Integrated Web Commerce

What’s involved in setting up an integrated web commerce site?
To answer that question I met with David Harris, president of EC Internet, in Novato CA.
Dave has been involved with ERP and technology for 30 years. He was a trailblazer at SBT – the company that created Pro Series – where served as President of SBT Internet Systems before the company was sold to Sage Software.

EC Internet has over 200 active web commerce sites up and running, and integrated to their company’s ERP system. All told, these sites have processed over $250 million in orders that flowed directly in to the accounting system for instant processing with no rekeying.

A big part of EC Internet’s success has to do with their technology choices. For starters, let’s discuss the web store itself. Magento (www.magentocommerce.com) was purchased by eBay eight years ago. It is the most widely used web store in the world, with over a million installations. The eBay technological skill and huge development budget have made it a robust application. Aside from that, it can be implemented using the open source ‘community’ version, which is free (http://www.magentocommerce.com/download).

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There is so a large and active community of developers who have built hundreds of add-ons to cover almost any imaginable niche that the main product does not provide (www.magentocommerce.com/magento-connect/).

 

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Magento runs on all computers, as well as tablets and smart phones. Please note, just because it’s ‘free’ doesn’t mean it’s simple. Magento certified installers form Magento partners like EC Internet help companies get the most out of their installations. The community version is almost identical to the enterprise edition (at 50K/year). Noting the lack of a good B2B ecommerce feature, EC Internet has pioneered a key Magento Extensions that bring Sage prices lists and contract pricing to the web store. When it comes to Magento, EC Internet can host, install, customize, integrate, add features and monitor your web store to your business running 24 hours a day.

Integration – that’s what we want. Double entry accounting does NOT mean you have to type everything twice! The data that the customer enters on the website must flow accurately throughout the ERP system. EC Internet uses the IMan integration software from Realisable (www.realisable.co.uk/) to configure data from the web store to be passed on to the ERP system. This software allows web order data to be mapped and transformed into the appropriate format for the target application.

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In the case of Sage 300, the data goes through the API on its way to the database, so that upgrades will not create any issue, even if the target data structure has changed. EC Internet has written the integration connectors for Sage 300, Sage X3, Sage Pro, and for WordPress. These connectors will work with data from Magento, or any other source. Big plusses for this approach: the data transformation is self documenting and performed with minimum code, so it can be modified by an administrator who is not a programmer. And, it will connect to any database or any source of data including files and web services.

EC Internet uses the Agile development method (www.atlassian.com/software/jira/overview) for collaboration among their programmers. This allows for visibility into the progress of your project, as well as excellent communication among the developers. They meet weekly during projects so everyone is informed and contributing to the project goals.

By Bob Zuckerman

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