Managing Data Integrations: Business Central and DemandCaster
By Mathieu Galipeau
September 28th | 5 min read
A Focus on Data Integrations
In our latest “Ask Mat” blog post, Mathieu Galipeau tackle a query from a client regarding integrating data from different sources to ensure seamless communication and data exchange between new and legacy systems.
Ask Mat: How to establish effective communication between Business Central and a best of bread planning tool?
In today’s modern business world, data is king. Effective data management and exchange can provide your organization with a competitive edge and drive growth. However, challenges often arise when it comes to seamlessly transferring data between different business solutions.
Recently, a client approached us with a pressing question: how to efficiently transfer data between their existing system, Business Central, and our new planning tool, DemandCaster.
Assessing the Challenge
Since there is not an out of the box integration available within Business Central to facilitate the data exchange between the clients ERP and DemandCaster, we considered three alternative options: Third-Party Middleware, Power Platform, and Web Services. We evaluated each option based on factors like compatibility and ease of management, but more importantly, we considered the deadline and urgency of the task. The client needed a reliable and efficient way to exchange data between Business Central and Demand Caster quickly.
In choosing the right solution, several key factors had to be considered:
- Weekly Updates: Firstly, the solution needed to handle weekly data updates efficiently and automatically.
- Large Data Volumes: Secondly, given the need to transfer extensive sales order data spanning 34 months, the chosen solution had to manage large volumes of information without performance issues.
- Compatibility: Additionally, compatibility between both Business Central and Demand Caster was crucial for seamless integration and data exchange.
- Strict Deadlines: Lastly, timeliness was paramount, with the selected solution required to send data to Demand Caster every Saturday at 2 am as specified.
Option 1: Third-Party Middleware
Third-party middleware refers to software or tools provided by external vendors that act as intermediaries between two or more software applications. It facilitates communication and data exchange between different systems that may not naturally interact with each other.
- Requires minimal development effort.
- Low complexity, making configuration easier.
- Involves licensing costs for the middleware.
- Introduces another vendor into the technology stack, potentially adding complexity.
Option 2: Power Platform
The Power Platform is a set of low-code/no-code tools offered by Microsoft. It includes Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Chatbots, which allow organizations to build custom applications, automate workflows, and analyze data with minimal coding knowledge.
- Offers a low-code/no-code solution, making it accessible to non-developers.
- Provides built-in connections to Business Central and FTP servers.
- Can be easily extended and scaled as business requirements evolve.
- Enables fast application development and deployment, reducing time-to-market.
- Offers a low-cost solution compared to traditional software development.
- Flow frequency can sometimes present a challenge. When multiple interfaces are triggered simultaneously, Power Automate processes them sequentially at its own pace, which could potentially limit the operational efficiency for tasks that involve frequent data exchange.
- The platform is constraint to the actions and functions provided by Power Automate. There are limitations to the extent which you can customize the tool, leaving us dependent on Microsoft for creating, updating, and maintaining available actions.
Option 3: Web Services
Web services are a standardized way for software applications to communicate with each other over the internet or a network. They use standard protocols such as HTTP to transmit data in a structured format, typically XML or JSON.
- Typically considered best practice for data integration.
- Provide standardized communication protocols, platform independence, and loose coupling, making them an efficient choice.
- Not readily available within the DemandCaster platform, making it time-consuming and costly to implement.
- Highly reliant on external factors and vendor support, introducing complexities.
- May involve intricate configuration and development efforts.
Selecting the Right Data Integration Solution
After thorough evaluation, we chose the Power Platform to establish communication and data transfer between the two systems. This decision allowed us to create a workflow automation solution that could handle the large data volume and meet the weekly update requirements.
In short, Power Automate is an effective solution in enabling communication between two business solutions that have incompatible data exchange format.
The Data Transfer Process
The solution involves synching transactional data from Business Central to Demand Caster, sometimes including historical data. By leveraging Power Automate, we can ensure efficient data transfer between the 2 systems by building the file content in Business Central, sending it over via API request to Power Automate, where the file can be easily read and transformed into a compatible file that is then sent over to the FTP server DemandCaster communicates with.
Business Central can be easily configured to refresh the data on a schedule, whether that is every 5 minutes, or every Saturday at 2 am for instance. This streamlined process allows Demand Caster to perform optimization tasks and provide informed suggestions on the most recent data available without any human intervention in the process.
Meeting Deadlines with Power Platform:
The Power Platform’s low-code/no-code solution enables a swift and efficient setup for data exchange and workflow automation, meeting all of the client’s requirements and deadlines.
In conclusion, establishing effective communication and data transfer between different systems can be a complex endeavor. However, with the right solution, you can overcome these challenges and drive growth for your organization.
At LIDD, our commitment is to provide clients with innovative and practical solutions tailored to their unique needs. If you encounter similar challenges in your systems, we stand ready to help you find the optimal solution and provide ongoing support for success.
If you have any Microsoft Solutions-related questions you’d like Mathieu to answer in future blog posts, please feel free to email those to us. Until next time!
Note: The scenarios and options presented in this blog post are based on the specific requirements and constraints presented by our client. Individual organizations may have different needs. Consult experts to find the most suitable solutions for their unique circumstances.