Dear Starshipit Advanced High Performance Integration

GrowthPath 

Dear-Starshipit Integration

 

Starshipit is an excellent cloud-based transport manager, for dispatching, manifesting and interacting with couriers and other transporters. We have clients who are very happy with the product, and with the support. GrowthPath rates Starshipit very highly.

The out of the box Dear integration has some deficiencies. It doesn't work with advanced orders (multiple fulfilments) and it struggles with high-volume sites (> 400 orders a day).

This performance problem is not a problem with Starshipit or Dear, just a problem with the integration.

GrowthPath has a much more sophisticated approach to Dear integrations, with logic and techniques that provide a much more powerful and higher performance integration.

GrowthPath will build custom-logic into the integration. Some examples of this are below. Our development is in-house.

 

Overview of the GrowthPath Starshipit Integration

  • Completely replaces the existing Starshipit Dear integration.
  • Can map Dear warehouse to specific Starshipit child accounts, to support multiple locations.
  • Other advanced routing logic can be built-in, to handle orders by channel, for instance.
  • Works with Advanced Orders. It sends fulfilments to Starshipit, not Dear orders, so multiple fulfilments are possible.
  • Will convert simple orders to advanced orders if necessary. 
  • Will optionally split a multi-location order into fulfilments by location.
  • Will optionally auto-pick orders based on stock. This includes handling the assembly of Auto-Assemble BOMs. This feature looks back a certain number of weeks, and therefore is an auto-filler of backorders when stock becomes available, a huge time saver for high-volume businesses.
  • Advanced order splitting logic, for click and collect, fulfilment of orders over multiple Starshipit child accounts if this is optimal, re-routing of orders to the nearest stock point (enabling retail locations to participate in filling online orders, particularly if they are close to the customer)
  • Can send either Picked or Packed fulfilments to SSI, depending on your workflow. 
  • Retrieves Starshipit orders after labels are printed, and completes the fulfilment in Dear (packing if necessary)
  • Retrieves Starshipit tracking details and updates Dear
  • Errors and exceptions are handled by email rather than a UI. Status messages and errors are written to an additional attribute on the Dear Sales Order header. The intention is to avoid yet another login. 
  • Optional server monitoring via a third-party alert if services fail.

 

This integration is hosted on a client-specific GrowthPath Application Server. Client-dedicated servers are much more secure, higher performance and allow you to take over the server subscription at any point for business continuity assurance.

 

Performance

This is a high-performance integration, capable of > 1000 orders a day. It uses locking and caching and other advanced features of the GrowthPath application server.

Some of these steps require updates of the GrowthPath Dear cache in order to perform well. Therefore, they run on batch jobs every 15 minutes. 

The GrowthPath Application Server will use multiple API connections if they are available. Multiple API connections are necessary for high-volume sites. 

Server Monitoring

The core background jobs are monitored and can be viewed by clients upon request. This is “deadman” monitoring: it alarms if a background process does not check-in on a certain schedule.

 

Pricing

This is a sophisticated solution for advanced customers. Usually, such businesses have opportunities for advanced logic in the integration.

To use the GrowthPath Dear-Starshipit integration, you will need to subscribe to the GrowthPath Application Server. Allow an annual fee of $2K AUD for this. You only need one subscription, regardless of how many Dear instances you have and how many GrowthPath integrations you have. If your data requirements or workload is especially high, you may need a more expensive server.

The Starshipit integration is not a subscription product. You pay a fixed price up-front fee. The price depends on the amount of custom logic you need. Allow between $6K and $20K AUD.

 

GrowthPath Dear Systems to Zoho CRM Integration

Dear Systems (Dear Inventory) to Zoho CRM Integration

 

GrowthPath has a connector between Dear and Zoho CRM which runs off our GrowthPath Application Server. Full Documentation

This is an advanced connector which has logic and mappings that go well beyond the capabilities of Zapier-style connectors. It is robust, handles very high transaction volumes and uses the advanced caching, server monitoring and other performance features of the GrowthPath Application Server.

 

Highlights

The sync currently does a Dear to Zoho CRM push of Dear Customer to Zoho CRM Accounts and Dear Contacts to Zoho CRM Contacts. All Contacts belong to a Customer on the Dear side, and are therefore assigned to that Zoho Account.

If you have custom fields in your Zoho Accounts, Contacts or Deals, we can write logic to populate them based on Dear contents and business rules.

You can control which stages of the Dear lifecycle get mapped to which of your Zoho pipeline stages, and for each of these stages you can assign a confidence percentage of winning the deal.

You map the Dear sales person to the Zoho Deal owner, and account owner. All Zoho Accounts are owned by the Zoho user selected by the sales rep mapping logic, which chooses a Zoho user based on the Dear sales representative (more below). If your Dear Sales Rep exactly match your Zoho users, no mapping is needed.

The sync will push Dear quotes to Zoho Deals. Mapping rules below control this. As the Dear sale moves through its lifecycle, the Deal in Zoho CRM can have its stage changed. 

A representation of the quote lines are saved to the Deal quote, in the description field.

 

 

Full Documentation

 

This is compatible with all versions of Zoho CRM and CRM Plus.

