Magazine Article | December 1, 2005

Share Documents With ERP Systems Effectively

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Varying requirements can make sharing documents with customers through an ERP (enterprise resource planning) interface a challenge. A document delivery server can simplify this process.

Integrated Solutions, December 2005

Today's leading ERP systems help organizations achieve business agility through increased efficiency and productivity. Because ERP involves exchanging business information through invoices, purchase orders, acknowledgements, statements, and other documents, you can gain immediate additional value by automating delivery of those documents directly to and from your ERP system.

Ultimately, ERP is about standardizing -- bringing together interrelated business processes under a standard user interface and IT architecture. What can complicate matters is the fact that business operations require information to be imported to and exported from the ERP system.

It's not always possible to dictate how your customers and suppliers send and receive information. The varying sizes, cultures, requirements, expectations, and established processes of your trading partners all figure into the mix. Accommodating all your business partners requires customization, which generally means added expense. So how can you meet these varying needs while controlling costs?

Document automation is the answer. Document automation can increase the speed and accuracy in which you exchange business information and improve your working capital cycles. With document automation, you can shorten procurement time for raw materials, fulfill orders for finished goods more rapidly, and collect cash earlier by receiving invoices and sales documents sooner. All of these factors contribute to better service and stronger business relationships.

Effective document automation for ERP systems requires three essential characteristics:

1. The ability to handle multiple document types and delivery methods. For example, customers should be able to automatically send and receive information via e-mail, fax, postal mail, and XML, depending on their preferences.

2. Seamless document and ERP integration. Documents should be able to be imported to and exported from the ERP system through an interface that is familiar to end users. Furthermore, this process should not involve a series of complicated or time-consuming steps.

3. Fast implementation and user maintainability. Document automation should not require heavy custom software programming. A system should be able to be implemented in a matter of days by analyst-level employees.

A document delivery server can satisfy these criteria by providing a central platform to simplify processes of communicating in and out of the ERP system with customers and suppliers. A document delivery server automates every phase of document delivery, from data capture to document formatting and distribution.

With a document delivery server, enterprises can overcome constraints on document content and format, e-mail and attachment handling, and document mergers and revisions -- particularly when dealing with raw data formats. The server can recognize and process any document format and cut form development time. It can also allow the use of any common document transport to meet the varying expectations and requirements of trading partners.

Because a document delivery server connects as an independent device, it requires no custom programming and minimizes the risk of system and data corruption. Its external residence also allows for higher server performance and scalability to perform system upgrades.

The reduced IT complexity of a document delivery server can automate your document flow without costly and time-consuming software customization. A server can also facilitate automation of processes as your time and needs dictate. Many organizations initially implement a document delivery server to address one specific document process, then extend the solution to additional automation initiatives.