As you may know from reading about Clear, we believe nothing in enterprise software should be complicated or expensive. Complex processes can always be distilled down into elegant solutions, with the right set of tools.
One of the most common processes we see at our customers is integrating their enterprise software systems with 3rd party eCommerce sites such as Graybar, Grainger, Office Depot, or Staples. We provide a very simple integration called ClearPO that elegantly streamlines this process:
However, for those of you familiar with purchasing in large organizations, you know that this process it a lot more complicated than it appeared in the previous video. It sounds pretty simple – one of your employees named Bill goes to an eCommerce website, buys what he needs, and then eventually somebody in accounting figures out what happened weeks or months after Bill got his printer and glossy paper.
The problem is that what Bill ordered on one of those websites rarely ends up in your enterprise software as a 1-to-1 match. If Bill ordered five different products for $1,000 total, Bill enters a single $1,000 miscellaneous item on a purchase order in your enterprise software system.
When you receive an invoice from your vendor, it has five separate line items that total $1,000. Let’s say you were ambitious and implemented a vendor invoice reconciliation program to attempt to automatically match those invoices against your outstanding purchase orders. Guess what – Bill broke your expensive program.
Most organizations try to solve this conundrum with a mountain of technology and convoluted manual processes. Maybe your staff orders from a handful of vendors and then they send a EDI file at the end of the day that gets processed through some ETL tool and eventually ends up in your system. Maybe somebody manually keys in that data. Maybe you don’t do anything at all and wait for Staples to send you an invoice.
Any way you look at it, all of these processes suck. Technology cannot overcome the fact that if you ask humans to do something twice, we’ll only do it once correctly (or even somewhat correctly). What if you could integrate all of this real-time, so that whatever Bill ordered, it ended up in your system as an exact match to your vendor’s invoice?
It turns out that these capabilities have been around for almost 20 years. In 1999, Ariba released what’s called the cXML protocol and any vendor worth their salt has been using it ever since. What we’ve done at Clear is given you the ability to integrate these standards into your enterprise software systems without a single line of custom code, without any middle layers, and in REAL-TIME!
Watch that same video again where a user punches out from ClearUI to Office Depot, orders some printing supplies, and automatically creates a requisition in SAP based on the shopping cart contents from the site:
You probably just watched that and you feel like this:
The Technical Details
If you’re on the business side of the fence, you stopped reading after that last video. If you’re still with me, you want to know how this works technically. I guarantee you’re thinking that implementing something this simple would take at least 12 months and cost a few million bucks from one of your favorite services providers.
This is a standard offering from Clear that works with every major enterprise software platform.
Let’s start from the beginning. Bill is in ClearUI and needs to order printing supplies from Office Depot. He clicks an Office Depot button from his Requisitions page and magically he’s taken to Office Depot’s website. What’s happening behind the scenes is what’s called a Punchout Setup Request in cXML protocol. Here’s how it looks in ClearProcess:
Our Rules Engine is using our cXML adapter to tell Office Depot who we are and creating a shopping session. Office Depot gives us a unique URL to which Bill is redirected and he then orders his printing supplies. When he’s done, he clicks the checkout button. Office Depot triggers what’s called a Punchout Setup Response in cXML protocol that redirects the contents of his shopping cart to a ClearAPI in the ClearProcess. Here’s how this response is handled in ClearProcess:
In this particular example, we are using our SAP adapter to create a requisition in SAP. However, this could be a requisition in Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft, etc – Clear is platform-agnostic. If you’re still with me at this point, you’re hardcore. You want to know how those Office Depot supplies/materials got mapped to your enterprise software system.
This is where things get interesting. Clear has its own cloud-based database platform that allows you to build anything you want, meaning you don’t have to pay an expensive consultant to do it in your system. In the example below, we are mapping a specific vendor’s product code to SAP materials:
The end result is that you have a fully-integrated eCommerce process that eliminates the human error, reconciliation headaches, and expensive customization that you dread. All of this can be done in Clear through our configurable ClearUI user interface and ClearProcess rules engine. Say goodbye to $20 million consulting invoices and convoluted processes.