 

Deployment

Deployment uses the GrowthPath Application Server and a one-off fixed price fee.

GrowthPath Application Server

GrowthPath Application server

The GrowthPath Application Server is a dedicated server with software developed to allow GrowthPath's advanced integrations.

The Application Server is a stack of software which makes it fast and easy for GrowthPath to solve complicated integration problems.

The elements of the stack are

  • A robust, battle-tested cache Dear's data, including the ability to bring together all your deployments of Dear in multiple currencies
  • A library of Dear automation code for ordering, shipping and production steps, which is also battle-tested. With this code, we can develop highly advanced automations and integrations
  • A library of connectors to a growing range of cloud software: Zoho Analytics, Zoho CRM, Capsule, Shopify, Starshipit, Xero
  • We have library for custom 3PL integrations
  • A front-end server for cloud-interfaces to your customers, using Django

Based on surveying the market and listening to the customers we acquire,  this technology stack is well ahead of any competitor. It is the result of constant work since 2012 and a growing number of deployments. We tend to get clients with scale and requirements which can't be met elsewhere, which is further testing and developing our technology.

What does that mean for clients?

Most of GrowthPath's integrations involve Dear Systems (a cloud ERP). An ERP is the transactional heart of your business system. Our integrations move data from Dear to other platform (such as Zoho Analytics, Power BI, Zoho CRM, Xero, Starshipit, our 3PL module), and they perform automations and updates in Dear.

Our integrations also often do automation in Dear, such as order routing, create and processing assembly orders based on a configured BOM, shipping orders after the 3PL confirms dispatch, or rewriting payment references for better B2C payment matching to bank feeds.

Some of our clients are very high volume users. Traditionally, an integration calls the Dear API each time it needs information. This does not scale very well, since the Dear API has limits. Also, several integrations may be retrieving the same information again and again, which is a waste (and it is slow). Instead, the GrowthPath Application Server has a cache which has an up-to-date copy of Dear's data. Our integrations use the cache, which is much faster. As well, locally cached data can be processed with much more sophisticated queries. Also, some larger clients use multiple instances of Dear. The cache means we can bring this data together.

Many simple integrations don't use caching because it is hard to get right. Because GrowthPath uses the same cache for many different integrations and automations, we have been able to invest and develop our cache to the point where it is a very significant technical advantage. GrowthPath's cache is widely deployed and is very robust after years of production use. It has developed many advanced features, including the ability to share its workload over multiple Dear API connections for very high volume sites that are not yet ready to move to one of Dear's dedicated server options. It contains many tweaks and optimisations .

The cache is stored in a high-performance database that offers traditional SQL and more modern JSON data processing. The Dear cache is a collection of JSON records that are straight from Dear.

Our code library has a large number of building-blocks based on the cache (for reading data) and in combining the low-level of the Dear API into business workflows. For example, we have code which will take an authorised Dear Simple Sale, and will split the order into multiple fulfilments across different locations based on logic that determines the fastest way to get all lines delivered bearing in mind costs, and then feed these fulfilments to a 3PL. When the 3PL confirms manifesting, we complete the shipment in Dear and post the tracking information back to the online portal.  This complex code path is handled by building blocks we already have. Likewise, we have built a custom configurator that will read order line comments for product options, produce a configured custom BOM, and pick and complete the order assembly with a batch code based on the customer's order.

Our Analytics connector uses the cache to peform complex combinations of Dear data to enable powerful reports. It also has integrity checking to make sure the Analytics data is accurate: web-based APIs are not as reliable as traditional high-speed integrations running on the same server.

How is it deployed?

Each client gets their own server. The technology is deployed using containers, and we have a zero-downtime deployment method, so new versions are deployed seamlessly. Your key applications and services are monitored with a third-party server monitor to alert to downtime and failure. The stack is scalable, although it is not actually very CPU intensive.

The code-base is common to all clients, although sensitive information is individual to each deployment.

Most clients use a GrowthPath-deployed server, for which we use Digital Ocean. You can however provide your own server from AWS, Digital Ocean, Azure, Google. The server needs to be an Ubuntu LTS instance.

The stack uses 100% open source technologies. GrowthPath is a financial and code contributor to the main open source components we use in our Application Server, and so far two of our connector libraries are open-sourced.

Comparison of Cloud ERP API Coverage

Cloud ERP API Comparison

DEAR Systems, Cin7, Unleashed

 

Why does the API matter?

The API does two things

  • it allows information to be extracted for better reporting
  • It enables automation, by creating documents and actions. This means that you can automate gaps and workarounds, and add more advanced functionality.

Examples of workflows and API support

Case: Automate the creation of products from another source, such as an online store or a product master database

 DEARCin7Unleashed
  Yes No Yes

Case: Add a product configurator front end, and send custom BOMs to manufacturing module

 DEARCin7Unleashed
  Yes No No

Dear allows creations of assembly orders and therefore one-off BOMs, and it allows them to be stepped through the process of authorising, allocation stock and completion.

