a direct impact on the frequency of the process.
- Frequency: the number of times that you need to execute your integration process per day.
NOTE: NetSuite utilizes the concept of peak hours, allowing the processing of a specific number of records by batch (or a request to web services). Example: If we are to move 1k sales orders a minute, it’s not possible with a single web services user. In a case like this, we could use multiple users and split the process. To do this, we would need to implement a super-process and execute each sub-process for a set number of records.
B – How our integration will connect the 2 platforms
NetSuite offers two secure methods, web services, and RESTlets. Web services have the same behaviour as the user interface and will deliver a specific response to each request. RESTlets depend on script logic, if we need to manage large amounts of data, a custom record can be created. Then the process could be split into 2 stages:
- Move the data to NetSuite in a custom record (RESTlet).
- Resolve the data in the custom record with the user event script.
C – Execution Order
Integrations must be executed in a specific order. For example, a sales order in NetSuite must have a customer and items. So, when moving orders to the system, ensure that customers and items are in NetSuite. Do this before sending the sales order request to web services.
In this instance, we need to first execute the customer integration, then the item integration and then the sales order integration. A master process should be used to execute the integrations in a specific order. For our case study, the master process will execute the integrations in the following order:
- Customer Integration
- Item Integration
- Sales Order Integration
D – Reference Table
The challenge in any integration process is to reduce the number of calls or requests for these services. Example: If we are creating a customer integration, we’ll execute one request for all the information to create a customer.
Use a reference table to avoid a request by web services. Ex: If the customer integration requires additional information (like list fields: departments, subsidiaries, and classes).
NOTE: This would greatly reduce execution time and increase performance. A reference table is important for consolidating requests because each individual request to web services uses time and processing capacity.
E-Business rule identification
These are the internal rules which make your business unique and that are important to you. In our case, we the CEO must approve sales orders when the total amount is greater than $30,000 USD. The integration team would define the specific action to apply in such cases. They could also use a custom field to indicate that orders above 30k, require CEO approval.
F – Field data mapping
An Excel file that serves as a quick requirements doc for each object and field to be used in the integration. A list of fields for the elements and sub-elements that need to move from the source platform to the target platform.
G – Management of Errors
We need to define the behaviour of the integration process when it is facing an issue/error. There is no random behaviour in an integration process and we need a list of actions to follow.
4. TESTING & VALIDATION
Continuous testing and validation will ensure a successful integration. Assuming that your integration team is building/implementing your integration.
Once the development stage is completed, the testing and validation stage is of utmost importance. During data integration, test separately from the overall project. Studies have shown that 69% of data integrations are part of a larger project. And when testing is part of overall system testing, only 47% of data integrations come in on time and on budget.
TIP: Test your Boomi NetSuite integration separately and rigorously.
Every integration supports a part of your business, so as testing begins, you need to plan realistic business scenarios. For example: if you are working with inventory items, you may have scenarios where an order could be partially fulfilled, cancelled, etc.
An integration process should be strong enough to handle unexpected errors. You cannot stop an entire integration process because one transaction didn’t have a specific structure. You need to plan for the unexpected during the integration process.
Important aspects to consider in the testing and validation stage are business and use cases.
In each case, you may have several scenarios such as:
Business Use Cases Examples:
- Case of creation (customer, items & sales orders)
- Case of updating (customer, items & sales orders)
- Case of sales order without total amount
- Case of sales order creation without items
- Case of sales order creation with inactive items
- Case of sales order creation with line items when the quantity is using a negative number
- Case of sales order creation with an inactive customer
Error Use Cases Examples:
- Case of update sales order that was fully paid in NetSuite
- Case of update user password of the integration user in the application
- Case of re-import a batch of sales orders with new information
5. POPULAR APPS TO CONNECT
This can be a post on its own, the most popular apps connected via Boomi integration to ERP software are:
- NetSuite Salesforce integration: for contact, company, deal tracking
- HubSpot NetSuite integration: for contact, company, deal tracking
- Existing home-baked systems: for order management, e-commerce, etc.
- eCommerce systems: for order and inventory tracking
- Suite Apps: these are not controlled by Boomi and are not really integrations, they are popular plug-ins:
- FloQast: Financial Close Software to make month-end close a breeze
- Adaptive Planning: advanced budget planning & forecasting
- Avalara Avatax: painless automatic tax updates to all tax jurisdictions
A successful integration project has the power to automate business processes and deliver optimized operations. This allows for the availability of business-critical information, data reliability and incredible user experience. Even when the integration process isn’t hard, you must consider the level of difficulty it requires. You will be moving data from one place to another, proceed with all possible testing before launching 🙂
So…to wrap up, remember these rules for successful integration with ERP solutions
- Teamwork: source, target, and integration teams
- Technology: determine which software/platform would be used
- Architecture: design of the process
- Testing: validate the configuration
NetSuite is well known as the world’s largest cloud-based ERP vendor and the most deployed back-office solution. Trajectory Inc specializes in successful integrations, implementations, and system recovery, delivering industry best practices & ongoing support.