Integrating Back Office And Online Systems Guide

Integrating (linking) your back office and online systems can make your business more efficient and ultimately lead to greater customer satisfaction.

What are Back Office and Online Systems, and why do they need integrating?

Back Office Systems

Back office systems take care of all your business administration processes. Back Office systems can be manual – based on sales ledgers, typewriters, invoices and so on – but these days they are more commonly an automated set of processes run by a piece of software on your computer. A back office system – typically set up in an accounting package will:

  • record all sales transactions
  • record all purchases
  • update inventory records accordingly
  • generate all appropriate paperwork – such as invoices, receipts, etc.

Many back office systems can also carry shipping information and can produce reports that are invaluable in monitoring business performance, and predicting future trends.

Online systems

An online system is basically a web-based storefront where your customers can browse your products and order and pay for goods. Typically an online system will contain a catalogue of your products, shopping cart software, check-out software for payment processing and shipping and delivery information.

If you were setting up an online trading presence from scratch it might seem obvious that the back office and the online storefront should be integrated – that is that they should be in seamless communication with one another – with all the functionality of the back office available to the storefront, and all the information from the storefront immediately passed to the back office for processing. So why are so many web stores not integrated with their business’s back office?

  • Many web stores were opened on a trial basis, at lowest possible cost, to see if an online market existed for particular goods and services. Or it was thought that the low volume of web orders could be manually transferred to back office systems for fulfilment.
  • The task of integrating back office and online systems threatened to disrupt existing business processes, either through negative impacts on day-to-day operations, or negative impacts on IT infrastructure.
  • Many of today’s successful web stores started out with no expectation of the high level of traffic they now have to deal with – or the burden that manually processing these orders can bring.

What is integration?

Now that online sales volume is expanding and the internet as a sales channel has been proven for many products and services, integrating the web-based front end with the back office has never been more vital. Companies with a growing volume of web trade simply don’t have the time or resources to transfer all the incoming orders and e-mails to their back office systems for answers and then transfer those answers back to the internet to be relayed out to customers again. In practical terms integration means connecting the two systems, so that whenever a customer places an order online, your web store and back office deal with the sale as one – the online system accepts the order and then relays all this information back to the customer, whilst the back office records the transaction, adjusts inventory levels, generates an invoice and fulfils the order.

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