 DEARCin7Unleashed
  Yes No No

Case: For near real-time interfacing, have the integrated app respond to events as they happen in the ERP (such as order received from online channel 

 DEARCin7Unleashed
  Yes No No

Dear has webhooks, which send signals to the integration, rather than the integration having to ask on regular intervals "has something happened"

The Best API: Dear Inventory

Dear has the best API, by far. It allows most processes to be fully automated, from end to end. It is also better documented, and it has webhooks, which means that you can ask Dear to contact your app when something happens, such as an order being submitted. WIthout webhooks, your app must constantly ask for any updates. (polling)

The other cloud ERPs have significant gaps, meaning there are few if any complete processes which can be scripted.

The Dear API is an add-on to the base plan, and webhooks require an additional subscription to the Automation module.

 

  DEARCin7Unleashed
API Version V2 V1 Unversioned, V1?
API Limits 60 per min per connection but multiple connections can be added. Dedicated server plans have no rate limit. 60/min, 5000/day Varies by plan
Cost Add-on to plan Included in plan Varies by plan
API docs Apiary HTML HTML
       
Item      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes No Yes
Update Yes No Yes
Delete Blocked for integrity, instead, make inactive No Yes
       
Pricing      
Search, Create, Update Price Tiers (price list pricing): Yes Price Tiers (price list pricing): Yes Price Tiers (price list pricing): Yes
Advanced Pricing (matrix rules) Note: In Oct 2021, Dear added end-points for its advanced matrix pricing capability, which makes Dear's pricing module very powerful. No No
       
Stock availability and valuation      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
       
Stock Transactions (goods movement)      
Search Indirectly   No
       
Warehouse locations      
Search Yes Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes Yes No
Update No Yes No
Delete Blocked for integrity, instead, make inactive No No
       
Financial transactions      
Search Yes No No
       
       
Customer      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes Yes Yes
Update Yes Yes No
Delete Make inactive Make inactive No
       
Customer Addresses      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field  
Create Yes, via Customer Yes Yes, via Customer
Update Yes, via Customer Yes No
Delete Yes, via Customer Yes No
       
Customer Contacts      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field No (Unleashed doesn't have multiple contacts per customer)
Create Yes, via Customer Yes No
Update Yes, via Customer Yes No
Delete Yes, via Customer Yes No
       
Supplier      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes Yes Yes
Update Yes Yes No
Delete Blocked for integrity, instead, make inactive Yes Yes
       
Quote      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field No
Create Yes Yes No
Update Yes Yes No
Delete Void Void No
       
Order      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes Yes Yes
Update Yes Yes Yes
Delete Void Void Yes
       
Order fulfilment      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes (including multiple fulfilments per order) No Yes (including multiple fulfilments per order)
Update Yes (including multiple fulfilments per order) No Yes (including multiple fulfilments per order)
Delete Void No Yes
       
Sales Invoice      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field Yes
Create Yes No No
Update Yes No No
Delete Void No No
       
Sales credit      
Search Yes, but limited Yes, any field No
Create Yes Yes No
Update Yes Yes No
Delete Void Void No
       
Sales Payments      
Search Yes, but limited Yes (does not sync to Xero) No
Create Yes Yes (does not sync to Xero) No
Update Yes Yes (does not sync to Xero) No
Delete Yes ? No
       
Purchase Order      
Search Yes, but limited Yes (does not sync to Xero) Yes
Create Yes Yes (does not sync to Xero) Yes
Update Yes Yes (does not sync to Xero) No
Delete Void ? Yes
       
Purchase invoice      
Search Yes, but limited   No
Create Yes No No
Update Yes No No
Delete Void No No
       
Purchase Receipts      
Search Yes, but limited No No
Create Yes No No
Update Yes No No
Delete Yes No No
       
Purchase Payments      
Search Yes, but limited No No (Unleashed does not handle payments)
Create Yes No No (Unleashed does not handle payments)
Update Yes No No (Unleashed does not handle payments)
Delete Yes No No (Unleashed does not handle payments)
       
Assembly/Manufacturing Order      
Search Yes, but limited Yes Yes
Create Yes Yes No
Update Yes Yes No
Delete Yes Yes No
       
Stock Take      
Search Yes, but limited No No
Create Yes No No
Update Yes No No
Delete Yes No No
       
Stock Adjustment      
Search Yes, but limited Yes Yes
Create Yes No Yes
Update Yes No Yes
Delete Yes No Yes
       
Stock Transfer      
Search Yes, but limited Yes Yes
Create Yes No No
Update Yes No No
Delete Yes No No
       
BOM      
Search Yes, via Product Yes Yes
Create Yes, via Product No Yes
Update Yes, via Product No Yes
Delete Yes, via Product No No
       
Webhooks Yes No No

 

 

GrowthPath Cloud ERP Implementation

Cloud software is simple. Implementations should be too.

Since 2013, a 100% success rate (client still using the system three years after going live).

 

We reduce risks

By being vendor neutral, and using our Go/No-Go milestone, we eliminate the wrong-system risk.

We focus on pragmatically getting ready to go live. There are always surprises after going live. We build that in to the project plan, an approach born of our experience on both sides of ERP implementations.

Advanced Data Conversion

With deep expertise, automation, API scripts and a lot of business feel, we treat your valuable historical data very seriously. Data conversion done wrong is huge business risk.

