SharePoint & ERP integration
We often get this question from customers who are new to SharePoint whether SharePoint can be an ERP solution.
The short answer is not quite. Otherwise, why would Microsoft also develop Dynamics, their ERP product? However, until a company gets an ERP solution or when the existing ERP solution lacks flexibility, then SharePoint is really something to consider. As you will see below SharePoint and ERP solutions have a lot in common and are yet still often complementary.
IT tools critical to business growth
The need for an ERP arises from the more advanced stages of development of the company. In the early stages of “Existence” and “Survival”, Excel spreadsheets are often the most common choice to deal with financials, reporting, tracking, orders and sales. However, as a business moves on to the “Success” and especially “Take-Off” phases, the spreadsheets require more collaboration, access control, workflow, history revision, SharePoint comes naturally as the next step. In the “Resources maturity” stage, more businesses will invest in a fully featured ERP solution.
Compared to a fully featured ERP solution, SharePoint present several benefits:
- Content and document management
- Flexibility, ease of deployment
- Portal and Enterprise search
- Familiar User Interface
On the other hand, an ERP system will have the following strengths compared to SharePoint:
Plant floor connectivity
Industry best practices
ERP and SharePoint: common challenges
Because both ERP and SharePoint deal with functional areas such as access control, business process and collaboration, they often share common challenges:
Strong project governance
Business process reviewed
User training and tool adoption
It is also remarkable to see that ERP products tend to develop flexibility while SharePoint tends to develop verticality, as if the 2 were converging.
Furthermore, both Microsoft and ERP solutions provider are also actively working on cloud readiness. What is at stake on the cloud is actually the early stages of development of a business market. Because the cloud removes the entry barriers with a pay-for-what-you-use model, businesses might skip the Excel tooling phase.
Best of both worlds
Because of the commonalities and the strength of each player, using SharePoint Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to integrate one with the other makes therefore a lot of sense. The ERP provides advanced automated data which visibility, accessibility and presentation are enhanced thanks to SharePoint.
Like almost everything with SharePoint, there are simple configuration with out-of-the-box connectors. As one needs to lift the limitations and deal with more advanced integration, such as data aggregation, custom connectors can be developed on top of .NET and leverage all existing .NET libraries such as SAP or Siebel connectors.
With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft has even developed further the BCS to facilitate this type of integration on the cloud, with the concept of SharePoint App and better support on the Client Side Object Model (CSOM) API.
At the core, SharePoint addresses the need to communicate, produce familiar reports and presentations, organize knowledge, collaborate and being social within the company. SharePoint builds up from the middle or upper management who now master Office Excel and Powerpoint, and whom next challenge should be to master SharePoint, if Microsoft succeeds in their strategy.
You can find more in these 2 SharePoint case studies by Officience (links to be updated soon).