Dynamics GP eCommerce Custom Programming Notes

In this paper we assume that you have self designed in-house made custom ecommerce web application with shopping cart and possible such additional features as credit card payment processing, custom B2B items catalogs or simple B2C ecommerce promotions, and also that your ecommerce website was programmed in .Net with MS SQL Server as DB platform, plus we will make some comments on other ecommerce alternatives, such as Linux/PHP/MySQL or Oracle based solutions with ODBC exposures, as Great Plains Dynamics GP is only available on Microsoft Windows and MS SQL Server platforms. If our assumption seems too restricting, please review first GP ecommerce Add-ons available on the market as out-of-shelf products, directly available from Dynamics GP ISV ecommerce partners. Again, here we assume that you already made significant investment into custom ecommerce website software development and you do not see the option to redeploy ecommerce on the base of Dynamics ISV partner ecommerce product. Let’s begin our review:
1. Dynamics GP version and support. Before we jump into your options, please be sure that these options are available to you as if you are on archaic Great Plains version, ecommerce might be very limited in integration and very expensive in design and support. In our opinion, you should consider ecommerce custom website integration to Dynamics GP, if your GP is on currently supported versions: Dynamics GP 10.0 and 9.0 (we are writing these lines in October 2009). The reasoning is also simple – GP eConnect ecommerce programming oriented SDK became matured product in our opinion for Dynamics GP version 9.0. If you are on older Great Plains versions, such as 8.0, 7.5, 7.0, 6.0, 5.5, 5.0, 4.0 and if you are on Great Plains on Pervasive SQL 2000/btrieve or Ctree (GP 7.5 and earlier) or Great Plains Accounting for DOS, Windows 9.5, 9.2 and earlier, in our opinion you should begin to move toward Great Plains upgrade up to Dynamics GP 10.0. Upgrade is not something very simple, it might require additional budget and even software license repurchase (if reenrolling into Dynamics GP annual enhancement program cost is too high), plus upgrade requires Dynamics GP consultant help and assistance, where you also should expect reasonable cost, typically by hours. The good news might be this – if your archaic GP version requires ecommerce integration on text file level (where you export new customers and invoices from ecommerce in text tab or coma delimited format), then the job of feeding ecommerce data into GP could be done by GP Integration Manager module
2. Dynamics GP ecommerce integration tools. The first option, that in our opinion you should check out is Dynamics GP Integration Manager. IM for GP 10.0 has two types of connectors: traditional OLE Server connector (if you are Great Plains consultant, OLE server is what IM was using in older versions: 9.0 and earlier, where you have to initiate integration in the context of targeted company) , and second type is eConnect (here you have to specify company database, windows domain user for econnect credentials, for GP 10.0 you should expect some expected problems, for example SOP Returns are not covered for GP 10.0, however we expect this problem to be patched in the next Dynamics GP version). IM is not only for Text file integration, in Advanced ODBC Data Sources you can count on SQL Views and call IM integration in quasi real time (every twenty minutes or more often). Second option is really the one for ecommerce programmers (C#, VB, or other Microsoft .Net compliant programming language, where you should be aware that sample codes are available in VB and C# only). eConnect has reasonable control over the creation or modification of such master records as GP Customer, Vendor, Address, Employee, Inventory Item, plus it has control over GP so-called work transactions and batches. If you would like to post GP Sales Order Processing batches (and batches of different origin), please consider add-ons, such as Alba Spectrum Posting Server
3. Dynamics GP ecommerce integration philosophy or architecture. Here we recommend you to speculate about such questions as which application should be chosen as master to create ecommerce inventory items. If it is GP, then ecommerce web site should eCommerce website development agency pull items into its catalogs. If this is GP, then Great Plains should be playing the role of sort of slave and pull and synchronize items, catalogs and price lists. We placed here this paragraph as the example of possible complication factors
4. Dynamics GP ecommerce integration to non Microsoft platforms. For Java based, please be sure that you have good understanding of such technologies as IDBC-ODBC bridge or native Java ODBC drivers for Microsoft SQL Server 2008/2005/2000 (whichever is your case). For Linux PHP popular hosting option, please check with your hosting partner if they allow you connection and serving scripts to your Microsoft Dynamics GP SQL Server database. For Oracle custom database ecommerce application, please consider either link from Oracle or from Microsoft SQL Server (MS SQL Server Linked Server via Oracle ODBC driver)
5. Limited ecommerce integration support for Dynamics GP 8.0, 7.0 and 7.5. Our product Alba Spectrum Order Connector (written on the level of MS SQL Server Stored Procedures) supports integration to GP Sales Order Processing: SOP Orders, Invoices, Customers, Addresses. Again, we would rather recommend you GP version update to 10.0, but if you see problems in this recommendation, please consider Order Connector as the way to go
6. Great Plains Accounting and it compatibility status with ecommerce. In our opinion GPA is not compatible with real time or quasi real time ecommerce program. You can experiment with GPA integration module, or try to establish ODBC connection to GPA database via DDF files. And even if you have reasonable tool (such as Microsoft Access or MS SQL Server Linked Server) for feeding data into GPA Btrieve tables, we do not recommend this as GPA business logic should be considered as reasonably complex