We build self-sufficiency

Our fixed price implementations finish with a Handover milestone, not with a Go Live milestone. We guide implementations with a strong focus on knowledge transfer. 

This is your new system. Your key users need to explore it and learn it, which is why we guide the implementation, rather than manage it. The result? No reliance on third parties to keep using the system.

In-house CRM, Analytics and 3PL connections

GrowthPath has mature CRM connectors with both a simple CRM, CapsuleCRM, and an sophisticated CRM, Zoho CRM. Our integrator goes well beyond standard connectors, include two-way contact sync and quote sync.

We have a sophisticated and powerful Dear to Zoho Analytics connector, which can even source data from different Dear instances in different base currencies. 

We have a framework for powerful 3PL integrations

We have advanced reporting for long-lead-time businesses, including promise date calculations based on in-bound POs, even fast enough for dynamic updating of Shopify shopping carts.

Project Phases

A GrowthPath project proceeds in milestones, until all the key pillars of the ERP implementation are ready.

Reaching the Go/No-Go milestone is the first part of the project.

Cloud ERP Implementation FAQs

How long does it take?

Three to five months, typically. Very hard to do it faster and do a good job. If you want to rush, you can expect higher fees because the risk of rushed projects goes up a lot, and we value happy, self-sufficient clients. To succeed, we need real users to work in this project, and real users have real jobs to do in the meantime.

What about the planning fallacy?

The planning fallacy means projects usually take longer and cost more than people think, because people are biased towards optimism (which is usually a good thing) and because there are people who benefit by promising a faster completion date than they actually think is possible. 

The best advice against falling into the planning fallacy is to

(a) not to treat the next project as something completely new, but to instead respect the experience of previous projects

(b) make sure people don't have incentives to over-promise

GrowthPath does fixed price projects, and we base our estimates of experience.

 

How long does it take someone to learn the new system?

A a rough rule, users should allow 20 hours of good quality system exercises to reach sufficient competence to go live.

Most of of this is self-directed learning. GrowthPath does have project options where we provide a lot of hands on training, but most clients don't pay for that, and have very successful implementations anyway. In these standard implementations, users get about five to seven hours of training with GrowthPath. We prefer this approach, because it cements knowledge transfer and the objective of becoming self-sufficient.

How much does it cost?

GrowthPath does fixed price quotes. Our proposal is based on a quite a lot of preliminary information gathering. The proposal will include options regarding the amount of data conversion required, the type of training, whether GrowthPath does project management or not, the integrations required, the functionality required and the selected ERP system.

The fees are designed to reduce risk. This means you can stop the project if the Go/No-Go decision is unfavourable, and you will only be charged for the clearly defined fee to proceed to that point.

Does GrowthPath visit on site?

It's the cloud, so we do most of our implementations using remote technologies. We can be on-site, particularly in Asia where travel times from our Australian/ASEAN home base are reasonable. If you are based in Melbourne, you can expect onsite visits. We have implemented in Europe, Asia, and through Australia, many times without being on-site.

For business which have staff in multiple locations, our ability to remotely manage these projects is a big advantage, since even if you bring everyone together for training, multi-location support is unavoidable during and after the project. Better to choose an implementation partner who knows how to make this work.

Should we do a parallel run of old system and new system?

No. We go live when we are ready to use the new system, and that's it. Running two systems is much more than twice the work, and because systems work in different ways, you can even in a perfect world get different results.

What is the best time of the year to go live?

Our clients go live around the year. You don't have to go live at the start of your financial year. It is better to time it for a quiet period, if you have seasonality. Going live part way a financial year means some extra work bridging old and new (in payroll, for instance) but this only happens once.

 

Simple and Collaborative Implementation Projects

Cloud systems are simple and fun to use, and I keep the same approach with project management. Trello is a good tool. It manage due dates, it assigns tasks to people, and it's easy to use. Visually, it is easy to see what needs to be done. All key users are board members.

 

KelatoA copy of a typical Trello project board

The Project Milestones

1. Preliminary Shortlisting

Based on interviews, a recommendation is made, addressing the scale of the business, the processes of the business and the information requirements. You should see a demo of the recommended solution, and spend some hands on time in a demo environment, to get a high level feel for how it works.

A very early GrowthPath question is: what reporting, analysis and insights do you need?

We have a detailed on-line interview used to gather a good foundation, and then we use interviews and reviews of the existing reports.

Sometimes, there may not be a clear candidate, but this is rare. Also, it is possible that a business is too complex for cloud ERP.

 

Progress by end the of Phase 1

2. Validation/Go No Go: The most important milestone


In the Validation phase, we prove that the selected system has a high chance of succeeding.

This is the most important phase. A possible conclusion is not to proceed, but if we do proceed, we can be confident of a successful implementation.

 

This phase is a careful balance of investigation, setup and system exploration, without investigating every nook and cranny of the business.

It is not feasible to test every possible situation because of the time and effort applied. Auditors face a similar problem, and we use the same type of risk evaluation approach.

For success in this phase, we do a good chunk of data conversion, so there is real data to use for the validation testing. This involves key users, which is is why their system knowledge takes big steps.

