Custom Integrations for Cloud APIs

About Integrations and Cloud apps

Large business systems are built from modules. This is very ancient tradition of accounting: way, way back in the day, accounting was run with different ledgers, such as the sales ledger or the stock ledger, and periodically summaries were copied to the general ledger. When you implement a system, you choose a provider of these modules. If you choose different providers for different modules, you need to understand how they integrate, which means how they exchange information. 

When functionality is very generic, it's common to find a single solution with a core set of modules which integrate. It is very rare to find an accounting system which does not provide ledgers such as sales, bank, AP and AR, and you don't need to worry about the integration. Not so long ago, accounting applications still required you to post transactions from one module to another, but this vestige of the middle ages is gone in Xero.

But as requirements get more specific, it's harder to find satisfactory one-size-fits-all solutions, because the compromises between what you need and what a vendor sees as common requirements start to diverge. 

This becomes really clear as you move closer to what makes your business different to its competitors. For example, the sales process and the customer relationship can be quite specific to a business, so generic CRM packages often don't fit well. There are a lot more CRM web apps than accounting apps. 

Eventually, you will need to integrate something with your core systems, such as a B2C website.

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 very powerful, since they exploit "lowest common denominator" features. They can be expensive too, in the long run. 

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, althouth compared with Zapier, you would see payback untl between three to 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 know 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 is 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 - $5000. We treat them like fixed price projects, so there is no monthly fee, although there are some annual costs to pay for a dedicated cloud server, which can be up to $300 a year. 

Some GrowthPath Integrations

Dear Inventory Capsule CRM: Dear to Capsule sync

More advanced than Dear's solution

Dear Inventory - Zoho CRM: Sync of customers, contacts and quotes

Dear Inventory -> Zoho Reports: feed of transactional data for advanced reporting

Dear Inventory -> internal global procurement system

Unleashed -> Zoho Reports: feed of transactional data for advanced reporting

Accpac ERP -> Shopify Take orders and payments from Shopify and integrate to Accpac. Send stock levels back to Shopify

MYOB to Zoho Reports

  • take data daily from MYOB Account Right desktop and send it to Zoho Reports. 

  • Can consolidate multiple MYOB instances into one pool of data

Dear Inventory <-> Pepperi: Contacts, Product and Orders