B2B eCommerce

IT leaders must balance ecommerce and ERP

B2B ecommerce may be table stakes now for manufacturers, but for the IT leaders responsible for overseeing the integration between a company’s existing information technology infrastructure, ecommerce can be a significant pain point that keeps them up at night.

Creating a well thought out integration plan between the enterprise resource planning and ecommerce systems can reduce many of the pain points IT leaders encounter with no ERP-integrated ecommerce systems. In fact, devising a plan to integrate an ERP system with an ecommerce solution is something many manufacturers and suppliers overlook, Arno Ham, chief product officer for Sana Commerce, a B2B ecommerce software provider said in a recent webinar.

Research by Sana reveals that 84% of IT leaders are not happy with their company’s ecommerce solutions, despite being part of the ecommerce decision making process. Sana interviewed 1,000 IT leaders within and outside its customer network to learn what IT leaders want in ecommerce solutions and what they struggle with to get ecommerce working for them.

In addition, 67% of IT leaders report harmed relationships with internal stakeholders such as the sales, marketing and customer service departments. One reason for the dissatisfaction is that most IT leaders find ecommerce to be too complex, according to Ham. “A lot of IT leaders are being asked to bring offline, physical commerce processes into ecommerce and keep it all secure,” Ham says.

As a result, IT leaders wind up acting more like support ticket solvers, i.e. the ones responsible for solving problems that arise with ecommerce orders, as opposed to business navigators, Ham says. Business navigators work with decision makers to develop strategies that will make customers happy and engender loyalty, as well as identify new opportunities to grow the company’s ecommerce business.

In conjunction with its research, Sana has put together a series of podcasts, reports and webinars examining these issues. Sana’s aim in offering the webinars and podcasts is to help IT leaders discover the true power of IT for B2B ecommerce and make all the cool digital features within a manufacturer’s ERP platform work for ecommerce without making the ecommerce system too complex to manage.

“Sana wants to give [IT leaders] the information they need to become business navigators, as opposed to ticket solvers,” Ham says,

One way to achieve that goal is to create an ERP-integrated ecommerce platform that makes all the data in the ERP system available to the ecommerce system in real time. Doing so can make life much easier for IT leaders. For example, ERP systems typically have complex pricing rules that many manufacturers struggle to replicate when building a non-ERP-integrated, or mainstream, ecommerce solution, according to Ham.

Building an ERP-integrated ecommerce solution ensures that all ERP data is available in the ecommerce platform in real time and that all ERP functionality is available in the ecommerce platform, thereby creating a single source of data that can be shared between the two systems. For IT leaders, that means changes only have to be made once in one system, as opposed to separately in each system, which minimizes the risk for errors.

Ham noted that one in every four IT support tickets are for ecommerce order errors, which could be inaccurate pricing or lack of available inventory even though the ecommerce system says the item is available. “When [errors like these] happen the customer has a broken experience, which costs the manufacturer revenue and customer loyalty,” Ham says. “What good does it do for a buyer to place an order online if they have to follow-up with the support desk to correct an order error? The goal is to have IT leaders spend less time solving these types of issues.”

Benefits of ERP-integrated ecommerce include making the ERP platform the engine behind ecommerce, no longer having to synchronize data between two separate platforms, and the elimination of manual order processes and the subsequent need to double check order entry data for errors. “The goal is to make the ERP and ecommerce tech stack work as one,” says Ham. “If the ERP and ecommerce systems can work as one, IT leaders can sleep at night.”

Achieving this goal starts with internal communications, according to Ham. IT leaders need to start conversations with the sales, marketing, and customer service departments making the resolution of service problems a team effort before problems arise, as opposed to an IT department-only problem. This type of communication creates better visibility internally into common problems and helps define IT leaders’ expectations of other departments when ecommerce ordering problems arise.

Finally, Ham stresses that IT leaders need to make their voice heard about the need for an ERP-integrated ecommerce system and expectations for how problems are to be addressed, because if they don’t, the IT department will be held accountable for ordering errors.

“This is a roadmap for moving [IT Leaders] from being a ticket solver to a business navigator,” Ham says.


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