Show Stoppers

Key functional areas to examine for the go/no-go decision include:

  • Transaction volume
  • Price rules
  • Backorder management
  • Manufacturing/contract manufacturing
  • Critical reporting requirements
  • Critical compliance requirements

Progress by the end of Phase 2

3. Go Live

Going live focuses on data conversion, getting forms and reports ready, and completing the training of key users. This is a busy phase, with a lot of attention to detail, and with users doing considerable self-learning.

 

You may consider this as the real go/no point, but GrowthPath has never had a project fail if the decision at the end of Phase is to proceed.

Progress by the end of Phase 3

4. Support

Depending on your agreement with GrowthPath, you will have a period of support, usually two to three months.

5. Handover

When the support period is completed, we have reached handover. Your ongoing support needs should be met by the vendor of your system. GrowthPath is always available to help if required, but we do not make ongoing support an expected revenue flow. Our clients achieve self-sufficiency.



Project Timing and Client Commitment

The exact time for a project depends on the complexity of the project, the time required for technical work and the availability of key staff.

GrowthPath proposals provide more information based on the specifics of the project.

Typical projects take three months to reach the Go Live milestone, and three more months to reach Handover.

 

Advanced and Custom Cloud Integrations

Custom Integrations for Dear, Xero, Cin7, Shopify, Neto and more

About Integrations and Cloud apps

Large business systems are built from modules. For instance, traditionally you had a GL module, an AR module and a Sales module. Accounting has worked like this since the days of fountain pens: it calls these modules "ledgers", so if you are familiar with the "debtors ledger" and the "stock ledger" you already understand the concept. 

Business systems before the cloud bundled many modules under one "integrated" solution because there was no agreed standard to connect modules from different providers. Sometimes business systems had to be connected anyway, and it was a very expensive process, requiring custom coding and a lot of software to keep everything working. So traditional ERPs all individually reinvented their own GL ledger, not because they found some exciting new way to do double-entry book-keeping, but because it was cheaper than integrating to an already-existing GL package. All this reinventing of wheels was a bit crazy. Just like shipping containers standardised the process of loading ships, the rise of cloud computing has changed this: integrations now use standardised technology for moving information around, and asking customers to pay for reinventing the wheel usually does not make economic sense any longer.

Cloud ERP systems, such as Dear Systems or Cin7, provide a small number of standard integrations (e.g. with Xero or Shopify). Dear also provides Zapier, a "no-code" connector to a much bigger universe of Cloud Apps.

GrowthPath is an expert at more advanced integrations.

Also, we can build "internal" integrations where the API of the cloud App (Dear, Cin7, Xero...) is used to automate processes internally, such as rules-based order-splitting across different locations.

Out of the box integrations

Cloud apps have taken-off due to simplicity and price. And a reason for that is that they focus on doing a focused set of things quite well, rather than trying to many things less well. They can afford to ignore some important functionality because integrating with other cloud apps is so easy. So integrating with an "ecosystem" has become a selling point. Most apps come with a core set of integrations bundled with the package. ERP apps, such as Dear and Cin7, include integrations with Xero and Quickbooks Online, for instance, and also with Shopify, WooCommerce, eBay etc. 

We call these "out of the box integrations". The advantages of these integrations are they are cheap (often bundled for free) and supported by the ERP vendor. 

However, there will be gaps. There are so many CRMs, for instance, that ERP vendors would be exhausted providing their own integrations. 

You may also find that even when an out-of-the-box integration exists, it isn't good enough

Bridges such as Zapier and OneSaas

There are services which let you build connections between apps with no coding. These work by distilling certain core functions. For example, a CRM app always lets you define a new contact. Likewise, every CRM lets you define a new contact. So if Zapier knows how to detect a new contact created in five ERPs and if it knows how to create new contact in 50 CRMs, then with a few clicks, it offers 250 new connections.

These services are convenient, but not compelling, since they exploit "lowest common denominator" features. The transaction-based costing can be expensive too, eventually. 

Custom Integrations and Workflow Customisations

The most expensive but most powerful integration is coded specifically for your requirements. This has higher upfront costs, but lower ongoing costs, and on this basis alone it may be a good choice, although compared with Zapier, you would see payback between three and five years, typically. The business case for custom integrations must be based on the advantage of an integration which does exactly what you want. 

Integration between software applications is not new: an entire layer of enterprise software called Middleware is well-known to IT managers in large firms. But the way you built such integrations was not standardised. Integrations required a huge mix of proprietary technologies, and simply accessing interface documentation required large licence fees. 

Cloud apps are radically different. Documentation is free, and the interfaces are defined with open-source technologies. Most cloud apps allow free access, or cheap access, to their interfaces.

As part of our integration work, GrowthPath has written a number of advanced integrations using cloud APIs.

In some cases there are solutions in the market, but our clients wanted a more specific solution that provided better value and automation. 

Workflow Customisations

Cloud software is largely 'what you see is what you get'. Vendors don't do customisations per client (except Cin7). New features and improvements are frequently rolled out, but you don't have much influence is setting development priorities. 

However, the APIs allow automation to be built.

