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The Ultimate Guide to ERP Software

Download the PDFEnterprise Resource Planning graphic

The ingredients for a successful enterprise include hard work and organization. Behind the impressive annual returns and market impact that everyone can see is evaluation, management, and monitoring among several other processes. As daunting as it may seem, these enterprises have found a way to carry out all the necessary processes to ensure a smooth flow. Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP as it is more commonly referred to is at the helm of this success.

Are you interested in fully understanding ERP software system? Then you are in the right place.

What is ERP Software?

ERP software used by organizations to coordinate, integrate, and oversee different processes within the company. It plays a vital role in the implementation of resource planning by incorporating the processes involved in running the organization so that everything can be run from a single system. Whether the company is managing sales, finance, purchasing, and HR, all these can be integrated by the ERP software.

The full scope of Enterprise Resource Planning software extends to performance management, risk assessment, project management as well as compliance. Basically, it is essential in every aspect of running a company.

With an ERP system, a business can connect several processes with fluid movement of data between systems. An essential benefit of this is that data duplication is avoided and data integrity is maintained.

Regardless of size, businesses across the world utilize ERP software to handle critical operations. It is unimaginable for such businesses to run without the software.

The Roots of ERP Software Solutions

To get to the origin of ERP, it is also important to mention MRP (Material Requirements Planning) this is where the enterprise planning grew from. Originally, planning solutions were designed for manufacture process before they extended to enterprise processes such as finance, human resource, and sales among others.

Through the 1960s IBM developed systems that created a level of organization within enterprises, but it was not until 1990 that the term was used in relation to the ERP software meaning that we know and understand today.

After 1990, focus was put on improving Enterprise planning tools and it was not long before companies like Oracle and Microsoft were engaged in developing technology that emphasized multiple system communication to drive numerous processes within an organization.

What is an ERP Software Used for?

An illustration of glue holding together different sheets of paper may be a simple way to define ERP software and how it is used within organizations. In this case, the sheets of paper represent computer systems used within large businesses. Although every department may have its own systems, when you introduce enterprise planning software, it acts like glue so you can access all the systems using a single interface.

With such links between systems, these organizations can enhance department communication so that information that is needed for a particular process can be easily accessed from different departments. For example, while planning a marketing campaign, it is important to have information from finance, customer care, sales as well as management. Without switching programs, all the necessary information can be viewed on a single screen.

When a business needs to have up-to-date information about performance of different machines within the organization, it can use this software to perform a monitoring role. Manufacturing ERP software is designed to monitor and analyze performance so that the industry can determine which tools may need to be replaced or might be taking up more money than they are bringing in. Costly and duplicate technology can be identified and eliminated. The common areas in which this software is deployed include:

  • ERP Manufacturing Software: This is used to accelerate the manufacturing process as well as ensure standards. It unifies processes in order to reduce cost, boost productivity and save time.
  • Accounting ERP Software: Almost any business can use this software to integrate with its accounting tools so that the numbers can be crunched and analyzed faster and easier.
  • Finance Integration: The different areas of finance within an organization can be managed with a single system using ERP financial software. Activities like budgeting, generating statements, writing reports, and so on are handled using this software.
  • Purchase Management: A business can standardize procurement processes. Purchases can be tracked and analyzed at different stages of the process across several departments.
  • Human Resource Procedure Standardization: Use ERP software to unify employee information and management throughout the company. A wide range of processes can be handled including training, certification, attendance, and so on.
  • Integrating Orders: An organization can coordinate all its orders using a single system which will prevent bottlenecks and delays. Orders are more efficient using this software.
  • CRM Oversight: Businesses that need to understand their clients and oversee their interactions with the customer relations staff can use an ERP system software to keep close watch on customer behavior.

About ERP Software Companies

While many businesses may focus more on the software when choosing an ERP, many experts will point out that it is just as important to take a look at the companies that vend these solutions and determine whether you should consider their products. It may be hard though figuring out what to take into consideration when choosing a list of ERP software companies so here are a few pointers.

Company Technology

The kind of technology a company is known for can determine whether they can deliver the kind of software needed. Technology like SQL and .NET are common options and they may make all the difference when integrated with your existing technology. You also need to figure out if that technology is easy to work with.

Vendors Support

Will the company give you their product and thereon leave everything up to you? A deeper understanding of their customer support may be important. In most cases, you want a company that will guarantee round-the-clock support for just about any problem you encounter with the software.

Company Continuity

It is important to know just how long the company will be in business. Some companies may be in the process of closing up shop and that would mean you might be left with software that is no longer supported. It is advisable to stick with ERP software providers that have been in the business for long.

