It is no secret that application integration can help you streamline your business processes, improve the accuracy of your business communications, and increase the overall efficiency of all your business operations. However, companies cannot reap any of these benefits if the project fails or goes on for an extended period.
As an organization that develops solutions for Microsoft Dynamics ERP, including the development of an application integration solution that has helped over 500 customers over the last 15+ years, we wanted to share the integration pitfalls of enterprise application integration that we have come across while implementing Connectivity Studio for our customers.
We hope that anyone considering an application integration solution will be able to use this blog to avoid these implementation pitfalls using the steps we have shared below. But before we get to the hurdles of application integration, let’s quickly cover the meaning of enterprise application integration for readers that are unfamiliar with the concept.
What is enterprise application integration or EAI and why is it important?
Enterprise application integration or EAI is the process of linking all your business systems and enterprise applications via a common platform. The integration of your ERP and all your back-end systems enables easy access and integration of all your data, which has now become crucial for optimizing business operations.
According to the enterprise application integration market forecast report by Mordor intelligence, “Enterprises are relentlessly moving ahead with modern technology. Technologies, such as cloud computing, Big Data, IoT, and others, streamline information sharing and provide ease in controlling data.” If enterprises adopt so many applications and technologies that create a complex ecosystem for the organization and there is no EAI platform to integrate all that information and streamline processes, that will result in inefficiency, bad decisions, and no means to standardize data.
Why do you need an EAI tool to integrate your ERP with all your business systems?
When you have isolated pieces of data and no engine connecting them and channeling that data from one system to another, you will be unable to streamline your business processes and that could also result in errors and loss in business eventually.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 has a lot of functionalities, but in order to integrate it with your systems unless you use an external platform such as Connectivity Studio, there will be a lot of coding involved. Connectivity Studio can also manage several types of integrations including EAI tools such as Dell Boomi, integrations with PLM systems, integration with mobile field-service solutions and much more. For more information on the benefits, features, cost, and limitations of Connectivity Studio, read our honest review of the platform for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations.
Top 5 implementation pitfalls of enterprise application integration in D365?
1. Inability to adapt to change: Technology is constantly evolving and if the EAI middleware tool is not adaptive and cannot scale with upgraded business systems or newer technologies, then that could become a problem. It will be difficult to adapt your integration requirement based on the new technologies. For example, if a new advanced system is implemented and your middleware cannot communicate with it, you could have problems with your integration. Luckily, we offer an app called Connectivity Monitor that can raise an alert if any of your integrations fail or any of your messages are getting stuck.
2. Working in silos: If all teams are not aligned, you might have a lot of issues when the EAI is implemented. If your IT teams do not understand the processes and carry out the EAI implementation in silos, then you will not be able to maximize the benefits of the EAI software implemented.
3. Understanding that EAI is not just a tool: EAI is an architecture or a system that requires a strategy, a design of how the business process workflow looks, and a team in place. It is important to have these crucial elements in place prior to the implementation of the tool.
4. Data dependencies: There have to be many layers of data in place prior to building a business process, and this is usually tricky with application integration. For example, if you want to create a purchase order, you first need to have an item in the system, and vendor information in the system. After that, you can create an order with the other two elements and that data needs to synchronize with your ERP. With Connectivity Studio, for example, you can create a task and make selected data items dependent on each other with real-time data synchronization, ensuring that the data for the vendor and items are updated and ready to use.
5. Underestimating the complexity of the interface: Often, businesses might have a rough idea of the processes they want to build but might not have the critical details sketched out and that could be a big risk for the implementation. As the complexities of the interface arise, they struggle to find a solution between the business user and the implementation partner. The business user might not understand how the data model works behind the scenes while the implementation partner will have limited knowledge about the business processes. Our solution, Connectivity Studio offers business users some features such as table browser, table relationship viewer, to understand how the tables work in the background.
6 Steps to overcome these challenges
We cannot stress enough on planning, if you would like to avoid these implementation pitfalls. The success of implementing an integration tool is really dependent on a few things. What could you do to ensure that the integration will work in the end and deliver the right quality for your business? We share some steps below that will help you maximize the potential of your EAI architecture.1. Plan and define your strategy
Make sure to have a plan drawn up before you start the implementation process. Write down everything. And don’t look at what you have in your external system. Define the process in D365FO, what processes does the integration need to streamline, and which process should take your data further?
- Draw process diagrams upfront to think about the integrations that are needed and also clearly define the stages for when each of them will be required.
- Create an Excel file that contains the full mapping, starting from the target, write down the conditions and the exceptions.
Make sure the integration is not only in the hands of the IT team. The IT team needs to work along with people across different teams to understand processes and how each of them works for the best-case scenario. The IT team along with the business users need to plan and decide what is expected out of the integration and figure out what is possible.
Ideally, if you could, pick a mixed team of technically skilled and functional consultants. The members with technical expertise need to know how tables, table relationships, views, and data entities work. The functional people need to be able to link this to the business process.3. Budget
Draw a budget that accounts for the required investment, the strategy, the tool, and the time expected to complete the entire process. You need to invest in a tool based on your strategy and the requirements of your business. Skimping on this process or looking for ways to justify the cost of the EAI implementation is futile unless you do not witness any improvements in your processes for a long time.4. Picking the right tool
You need to consider which systems you are looking to integrate with your ERP and whether you are looking for a flexible or functional tool. It is important to consider these points and the specific functionalities you are looking for to find the tool that you think will fit your strategy and work best to streamline your business processes.
Our customers that use Microsoft D365 for example, often tell us that when they are working with a certain interface, like an Excel interface for example, with predefined fields, but their business requires customization and fields relevant to their business. In such instances, to map data, unless you are able to use the existing data entities in D365, there is a lot of coding involved, but an EAI tool that can also help you with customer data mapping with flexibility definitely will make processes more convenient and streamlined for the business.5. Re-use and standardize what works well
If some building blocks of an integration could be re-used to fulfill the needs of another integration, you could simply standardize and handle multiple integrations with the same components. This will save your team a considerable amount of configuration time.6. Test prior to and after launch
Testing should be an important part of the plan. Define the stages for testing and which functionalities need to be tested in each stage. Call out the expectations for the end results for each of these and the scenarios that need to be tested. This phase of testing should be performed with the involvement of the business users.
Are you considering an application integration tool for D365?
If you are currently looking for an easy-to-use, no-code application integration solution for D365, To-Increase’s Connectivity Studio solution can help you set up and manage your integrations in a simple way. While our integration performance monitoring app – Connectivity Monitor, can help you track and monitor the health of your integrations post-implementation.
If you are already using a tool for D365, we hope this step-by-step guide can help you avoid the challenges mentioned in our blog. If you still have any questions or concerns regarding implementation, reach out to our experts to see if our application integration solution – Connectivity Studio, can help you mitigate those.
If you choose to implement our powerful integration engine, the delivery team will help you every step of the way. We offer standard training sessions and customized hands-on workshop sessions whenever required. We also provide implementation support for customers that need more support with software implementation. If you would like to explore our advanced integration, migration, and mapping tool, you can request a demo from the link below.