Here are some examples:

  • Reordering based on sales history and custom forecast logic
  • Integration with global corporate procurement systems
  • Advanced customer service forecasting of order completion dates

Also, integrations can include business logic, not just information exchange. For example, data can be transformed before being sent to a data warehouse for advanced reporting. 

 

Integrations and customisations typically cost AUD $3000 - $20000. GrowthPath provides a limited but broad licence to our source code, and we work exclusively with open-source technologies: this is designed to avoid vendor lock-in with GrowthPath.

 

GrowthPath CRM Integrations: Dear to Zoho CRM, Dear to Capsule

Most of our advanced integrations are with Dear Systems and Xero. Both Xero and Dear have very good APIs.

  • Dear Inventory Capsule CRM: Dear to Capsule sync
    Opportunity, Organisation and Contact sync
  • Dear Inventory - Zoho CRM: Sync of customers, contacts and quotes: Read more

 

Dear Systems Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence Integrations

GrowthPath has a highly advanced data warehouse feed. Most of our clients connect it to Zoho Analytics.

Zoho Dashboard

A Zoho Analytics Dashboard combining Zoho CRM data and Dear Inventory data

 

"Highly advanced: means:

  • We handle multiple Dear instances, even in different currencies
  • Automatic integrity checking of the data
  • We have developed added-value analysis tables which combine data from different Dear endpoints for powerful reporting well beyond what Dear offers, and well beyond any simple connector-based mere on storing raw data from Dear's endpoints
  • Our connector uses GrowthPath's advanced Dear cache, for very high performance. The Dear cache can share load among multiple API connections. We can do very frequent updates of Analytics data.
  • We have client-specific ETL layers to correct historical data errors and badly-designed attributes and classifications

Analytics, and the additional complexity of using slow and sometimes unreliable cloud APIs places unusual robustness and integrity checks. The GrowthPath connector has been live for about three years now. Around 20 Dear sites are using it.

 

  • Microsoft Power BI and other BI Tools: GrowthPath's Analytics Connector populates a cloud Postgresql server (dedicated, not multi-tenant). This provides a high-quality set of tables for use with Microsoft BI and as a feed for other BI tools.
  • This is Beta release.

 

 

Dear Systems 3PL, WMS and shipping management integrations

GrowthPath has a library of middle ware for quick deployment of sophisticated logistic integrations.

threepl screenshot

An example 3PL integration

 

We can handle

  • Batch and serial tracking at the 3PL and Dear, or only at the 3PL
  • Advanced order integration
  • Reliable and Robust automatic invoice generation for partial shipments (auto-invoice what has been shipped so far), linked to web-hooks for manifesting updates
  • Automatic order-splitting across multiple locations, routing fulfilments, based on business logic including optimisation logic

We have integrated with multiple 3PLs using REST APIs and traditional file transfer. Our approach is suitable for advanced integrations requiring custom logic.

We also have good experience with MachShip and an advanced Starshippit Integration which goes well beyond the standard Dear integration.

 

Order Configurators for Dear Systems

We have made order configurators which interact with customer-facing front end tools to allow customers to specify a range of options to build a custom product.

We then turn this into a custom BOM, produce an Assembly Order and use batch logic to link this back to the Customer Order.

 

Promise Dates for orders (Cin7 and Dear)

We have logic which simulates allocation of stock to orders, providing accurate order fulfilment dates, considering current stock and inbound POs. This provides customers with high-quality updates on when they can expect their order.

In some cases, clients have used this information to provide accurate back-in-stock dates. Unlikes standard approaches, our logic takes into account both open customer orders and multiple POs.

 

Custom Workflow automation

GrowthPath has written a number of custom workflow automations suiting specific requirements.

For example, a JV handling B2C sales with Shopify, where the JV makes the sale and collects the revenue, and is a separate legal entity (so the standard Shopify integration can't be used). Our integration routed those orders to the Dear backend, but substitutes prices for with the agreed transfer price.

It keeps Shopify updated with stock levels. It forwards fulfilment and tracking to Shopify. It creates Xero invoices in the JV Xero instance.

 

Simplified Shopify Stocklevel sync for Dear: Sometimes the standard Shopify integration is not suitable because it binds the product catalogs too closely, with a dangerous risk of overwriting valuable front-end data. GrowthPath has a minimalist Shopify stock sync, which bypasses the need to use Dear to manage the Shopify product catalog.

Other work:

  • Order import in various formats
  • PO export and integration with supplier systems
  • Advanced payroll data format processing
  • Dear Inventory <-> Pepperi: Contacts, Product and Orders

 

Desktop MYOB integrations

  • MYOB to Zoho Analytics
  • Can consolidate multiple MYOB instances into one pool of data

 

 

 

MYOB AccountRight Premier / Classic and ATO Single Touch Payroll

On July 1, 2018, the ATO requires all Australian businesses with more than 20 employees to use Single Touch Payroll. The census date is actually in April 2018. Users of MYOB Account Right Premier face an interesting problem. They are using software which doesn't really get feature updates because MYOB is encouraging subscribers to move to Account Right Live, a monthly-subscription product. This product was called Account Right Live for a few years. MYOB now calls it AccountRight, and calls the legacy product AccountRight Classic.

