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The best way to build your data integration architecture

By Henning Lund - February 01, 2017

Most businesses use multiple systems for different purposes. Data integration makes these systems work together.
The process of creating data integration architecture can be complex, with as many as 20 integrations needed between systems. How can this be done? The obvious answer might be to integrate all components with each other. This is a tempting approach, but it tends to prove unworkable over time.

That's why we've been working on creating a generic reference framework that offers a high-performance data integration set-up, at a cost that is affordable SMEs.

In this blog, we explore how we did this, the logic behind our approach and the advice on best practice we've gathered along the way. It also explains why we integrate systems such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud into a CRM rather than directly into the ERP system.

Primary systems vs secondary systems

When beginning an integration project, it's important to determine which systems are secondary and which are primary. Primary systems operate core business processes. Secondary systems feed information to the primary systems.

We can set up data integration architecture that links several different primary systems, such as a CRM and an accounting system. This streamlines data recording and use, avoiding double data entries, automating processes and ensuring transparency.

We can then also set up integrations between various secondary systems. This means that data channels are always consistent and easily maintained. The alternative is spidernet architecture, which means multiple data channels, many of which are redundant.

Integration in practice - an example

One of the most common integrations we set up is between Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics ERP (AX, GP, NAV, 365). We're going to look in this example at an integration of the three primary systems:

  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud (Pardot)
  • Salesforce Sales Cloud (CRM)
  • Microsoft Dynamics ERP

Integration in practice infographic

 

Step 1: we integrate Salesforce Marketing Cloud with Salesforce Sales Cloud

This integration feeds qualified leads from Salesforce Marketing Cloud into the Sales Cloud.This is a simple integration, with data flowing just one direction. It is included with Salesforce as a native integration (the same is true of many other similar products).

Why aren't the leads fed directly into the ERP? Because they need to be developed - they're not yet customers. It might make sense to do so if the ERP you use includes a CRM, but not otherwise.

 

Step 2: We integrate Salesforce Sales Cloud with Microsoft Dynamics ERP

This is slightly more complex, as it is a two-way integration. Both systems hold details on customers, so they need to be synced.

 

Secondary integrations

We need to set up secondary integrations into the primary systems. Which these are depends on the business. In general, secondary integrations into a CRM system are sources of data that provide information about contacts, communicate with the target market or measure the effects of actions. Integrating these into the CRM simply enriches the data.

Secondary integrations into an ERP are generally about specialist systems that support particular business integrations. They include product information management systems, such as product configurations and third-party logistic partners. Integrating them means you won't usually need an EDI (Electronic data exchange). 

Read also: ERP-CRM: 9 most common integration points

 

Service System Integrations

As well as a CRM and marketing system, you might be using a service system (such as Salesforce Service Cloud).

This could be fully integrated with your ERP - but it often won't be worthwhile to do this. It might be that a partial integration is more useful. ERPs usually include service functionality, so it doesn't make sense to also integrate the same functionality from another system. It does often make sense to integrate some limited data, such as timesheets or invoice information. What is most appropriate for you depends on your business.

Ready to find out about data integration architecture and strategy? We can help you work out of the best approach for your business. Give us a call and we'll discuss.

 

Read also: System integration can boost your ROI 
Read also: Sell more, sell better, sell faster with a CRM-ERP integration


About the author

Henning Lund

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With over 25 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward, Henning is considered a business development entrepreneur with a passion for transforming businesses, sales and marketing operations through out-of-the-box thinking, concepts building and process automation to improve overall performance and scalability.

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