When is ERP sexy?
Let’s face it. In the "high-school dance party" of software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) is the kid in the corner, shirt buttoned to the top, playing with his calculator while the other kids dance. ERP is complex, serious stuff: supply chain management, material requirements planning, master production scheduling, cost analysis, sales forecasting, financials. You need it to be successful, but you tend to keep it up and away from customers.
You don’t want customers to see your ERP
You want them to talk to sales, not operations and accounting. Right?
Maybe not. Maybe the separation between ERP and customers has cut too deep a chasm. Maybe that nerdy kid is hiding a wrestler’s physique and great hair behind those glasses. Maybe he should get out there and mingle. Because when you think about it, there’s a lot of stuff in your ERP system that customers SHOULD see.
Customers NEED to see your products. Your products are in your ERP, including descriptions, technical information, photos and diagrams. And your ERP system knows, by design, where those products are, how much they cost (for every customer and for every quantity and circumstance), how many are in stock, how many are on order, when they will run low, and when they will be available in the future. With that kind of information, and a little bit of a makeover, your ERP could be the hit of the party.
Plenty of companies have set up eCommerce sites that pull (or worse, duplicate) information from their ERP system. But at xTuple, we’ve engineered the most flexible, cost-effective, customer-facing interface for an ERP system — in the world.
xTupleCommerce is our online storefront for Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) applications that provides instantaneous access to the right information in your ERP, right where your customers need it. By safely connecting your website to your ERP, you eliminate the need to double-enter information about products or inventory counts. You can change pricing or product information in the ERP, and it is instantly updated on the website. Items that are out of stock can be automatically removed from the catalog. Your customers can see that their order has been processed the minute you ship it in the ERP.
And it goes even further. Backorder management, returns processing, even customer service can be handled in the website and flow directly into the ERP system where sales and customer representatives process the requests in real-time. Our solution is based on Drupal, the leading open source content management system (CMS) with a fully-integrated eCommerce component. We use Drupal, continuing our history of transparency and openness, to connect a customer-facing store to the xTuple ERP database.
Now, you may wonder, how does it look? Is it really “sexy”?
That’s entirely up to you! Drupal is a fully-themable CMS for the Web, meaning that you can modify the site to look as unique as you want. xTuple provides appealing basic designs that can be customized with your company logo and colors. And the flexibility of the theming system means that you can purchase themes from third party vendors, hire your own designers, or commission xTuple’s designers to fashion the site to look just as you imagined.
Drupal does much more than eCommerce. From WhiteHouse.gov to SpaceX.com, from Harvard.edu to Toyota and the multi-lingual Peugeot, Drupal is used by thousands of websites, in the public and private sectors. The Drupal CMS is an open source platform that also has a supportive user and developer community. With Drupal you can build your entire Internet presence, or you can integrate your Drupal-based xTupleCommerce store with an existing website.
What’s going on in the background? xTupleCommerce uses OAuth2, an international standard for creating secure connections, to connect to the REST server and then transacts in real-time with the ERP database. Price schedules that have been created in xTuple ERP will push the right price to individual customers and customer types. Customer information and orders enter the system and flow directly into the screens of your sales reps, customer support reps, and operations staff for processing and fulfillment. The customer can view their My Orders page to see the status of all shipments.
By selecting Drupal as our customer-facing front end, xTuple has vastly expanded the universe of things our ERP can do. It is no longer limited to providing information only to users inside the company. Now your ERP can talk directly to customers, saving you time, and avoiding complex integration hassles. With xTuple, the hard work of integrating your ERP and your website is already done. All you have to decide is how sexy you want to make it.
When is ERP sexy? When you wear it on the Web, it is.
Photo credit: "Clark Kent" by Randal Cooper on Flickr