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First responders who carry the wireless radiation and gas monitors from RAE Systems into disaster zones like Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants have no time to waste waiting for someone to service their equipment.
It’s a major reason the San Jose, Calif.-based manufacturer wanted to integrate its ERP and CRM systems in the cloud. Minimizing data entry between the Salesforce.com customer relationship management (CRM) application and Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 would boost the responsiveness of the service team that lines up replacement parts and dispatches them to the field.
In April 2010, the project took on greater urgency when the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused a huge spike in demand. The disaster struck not long after the company had finished evaluating three cloud ERP integration products and began implementing the winner, said Lien Chen, director of corporate IT.
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“I just wanted to have an integration process with visibility into an application,” Chen said. “Salesforce users -- they don’t know Oracle. They can’t see it [without the integration].”
The company went into the integration project facing significant challenges on both sides of the equation. “Cloud integration was kind of new. The R12 Oracle system was fairly new,” Chen said. “Nobody had done a really good upgrade [to] R12 because it was difficult.”
Nonetheless, a month into the Gulf disaster and 90 days after starting the deployment, the company went live on Informatica Cloud, a cloud integration service that is part of an emerging category called integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS). The company’s in-house expertise on Oracle EBS, not to mention help from Oracle tech support, proved crucial in mapping Salesforce.com data to the ERP system.
Ironically, upgrading to R12 proved the best preparation for the Informatica project.
Salesforce.com integration on-premises
The selection team had rejected on-premises middleware and a cloud ERP integration appliance, though Chen won’t name the other vendors.
“One of the key reasons I chose Informatica is because their cloud-based solution was ready,” Chen said. “The two others danced around a bit. An appliance sounds good, but when they were doing the POC [proof of concept] and they got Salesforce and Oracle working, they were never able to do the things we wanted to do [and] neither one of them has the integration history with R12. Most integrators know more about Salesforce.”
RAE Systems’ role was mostly limited to showing Informatica technicians which Oracle fields to map to Salesforce.com. “They were able to map one by one very quickly to find specific tables,” Chen said.
Cloud ERP integration not real time
As expected, eliminating dual data entry has improved order accuracy and freed service personnel to concentrate on customers, according to Chen. Before, to secure and ship parts, they had to log into multiple systems. Now the workflow between Salesforce.com and Oracle is almost entirely automated, with one order-processing worker only occasionally needing to interact with Informatica Cloud.
The integration isn’t real time, though, as Salesforce.com and Oracle data are synchronized in batches. “We choose to do a scheduled job run,” Chen said. “If a hot order cannot wait for a scheduled job run, [the order-processing worker] can go in and override,” pulling rush orders from Salesforce.com.
Repair orders in Salesforce.com -- upward of 200 a day, Chen says -- trigger orders in Oracle immediately after a sale closes. Accounts and contact information in Salesforce.com map to Oracle. Pricing, product information and service order updates, as well as tracking numbers and invoices in Oracle flow into Salesforce.com, while quotes flow in the other direction for booking in ERP.
RAE Systems is also using Informatica Cloud to roll out a portal that partners can use to update their license information. Another portal will allow distributors to follow a product’s journey through RAE Systems’ automated quality control, which is tracked in a FileMaker Pro database, another endpoint that RAE Systems pays Informatica to integrate with Salesforce.com. Chen said the company expects to take advantage of new filtering and alert triggers in the Cloud Winter 2012 upgrade pending from Informatica.
While the proof of concept and technically knowledgeable testing and evaluation teams were big contributors, Chen said the key to the project was due diligence. Without it, RAE Systems might have gone with one of the higher-profile products and missed the potential of Informatica, whose cloud integration service was just entering the market.