What is the most important thing about web-to-print? The automation of order processes! So far, so simple. However, in many cases, complete automation only works if the web-to-print system is seamlessly linked to a company’s ERP system. This is especially true for larger companies with hundreds or even thousands of possible orderers. And this is often where the difficulties begin. Whether it’s SAP, OCI, CMXL, SSO, interfaces or user groups – when it comes to integration, you often get stuck in challenging IT issues faster and deeper than you’d like. In this article, we would like to explore with you the background to integrating your closed-shop system with your customers’ ERP systems and explain the most frequently used buzzwords. At the same time, we want to show you how we at Lead-Print can bring your integration quickly and reliably to the finish line in practice. We can promise you one thing right now: it’s all much less complicated than it sounds at first glance.
Why is integration with ERP systems so important?
Most large companies are used to using ERP systems that are fully integrated with other systems for their processes. However, it is precisely these companies that are particularly interesting as customers for successful web-to-print projects, as they guarantee a high and permanent order volume for print products of all kinds.
If such a company wants to order print products or advertising materials, the order must always be triggered in the company’s ERP system. This applies to both personalized items, such as business cards, and call-off items. To ensure a smooth ordering process, all the necessary order information such as order numbers or delivery addresses must be transferred directly from the ERP system to the print service provider. In addition, there are usually firmly defined approval processes that are stored in the company’s system.
However, what is usually an everyday occurrence in companies often presents print service providers of all sizes with major technical and organizational challenges. In fact, the requirements for integration can vary greatly. First of all, there is the question of which system the customer uses, for example SAP, ONVENTIS or ARIBA. In addition, the respective systems have always been adapted to the individual processes of the individual company. Of course, this must also be taken into account during an integration.
At Lead-Print, we want to help you tap into the enormous potential of large companies in the area of e-procurement and web-to-print. That’s why we take care of all the necessary integration services for you, at manageable and clearly calculable costs. Our dedicated project team will accompany you and your customers every step of the way to a successful integration. In the following, we would like to show you how we proceed.
The First Hurdle: Single Sign-On
Single sign-on, or SSO for short, is a method of authentication that allows a user to use one set of credentials to access multiple applications or systems. This information may simply consist of a username and password. However, enterprise applications usually add many other pieces of data such as user rights, role, billing information or cost center numbers. The advantage of a single sign-on is that this information is automatically available to other systems when logging on to one system and does not have to be entered separately.
To ensure that orders for print products from an ERP system function smoothly, various factors must be taken into account. User rights are particularly important. After all, employees should only have access to permitted content. In larger companies, for example, field sales staff may have different articles and access rights than branch offices. Internal marketing employees, on the other hand, often have access to a larger product portfolio and also receive evaluations and statistics.
If we look at large companies, several thousand employees often use one system. Not only do they each have different rights, they also have completely different individual data. In addition, this information changes constantly, for example, due to employee turnover or new tasks in the company. It is practically impossible to manage permanent data reconciliation manually. This is precisely why single sign-on is so important for integration.
Single sign-on: This is how we proceed with your integration
First of all, our project team has to distinguish between whether a print shop uses the lead print system or the company itself. In the first case, the print shop provides us with the correct IT contact in the company. If this is not known, we will of course do our own research. Our project manager then contacts the company. He sends the description of our standard SSO connection and agrees the technical framework conditions in detail In most cases, companies already use various other systems that are connected with SSO. This means that corresponding know-how is available. Most questions can usually be answered quickly and the integration can then be set up in a test environment. In the final step, the lead print project manager coordinates the rights and user groups with the print shop, as the latter controls the content of the platform.
If a company itself wants to connect its ERP system to Lead-Print, the process is similar. Since the company itself determines all content in this case, no further coordination of rights or user groups is necessary. This further accelerates the integration.
Interfaces: The big question mark?
To ensure that data can be exchanged smoothly between the web-to-print system and the ERP system at all times, the systems must be linked via the appropriate interfaces. In other words, a constant flow of information is established in real time. This is the only way to fully exploit the benefits of order automation.
To simplify integration, Lead-Print already offers numerous standard interfaces for frequently used ERP systems. These include SAP, ARIBA, COUPA, ONVENTIS, Meplato and So.PROCURE.
In addition, virtually all other systems can be connected to Lead-Print via the so-called OCI/CXML interface. The OCI/CXML interface is a way of exchanging data between ERP systems and cloud applications using a standardized format that is specially designed to meet the requirements of e-commerce. This also enables easy integration without extensive IT work.
From our experience, we know that it is precisely the issue of interfaces and the large number of ERP systems used that pose a particular challenge for many print shops. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to attempts to offer a web-to-print solution without the corresponding integration. However, this also invalidates all the efficiency benefits that result from automatic data exchange. This is precisely why we help our customers to overcome the technical hurdles of integration as easily as possible.
Interfaces: This is how we proceed with your integration
Here, too, our experienced project manager handles all communication with the company. In the first joint call, the question of the connection is clarified. First of all, it is a question of which ERP system is used at all and which interface is used, for example OCI/CMXL. If the system used uses one of our standard interfaces, this additionally simplifies the implementation.
If a less common system is used, we discuss the necessary adjustments with the company’s IT specialists. Keywords here are authentication, group matching and data exchange. For companies that use ERP systems, these topics are usually part of everyday business, so most questions can be clarified quickly. Through the realization of countless integrations, our lead print specialists have acquired a unique know-how and are thus familiar with even very complex issues if the need arises.
Another point that needs to be clarified for the integration is whether an electronic order delivery should be set up. In this case, the lead print system automatically receives a file with the order number, invoice address and delivery address, which the system compares with the transmitted order and transfers it to production. Alternatively, this process can also be carried out by e-mail and manual transfer to production.
Once all these issues have been resolved, we set up a test system for you. As part of the tests, various orders are transferred to determine whether both systems are receiving all the necessary information without any problems. In a joint call with all parties involved, final tests are then carried out and the interface is ready for use.