Software Updates

Most companies will provide a roadmap on their website about intended feature updates and upgrades. It is important that this information gives you a picture of how often you may need to upgrade or to add new software. However, because of the scope of ERP packages, it is rarely necessary to add additional software.

Free ERP Software

Most companies will provide a free plan which is usually intended to give a prospect the chance to get a feel of the software. Make use of this opportunity to determine whether the software meets your needs or how easy it is to use. Make use of the free options to figure out if you should commit and purchase the software.

What You Need to Know About Industry Specific ERP?

Among the different types of ERP software, you will note that some are industry-specific and others are generic. Often, businesses will choose the generic ones because they seem more practical to handle different aspects of a business. However, there are a few reasons to choose industry-specific software. These are:

  • They can solve specific problems within the industry, for example, compliance solutions will be specific to that industry.
  • You do not need to waste money purchasing modules that have nothing to do with your industry, for example, a manufacturing industry will not need fashion ERP software.
  • Implementation can be carried out much faster.
  • Updates can be made according to a business’s needs as well as the change in time without worrying about extra costs.

Examples of ERP software That are Industry Specific

Not every industry will have the option of industry-specific enterprise tools, however, some that have a large market share do. For example.

ERP Software for Manufacturing

This kind of software focuses on key areas of manufacturing like purchase, machine optimization, human resource, and order management among others. A small manufacturing business would benefit from choosing such an industry-specific ERP because it reduces the cost of implementation and there will be fewer people to undergo ERP software training.

ERP Distribution Software

Businesses that undertake distribution as their main process, may appreciate such software instead of taking on the entire manufacturing software. Logistics companies need software that can help record orders, assign tasks and track delivery among other processes. Because it is specific, there will be more features that improve efficiency than if a generic software was in use.

Construction ERP Software

This specialized ERP attends to the unique demands of running a construction business. Right from processes like managing contractors to payroll and everything in between is in the hands of the software. All the data is saved in a central database and can be handled by a single manager. Because there are different levels of construction, the kind of ERP needed may depend on the level a contractor is operating. Most of the software however can be scaled up or down to suit your level.

ERP Accounting Software

Although this may share some features with accounting software, they are in fact different and may have a hugely different impact on a business’s performance. A large business focused on accounting may need an ERP while a small retail shop would be comfortable with plane software.

Accounting ERP will handle different accounting needs from various departments of a business for example manufacture, finance, sales, supply and so much more. You will see a marked difference in productivity with this system.

How Often are Major Software Changes Typically Made to ERP?

Like with any software a business may adopt, there will always be the possibility that it needs to be changed. This could be as a result of inefficiency or because the organization may need to meet new demands. The frequency with which you may need to change your ERP business software may come down to the needs of a business and how suitable the software is at the time it is purchased.

At a point where a business finds that the human resource is not being utilized effectively and processes are slower than they should be, then it may be time to change. Although there may be no scheduled date for change, there are some circumstances that may necessitate the change.

  • If the system is outdated and no longer supported by the developer.
  • The software has become more expensive to maintain.
  • The solution no longer meets your business needs.
  • The wrong software was purchased.
  • Updates and upgrades cannot solve a problem being faced.

That said, a business should also take note that major changes may be made to hardware and networks every 3 to 5 years, when necessary.

Cloud ERP Software

Most companies today offer software as a service, also referred to as SaaS. Cloud-based ERP falls in this category. This means that the software is run on remote servers as opposed to an in-house server within the business premises. The provider of the cloud service is responsible for management, upgrades as well as fixing the software whenever the need arises.

Businesses that choose ERP software packages that are in the cloud do not have to worry about expensive upgrades. This reduces expenses on operations and capital. There is even no need to employ extra IT staff since just about every technical issue can be forwarded to customer support provided by the developer. Without the bother of managing software, human resource can be channeled to other roles to promote growth of the business.

Best ERP Software

With hundreds of ERP software systems on the market, it can be a time-consuming process trying to find the best among them. There are several things to take into consideration and since there is no ERP to carry out the comparison.

This short review section will give you 7 of the best-rated choices to choose from. Here, we give you an overview of the popular options as well as advice where necessary.

Oracle ERP Software

This end-to-end business management solution is cloud-based. One of the great things about it is its scalability which means businesses of any size can utilize it. It comes with a complete suite of ERP features designed to increase productivity and lower the cost of operations.

Installation and use are both easy and it would appear the company put special focus on ease of use.