Account Right (Live) is not available as an upgrade for legacy MYOB users, because the new product does not have quite all the features of the existing product (although this may change). There may be other reasons it does not appeal: it requires a Windows computer. It can store data in the "cloud", but it's is often too slow and larger businesses are most likely going to revert to local data, which means you basically have your old MYOB, with all the funny limitations and dated reporting. Many businesses have stayed with legacy MYOB because they can't use AccountRight (Live) or don't find it worth the effort of changing.

The end of the road is approaching for AccountRight Classic, no doubt. However, if you are a diehard old-MYOBer, there is a solution which means you can stay with legacy AccountRight Classic at least for a little bit longer. 

Read more: MYOB AccountRight Premier / Classic and ATO Single Touch Payroll

Dear Inventory B2B Portal overview

Dear Inventory has a fundamental B2B portal which is in its second release. Bottom line: it's easy to setup (a couple of hours at most to get up and running), it's free and it automates basic order enquiries and order entry. You control exactly which customers can use it.

Read more: Dear Inventory B2B Portal overview

Dear Inventory: Advanced Pricing Module

Easier access to Dear Inventory advanced pricing

Dear Inventory has a powerful advanced pricing module in addition to the standard ten price lists and customer-level discounts.

It also has an interim layer of customer price lists per SKU. Dear's pricing is complicated and has too many choices, but it is powerful.

King of all of these is what I call the Advanced Pricing Module, which Dear calls the Deals and Discounts module.

For a long time, I had to make this note:  "Not many clients use the advanced features because it's hard to understand and hard to set up; for example, the second step requires a CSV upload in many cases."

Dear added a graphical front end to advanced pricing, making it easier to use, but this was still clunky for more than a few rules, since there was no bulk update feature. 

But in October 2021, Dear has added good API end points allowing powerful automation and updates for this module. Below, I discuss how these rules are created in the backend. API supports opens the possibility of using this for more complex businesses.

 

Advanced pricing is the place to add quantity breaks and free shipping rules, as well as much more.

Dear Inventory has several ways of calculating pricing. Pricing for many businesses in complex, and Dear is rising to meet this ... with complex choices.

1. Simple price lists. Dear has ten.

2. Customer discount percentage of a simple price list

3. Customer price lists, at sku level. You can upload CSVs of SKU-based pricing per customer.

4. Markup pricing: You can define pricing based on cost price data

5. Advanced pricing, the topic of this article. Advanced pricing arrives at a particular price for a customer/product combination, the same as (2). However, you can define rules for groups of products, group of customers, and you can do quantity breaks too.

Finally, the rules can have start and end dates, something else you can't do with standard price lists.

The spur for this has been the drive to add B2B and later B2C portals to Dear, and there are some features added to the advanced pricing module which are only for these new sales channels. 

In Advanced Pricing, there are two concepts: Discounts and Deals.
The 'Discount' says what will happen, and the Deal defines when it happens, based on the date, the customer and the product. 

The rules have start and end times (for promotions) and can trigger on products based on SKU, tag, brand or category, and on customer code, customer type or tag.  That's very powerful. 

You can access it via Settings -> Reference Books -> Product Deals. Although first, you need to define a Discount rule to add to the Deal.

To use it:
The new form lets you apply a discount to some customers for some products, over some period.
You need to create the "discount" first, though.

Also, you must click the "Apply Discounts" button in order entry. I don't know why. I guess this is a transitional setting.

Step 1: Create discount rules

Creating discounts is done in Settings -> Reference Books -> Stock -> Product Discounts
There are three types of discounts, but 'Free Shipping' and 'Order Level' are only applicable to the Dear B2B portal.

So for the usual Dear order flow, you consider "simple discount" and "volume discounts". Volume discounts are commonly known as quantity breaks. The "volume" refers to the quantity sold on the order line. 

The Dear support article is: http://dearsystems.freshdesk.com/support/solutions/articles/1000132666

"Discounts" are the "what happens" part.

Simple discounts are the most common. They include quantity breaks,
The discount and markup rules apply to the price the customer would get if the discount rule were not applied. 

From the Dear article:

Types of Discount values:

  • Discount amount – all prices will be reduced by this Amount, e.g. ‘$10 off all stock’ campaign. That is, the change modifies the price calculated by the standard pricing (based on the price list and any customer or product discounts).
  • % Discount– all prices will be reduced by the percent specified, e.g. ‘10% off all stock’ campaign. 
  • Markup Amount – all prices will be increased by this Amount.
  • % Markup – all prices will be increased by the percent specified.
  • Price Override –this Amount is new price for the product, with no reference to what was there before.
  • Flat Amount – total line cost will be this Amount.

Note that Flat Amount caps the line price, completely regardless of quantity ordered. 

Step 2: Create Deals

A Deal lets you choose when a discount rule is triggered. The selections include a date range, specific or groups of tagged customers, products specified by SKU, category or brand.


Deals also offer "order-level" discounts. A pre-configured example is free-shipping once an order reaches a value threshold.

