Continuing from my previous post about Dynamics GP & CRM integration I will go over the tools and technical details on the integration. You don’t have to decide on the integration tool right from the beginning, again it will depend on your requirements and also keeping in mind your future needs. The marketplace is flooded with a lot of integration tools for GP and CRM so take your time in understanding your needs and then choose the integration application. Below is a small subset of the integration tools which we have used and are amongst the most popular ones out there for GP-CRM integration:
- Scribe Insight
- Microsoft Dynamics Connector
- eOne SmartConnect
- Microsoft Integration Manager
- Dynamics GP eConnect along with CRM SDK
You can find additional list of tools at http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/3995.integrate-microsoft-dynamics-crm.aspx which are CRM specific. (I haven’t found a comprehensive list of such tools for GP but I am working on such a list and will provide it soon.) In deciding the right integration tool for yourself you have to consider your requirements in the following areas: Installation, Security, Mapping, Scheduling, Maintenance, Notification and Performance.
Most of these tools are fairly easy to install but you have to consider the prerequisites and the dependencies for each, like the Dynamics Connector is dependent on GP Web Services installation and most of them are also dependent on eConnect for GP. I won’t spend too much time on installation as this is routine for every application. You have to ask the following questions to determine the security considerations and the integration tool you use:
- Can any user run an integration?
- Can individual integrations be secured for a specific user?
- What access will users need if they are only running integrations and not creating one? Vs. The security for users who will create integrations.
This is just a small list of questions, based on your environment and needs. You will probably have additional questions and concerns regarding security.
Next, we talk about mapping entities/fields between CRM and GP. Some of the standard integrations between GP and CRM are created using the following mapping between entities. You may not need some of them but this mapping gives you a good understanding and start to map your integration. Most of these tools offer a lot of functionality to use formulas, lookups, and map custom entities within each system. For someone who is familiar with GP and extender windows, you may want to know that eOne (the founders of extender add-on) have also created SmartConnect and so they offer integration to the extender windows as well. In all the other integration tools, you have to use some level of customization to integrate to extender windows within GP. Besides these details, you may also want to consider the user experience for using these tools, for example Scribe and SmartConnect have a good interface to map fields and pick the entities to map them within the tool as compared to integration manager or eConnect SDK.
Based on your needs you may want to automate and schedule these integrations, each tool has some component to support scheduling, for example Scribe has a GUI interface to setup scheduling called Scribe Console and it sets up a few windows services to run the integration in the background. But in case of Integration Manager or eConnect SDK, you have to use other tools to automate the scheduling and processing of the integrations.
The more complex the integration application, the more maintenance it requires. Scribe Insight has a server component and a database component that stores all the information regarding the integrations and schedules. Over time, you may have to run maintenance on the Scribe SQL database to clear out old execution logs and results. On the other hand, MS Integration manager is a standalone application which does not require such maintenance. In most cases, having the logs and execution results is a good thing so the merit of the integration tool should then be considered based on your requirements for the integrations and it troubleshooting
All of the integration tools provide some level of notification of the integration results, in some cases it is right away with the detailed error messages or in some cases with additional setup an automated email to administrators and users. If your integration needs require an unattended integration, then you must check to see how it notifies the user of the results and the next steps to take in case of errors or success.
Mostly an afterthought but performance would matter to you depending on the volume and frequency of your integration needs. The same would help you plan your hardware if the application demands and that the performance is affected by it. In scenarios where you are running infrequent batch integrations then it may not be of a concern; but in cases of unattended and continuous integrations like orders from CRM to GP and updating it back to CRM with the status then the performance and its effect on the GP and CRM itself would matter. In some cases the integration itself would need to be optimized or scheduled during off hours to lessen the impact on the application itself.
Based on my experience, I can go over lot more details in each of these areas but the same experience tells me that each integration project has its own unique requirements. In some scenarios, I have used a combination of these tools to satisfy the requirements of the project. In my next blog post, I will briefly go over the future of the integrations with respect to changes in Dynamics GP 2015 and CRM.
DAVE VORA | Senior Business Software Consultant and CRM Lead
Dave is responsible for leading KTL’s CRM consultants, assuring that our solution scoping, architecting and delivery meet and exceed customer expectations. Dave has built lasting relationships with clients by understanding their business needs and providing value by leveraging their existing resources. Along with his consulting team, he has delivered effective solutions beyond traditional CRM constraints. Dave has more than eight years of experience in implementing business software for a variety of industries including service, government, distribution, not-for-profit and manufacturing. He graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Computer Science and also a specialization in Management from University of California at Irvine. His experience includes helping companies embrace technology to fulfill their organizational needs and creating innovative solutions using CRM, GP, Scribe and other Microsoft products.