Some key features that make it one of the top 10 ERP software include:

  • Finance planning
  • Revenue detection
  • Supply chain management and inventory
  • Accounts
  • Order management
  • Procurement
  • Compliance and control

There are many more features of Oracle’s software and they are supported with trusted security, easy integration as well as global appeal with the ability to convert currencies. There is also a Financial Cloud module that is perfect for financial reporting. Different industries can utilize it for accurate financial data and it integrates smoothly with other applications.

The main customer support options available are using phone and online chat. The online option seems much easier to utilize regardless of the time.

When it comes to Pricing, a user can make use of the free trial and after that, they can pay between $80 to $175.

Microsoft ERP Software

Many user reviews seem to mention a great deal about Microsoft CRM capabilities. This ERP software however is more than just a customer relationship management application. It is an integrated solution giving businesses the ability to manage and analyze sales, marketing, and finance among other processes within the business. However, if you are searching for CRM ERP software, then this is among the top options. With it, a user can also integrate with Android and iOS applications so that they perform tasks on mobile devices and there is also the option to work offline and then sync data later when there is an internet connection.

Over the years we have seen Microsoft develop features that are not just exciting to read about but impressive when put to work. Some of the key features include:

  • Automated customer service using a virtual agent
  • Proactive AI-generated sales insights and forecasts from a mobile assistant
  • Single view customer data with customized reports.
  • AI-assisted fraud protection tools for e-commerce businesses.
  • Cash flow management with finance insights and budget proposal.
  • 3D digital imaging to help with product visualization when answering customer inquiries.
  • Remote assistant for improved collaboration between teams.

It is hard to talk about Top ERP Software and not mention Dynamics 365 among them. It has a big user base and Microsoft has proved itself a reliable brand in the technology industry. There is evidence of improved win rates as well as conversions.

Since it is cloud-based, setup is much easier and updates can be automated, saving the user time and ensuring you always have the improved version.

Microsoft software ERP pricing seems to favor big businesses rather than smaller ones. The premium plan is what would seem most appealing but small businesses might opt for other alternatives until they are ready to scale up.  

SAP ERP Software

Over 170 thousand businesses around the world are using SAP ERP which gives them access to important applications, data, and analytics tools that they use to streamline various processes. It also provides complete web support to its customers with mobile accessibility to all the features needed to manage a business.

The solutions provided to users include human resource management, supply chain, financial and product lifecycle management as well as CRM. Unlike many of the other solutions on this list, SAP can be deployed as SaaS as well as on-premise service. The user can also deploy it as hybrid model. The vendor has multiple partners which enable integration and customization with ease. The key features that define this business ERP software are:

  • Procurement management that stretches across all procurement stages from identifying the best price to making payment.
  • Finance management with all the accounting tools as well as budgeting, forecasting, and analytics.
  • ERP Software Manufacturing which handles plan-to-product processes like linking production timelines with procurement so that the ordering process can be automated.
  • Centralized management of human resources with customizable payroll processes.
  • Time management for both human resource as well as different processes.
  • Real-time technical analytics to ease management decision-making.

SAP efficiently provides solutions for multiple business types. The features of the ERP are not industry-specific. Many reviews by experts and users give it an impressive score above 8 which signifies overall satisfaction. When it comes to price, you will need to contact the vendor to discuss what you are interested in and receive a customized quote.

NetSuite ERP Software

This is a complimentary solution from Oracle offering similar software ERP cloud services to help businesses get a better understanding of their customers and their processes. It is made up of 7 modules which all share a database. This makes the features offered related and interconnected. The areas of focus are Inventory, billing, CRM, revenue management, finance, and e-commerce.

It is evident from some of its features that it can handle global business needs so manufacturers do not have to care about the location of their factories in regard to the capability of the enterprise resource planning ERP software. Its features include:

  • Real-time financial data access for easier and faster accounting and compliance.
  • Seamless billing integrated with sales and finance tools.
  • International compliance accounting with close-to-disclose ability.
  • Multiple price management which includes different currencies.
  • Complete sales process management that encompasses orders, approvals, tracking, and payment.
  • Automated batch creation for easy tracking.
  • Quality assurance tests customized by the user.

There are many more features that support warehousing, supply chain management as well as human resource management. NetSuite is considered popular among midsized businesses but their target is wider than that to include small as well as large businesses. Its ability to integrate with other ERP software for small business makes it dynamic and a good choice for businesses that may need to scale their production. Its cost will vary according to the number of users as it is priced at $99 per user plus a license cost of $999 per month.

