Building the Bridge for Business Central Integrations

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Business Central Integrations

As a Microsoft partner focused on implementing and supporting Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP solution, we have experienced first-hand the huge increase in organizations that have chosen to migrate from their existing on premise versions of Dynamics NAV, Dynamics GP, Dynamics SL, or other ERP solutions to the cloud-based Business Central hosted by Microsoft.  And frankly, we were not surprised to learn that Business Central is now often being named as the number 1 best ERP solution for small and mid-market organizations - including by Forbes Advisor in 2024.

With the increased adoption of Business Central, we have developed and deployed a significant number of integrations between Business Central and other applications.  These integrations have included online ordering portals, logistics and transportation management systems, expense reporting solutions, payroll systems, and of course e-commerce solutions.  While we have integrated Business Central with multiple legacy in-house solutions, most of the integrations have been with other cloud-based applications.

There are many decisions that are required to design, develop, and deploy a new integration.  This post aims to equip Business Central users and decision-makers with an overview of the basic framework for developing and deploying integrations for Business Central, enabling them to make informed decisions on whether to integrate and how to successfully complete the integration project.

An API (Application Programming Interface) is a tool that most modern applications, like Business Central, use to integrate with other applications.  Applications often come with a pre-defined set of APIs to facilitate the development and deployment of integrations.  Business Central is delivered with pre-defined APIs and each organization can develop an unlimited number of additional APIs to support any custom integration that may be required.  It is also common that other applications will have their own set of pre-defined APIs.  But what exactly does that mean in terms of developing an integration between Business Central and one of these other applications?  

Let’s take a look a very simple analogy…

Business Central API

The image above depicts a river with land on both its east and west banks.  If we wanted to send goods from one side of the river to the other side, it would be very difficult (or not even possible) because there is no bridge connecting the two sides to one another.

Business Central Integration

This next picture shows a roadway and bridge foundation on both sides of the river.  Even with this improvement, it would still be very difficult (or not even possible) to send goods from one side of the river to the other side because there still is no bridge.

BC Integrations

In this final picture, we see a completed bridge that joins the two sides of the river.  Only at this point can we safely and securely send the goods from one side of the river to the other,

But what did it take to get to this point?

First, the people on the west side of the river had to meet with the people from the east side of the river to agree on what type of bridge would be required.  Would goods need to be sent only from one side to the other, or would goods be sent from both sides – and would goods need to be able to be sent from both sides at the same time?  What volume of goods would be moving from one side of the river to the other to determine the strength and capacity of the bridge?  Would the bridge only be used to transport goods, or would it also serve as a means of transportation for people?  All of these structural and design types of questions needed to be defined and agreed upon up-front in order to make sure that the bridge architects would design a bridge that would meet everyone’s requirements and expectations. 

Second, everyone had to reach a consensus on who would construct the bridge once the design was complete.  The bridge would naturally benefit the people on both sides of the river, however, the people on the west side of the river asserted that they had already constructed a bridge foundation.  Therefore, the people on the east side of the bridge should be responsible for building the bridge and connecting it to their existing foundation, which they specifically designed for this purpose.  Likewise, the people on the east side of the river asserted that they had already constructed a bridge foundation, and therefore it is incumbent upon the people on the west side of the bridge to construct the bridge and then connect it to their existing foundation, which they specifically designed for this purpose. 

Finally, once construction was complete, everyone had to agree on who would be in charge of certifying and maintaining the bridge.  Who would make sure that goods continued to flow smoothly over the bridge, monitor the bridge for issues, and make repairs when necessary?

Now, using this analogy, let’s equate this to Business Central!  We will pretend that there is an organization called Cronus Beverages, Inc. who currently has Business Central up-and-running and in use for tracking all sales, purchasing, inventory, production, and financial management activities associated with their beer brewing operation.  Cronus has recently initiated a new project to evaluate e-commerce solutions so that customers can place orders for their stores and restaurants online.  The ability of the e-commerce solution to integrate with Business Central is crucial for reducing or eliminating duplicate data entry and maintenance.

The first picture (with no structure at all) represents the scenario where the required APIs do not exist in either Business Central or the e-commerce solution.  In this scenario, each system may support the use of the technological tools to be able to develop a modern integration; however, in order to successfully integrate the two systems, all aspects of the integration design, preparation, and development would need to start from scratch, including the development of the APIs.

The second picture (with only the bridge foundations) represents the scenario where a set of APIs exists in Business Central for integrating information such as Items, Customers, Ship-to Addresses, Prices, Sales Orders, and Shipment information.  Similarly, a set of APIs exists in the e-commerce solution for integrating Items, Customers, Ship-to Addresses, Prices, Sales Orders, and Shipment information.  Despite the existence of a set of APIs in each solution, successful information flow between the systems remains unattainable without additional development effort due to the specific data structures and logic developed for each solution.

The final picture, with the completed bridge, depicts a fully integrated solution that allows data to flow between Business Central and the e-commerce solution through a single set of APIs developed to interface with the other application’s APIs.  Determining which party would be responsible for integrating their APIs with the other’s APIs was a crucial, if not the primary, decision.  Often, this process entails a substantial amount of work, and it’s not always evident who should shoulder the responsibility.  This is because each party can legitimately assert that they possess a set of APIs for integration, and the other party must establish a connection to utilize these APIs.

So, what does this all mean?  It’s simple: If you are using Business Central and are considering purchasing or deploying another application and would like these two systems to be integrated, the first question you need to ask is, “Does the bridge exist?”  The response you are looking for is something along the lines of “Yes, we have completed multiple integrations between our application and Business Central, and we will install this integration solution at the start of the project where you will see information flowing between the two systems.”  However, if the response is along the lines of “We have APIs and can integrate with any system that supports APIs”, it implies that they currently only have what is depicted in picture 2, and you may be the one responsible for planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining the entire bridge!

Are you ready to enhance your Business Central experience with seamless integrations? Contact us today to learn how our expertise can help you build the perfect bridge between your ERP and other critical applications. Let's optimize your business processes together!

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