PARX: Integration of third-party systems

Integration of third-party systems consistent processes

The integration of third-party systems into Salesforce is usually not just helpful, but also a commercial necessity. The various components of the IT infrastructure must be able to communicate with one another without data getting lost. This is a prerequisite for a successfully functioning CRM system. Seamless data exchange with company databases, ERP systems and other central sources of customer information is essential for sales success. Below we outline the most important points to consider in integrating a third-party system (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Sage, Abacus, ProConcept, for example).

The following three areas must be defined:

Data and fields

Based on the integration processes required, the data objects and fields that are to be linked with one another must be determined. Example: The account name in Salesforce is to be linked with the SAP account name.

Data that can be exchanged, and frequently is in practice, includes:

  • Account-master data
  • Opportunities
  • Products with price lists
  • Past orders
  • Payment information
  • Deliveries of machines / devices
  • etc.

Drittsystem-Integration

Tasks

  • Does the data have to be converted or validated when it is exchanged?
  • Is a business logic to be implemented, such as alerts or workflows?

Timing

  • How frequently is the data to be exchanged between the systems?
    In «real-time», several times a day, once a week or manually as required?

Direction

  • In which direction will the exchange take place?
  • One direction only for each data field or both directions?

Identifying the integration depth

On the basis of the objects and data defined above, one of the following conceptual integration approaches can be selected as required:

Integrationstiefe

Integration on the basis of the data level

The physical exchange of data between the systems is the most frequent approach to integration. Example: A company account is to exist and be displayed both in Salesforce and in the ERP system. Usually a periodic exchange of data is sufficient, although not every object needs to be exchanged with the same frequency.

Integration of the application logic

An SAP function is opened from Salesforce to obtain data in real time. A typical example is a credit check request during an order process.

Integration of the user interface

With this approach, no data is exchanged between the system, but extracts from SAP are simply displayed within the Salesforce user interface. For example, a list of pending orders can be displayed.

Choice of technical approach

Based on the complexity of the requirements, the technical approach should be chosen at the last stage. In this context, we make a distinction between two basic concepts that are frequently chosen:

ETL approach

The «Extract / Transform / Load» approach is based on lists that are generated either manually or automatically from one system, converted to a different form as required, and subsequently imported into the other system. As this form of integration usually involves a manual component, the approach is not suitable for a large number of connections or for frequent exchange. Despite these limitations, the approach is widely used because it is often adequate and the cost of implementation is also clear.

System integration

To combine two systems, either a third-party product can be used or a point-to-point integration can be selected:

  • Third-party system

This is typically an Enterprise Service Bus or a piece of middleware that can read and process data from both systems and write it to the other system. The business logic is mapped in this tool; little has to be changed in the systems to be integrated. There are dozens of products in the Salesforce environment that can be used for this.

  • Point-to-point integration

As the name suggests, data is sent directly from one system to the other in this approach. The business logic is often implemented with the «calling» system. With direct integration, one system calls up the other system directly via a network/the Internet. For example, Salesforce opens a web service (SOAP) via HTTP request to place an order in SAP. If a common data transport protocol is not available, the conversion can be handled by a proxy system. For example, a Salesforce data retrieval is converted by a proxy into an RFC/BAPI call in SAP.

PARX has experience and references relating to all approaches to technical integration.