IBM ERP Software

In a drive to enhance the user experience, IBM and SAP have partnered to create one of the top enterprise solution partnerships. For an auto manufacturing plant, for example, this partnership will introduce them to a combination of MRP ERP software that manages the supply process and ensures materials do not go to waste. It provides a 360-degree analysis of performance while giving data about every material that may need to be restocked and when it should be done to avoid holdups. Businesses can improve productivity while lowering costs. Features of this software include:

  • Supply chain management.
  • Finance analysis and management.
  • Human resource management.
  • Asset management.
  • Back-office functionality.

IBM integrates with other top Online ERP Software like SAP and Oracle so a user may not have to completely switch technology simply because they need to make use of a particular feature.

Infor ERP

Here is a versatile software with end-to-end functionality that assists users improve performance especially in industry and manufacture. It is listed as one of the best ERP software for manufacturing. With comprehensive Cloud Suites, it offers on-the-go visibility for different facets of a manufacturing business stretching across areas like sourcing materials, managing customer orders, running projects, and handling supply chain.

The majority of its features are industry-specific, even though it can still be used for managing sales as well since that is one of the processes of manufacture. The features include:

  • Human resource management to ensure the right people are in the right roles and they are performing well.
  • Process planning and scheduling using advanced technology to ensure timely action is taken to avoid downtime.
  • Ability to compute multidimensional data and provide analytical info to all stakeholders for better decision-making.
  • Plans for manpower engagement so that there is always sufficient workforce to handle manufacture and distribution.

Infor ERP is a scalable application intended as ERP software for small business but if the need demands it, a user can integrate with other software to handle large manufacturing processes. It can also be implemented as on-premise running on internal servers or cloud deployment. It is also possible to combine the 2 as hybrid deployment.

Unfortunately, there is no publicly disclosed price for Infor software so you would have to contact the vendor.

SAP Success Factors

This is an ERP HR software from SAP. Most of the features are focused on small to midsized companies. Its intuitive interface and ease of setup are notable and so many reviews point that out. The setup wizard and video tutorial are an added touch of customer friendliness. Its performance management features make it very helpful for businesses that want to boost human resource performance. Its features are:

  • Complete HCM suite
  • Payroll timesheets
  • Management of promotions, demotions, and transfers.
  • Assists with compliance management and auditing.
  • Supports global HR processes

For a business looking for ERP cloud software to handle various HR processes, this can be a good choice. It also has the solid backing of a parent company that has been in the business of developing enterprise solutions. With a starting price of $8 per user per month or an annual fee of $85, you should be happy with what you are paying for.

Salesforce

It may not seem like your common ERP software definition particularly because it is industry-specific, but Salesforce CRM can also integrate with mainstream enterprise relationship planning software. Using it is like having the best of two worlds. A business that takes its customer relationship seriously may choose to utilize Salesforce as a separate ERP instead of burdening the sales department with a bulky alternative like Oracle or Microsoft. Its key features include:

  • 99% Salesforce automation
  • Supports customer service processes
  • In-depth analytical reporting
  • Marketing automation
  • Cloud integration for added features

Salesforce is an ERP CRM software that dwarfs most of its competitors. For most businesses, the term CRM and the name Salesforce are synonymous. It is easy to use and set up but most small businesses that are just starting up may find its price tag a bit steep.

ERP Software Cost

You probably have already realized that the list of ERP software contains options with varying prices. It is hard to give a clear cost because it will range from as little as $8 to over $1000. Although what your business can afford will play a big role in determining what you purchase, you should never be blinded by cost. First, consider if the system will give you value for money.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is known to boost productivity and improve revenue. Sometimes it is a good idea to invest in technology that will do that because, in the long run, it will pay for itself.

ERP Software Download

Are you ready to try out the software? You may find there is no need to download any software. You need to confirm the types of ERP software you are interested in and whether they are cloud-based or on-premise. Most of the top-rated ones are cloud-based and that means you simply need to signup online and then start using the SaaS service.

If it is necessary to download the software, then it is important to check that you have sufficient space. It may also be necessary to read about installing the software after the download is complete. Most downloads are free, but you might need to pay for activation after the trial period.

Summary

Any business with a number of applications that need to be linked needs to consider ERP application software. The value it adds to a business’s productivity cannot be ignored. However, it is necessary to understand your business needs and then look for a solution that will address the need. When choosing an ERP, you need to decide if it is better to have cloud or on-premise and at the same time whether you need specific or generic software. Once you find the right solution, your business will see productivity improvement which should translate into more income.

If you’ve just discovered us, we’re excited. Try Windward Core or Windward Hub (integrates with your ERP software) for free and take it for a spin. Start automating documents in just a few clicks starting today.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

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SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

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Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

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Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

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Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

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Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

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Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

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Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

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Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

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PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

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Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

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Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

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Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

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Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

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Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

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Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Genesis Abel

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Genesis Abel

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