Allocations in Dear Inventory

Allocation Logic in Dear Inventory, explained

Dear Inventory has two order flows, Standard and Advanced. They both let you prioritise stock with soft and hard allocations if you use manual picking. The Advanced module has another option: authorised orders with no allocation at all. In this article, we see the differences between soft and hard allocations, and how to override soft allocations to prioritise which customers get scarce stock.

You can swap a Standard order to Advanced. An order created in the standard process can move to the Advanced process via the Convert button. See the picture below.

Read more: Allocations in Dear Inventory

Per site cost valuations in Dear Inventory

Some tips on getting per-location costing in Dear Inventory for more accurate margins.

Dear Inventory is a cloud-based inventory system which is currently GrowthPath's default recommendation for general purpose cloud ERP systems. 

Dear has a well-thought approach to stock valuation. From the beginning Dear was designed to give users the chance of activate batch and serial number tracking for receipts, and Dear decided to fully support this with FIFO product costing per batch or serial. In fact, Dear users FIFO costing as its costing method for standard stock as well; the common choice is weighted average. FIFO and weighted average are the same over time. 

Like its competitors, such as Unleashed, Trade Gecko and Cin7, Dear allows multiple locations, but it does not keep costs per location. 

Imagine that you are receiving stock into an Australian warehouse and a New Zealand warehouse from a Chinese supplier. You may have the same FOB price, but different landed costs. Dear handles landed costs very well and they are practical to use, so you would like to see different costs at the two different sites. However, if you have a standard product without batch or serial, the FIFO calculation is maintained across all locations: the next item you sell with have the same cost price regardless of the warehouse it is shipped from. Not what we want. 

But if you activate batch costing for this product, you can solve the problem. When you receive goods, you provide a batch number. You can leave it blank, and Dear will create a batch code based on the PO number. If you apply landed costs to the order, they are also tracked against the batch. Because the batches are stored by location, shipments from the NZ warehouse will only involve batches received there. Auto-pick is smart enough to manage that if you don't want to manually choose batches. 

With this approach, costing per warehouse is quite easy, and you will have more meaningful margins. The one thing we can't do with this is keep NZ stock in NZD: if AUD is the base currency of the system, stock with supplier and third party costs in non-AUD is converted to AUD and only AUD. There is no solution.

A note about Dear's landed costs: costing is updated retrospectively, so with Dear, you can receive and ship goods without waiting for supplier and third-party invoices, and still get the benefit of landed costing. 

 

Advanced use of information for SMEs

Applying relevant information to make better decisions is a very important outcome of a medium-term IT plan. Cloud solutions are really good at enabling this, even if the first phase focuses more on the operational foundations. There are many options available for cost-effective business intelligence solutions in the cloud. Amazon, for example, has developed a rich layer which has stimulated many offers: Google for “Amazon Redshift marketplace”.

 

Advanced reporting, or business intelligence, has three components. It has a reporting or data visualisation front end (graphs, dashboards, reports etc). It has a data store and analytical logic layer, which imports data from different sources and allows us to group and relate the data to support the visualisation layer. Business Intelligence products always include these two layers. Many of the cheaper cloud solutions, such as Zoho Reports, effectively stop with these two layers.

 

The third layer is very important. Technically it is know as Extract and Load, (or data transformation). This retrieves the data and processes it ready for import. It would certainly include sales data at the invoice line level, but may include other data such as Google Analytics, Facebook analytics, marketing spend, out-of-stock scores, inventory aging KPIs etc. Extracting that data is some times not simple. Possibly you have sales data coming from different systems (perhaps due to an acquisition): this extract and load layer needs to standardise the data into a common format.


The benefits from this phase really leverages the investment in the cloud-based foundation layer; it taps the potential of cloud-based systems … for a fairly small incremental cost, there is a lot of value.

A hidden gem: Neto/Saasu Integration

A hidden gem: Neto/Saasu Integration

Neto is an excellent hosted online store. It handles wholesale and retail very well (simultaneously), and has the best-on-the-market integration with Australian shippers, anywhere. Better than Unleashed, Dear Inventory, Shopify ...

On top of that, Neto looks after multiple price lists, variations, multiple stock locations,has a decent template engine, a fast backend, good ebay integration. It does backorders like MYOB, which is actually much more suited for smaller wholesalers than the current approach of Dear and Unleashed. A startup from Queensland with Telstra as a significant shareholder. It's not perfect: It doesn't do multi-currency, its reporting is average. And it has no purchasing module. It doesn't do supplier invoices, receipts and costing. For this, is expects you to integrate it with something else. A Neto / Saasu integration offers a lot for the money.

Read more: A hidden gem: Neto/Saasu Integration

Cloud ERP FAQ

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Common questions about cloud ERP

Cloud ERP (Dear Inventory, Unleashed, CIN-7, Trade Gecko, Stitch...) has huge advantages: fast to deploy, easy to learn and with much better reporting and insights that traditional ERP software. Above all, these packages integrate so easily with CRMs, accounting, online stores, third-party fulfilment, shippers. The business model is different: you pay per month, you no longer host the data. Here we quickly cover the main questions, advantages and disadvantages of cloud ERP for SMEs.

We have a much more in-depth review of common cloud ERP solutions here: A review of cloud ERP for Australian SMEs

Read more: Cloud ERP FAQ