The role of systems integration is to get all of your business’ software systems and applications working together, whether that’s in the cloud or legacy software installed on servers.
So what does that mean in real terms?
Say a new customer has just bought something from your shop. In the background, your office systems should kick in and use the information they’ve input to generate an automatic email which sends a thank you note for their purchase. Whilst this is happening, a text is sent to their phone indicating when the product is expected to be delivered.
Whilst your customer receives this helpful information, your stock levels will be automatically updating, and if they’re falling low then the system will trigger a re-order from the manufacturer. The customer’s details will also be added into or updated within your CRM system to track their buying habits and help you better target them with communications in the future.
This well-oiled machine of activity in an example of systems integration in action!
Integrating systems is all about creating collaborative internal processes in which your IT systems work together to simplify and improve your business processes, and provide the customer with an enhanced level of service.
This streamlining of processes is becoming more important than ever, but also easier than ever, thanks to the access to a range of online solutions to address your particular business needs.
If you’re using online tools for accounting, inventory, payments, CRM, point-of-sale or any other key process, it’s important that you use them to your full potential by avoiding running them as ‘islands of information’ and instead making sure they talk to each other effectively and efficiently!
What are the benefits of systems integration?
Helping your IT systems to exchange information can bring numerous benefits, such as:
Increased productivity and efficiency - When systems are working together, this can free up a lot of ‘administrative time’ for employees who would otherwise have to manually input the same data into separate programmes, allowing them to focus on other activities to generate more revenue.
Better understanding of information - It’s so much easier to stay informed and get an up-to-date overview of how your business is performing if you only have to review one system, rather than several individual ones.
Cost savings - Integration can significantly reduce the cost and time involved in maintaining and updating several systems.
What are your first steps?
Start by thinking about how your business could benefit from integrating its IT systems. These benefits could come not only from improved internal processes, but also in the form of better ccustomer service and enhanced links with your trading partners.
A technique known as ‘business process mapping’ could enable you to identify and understand the key steps in your main processes from start to finish. From this, you can then establish the data and systems required for the process to run effectively. Once you have this journey mapped, you can look at how you can streamline the flow of information and opportunities for integrating different systems.
Once you’ve identified these opportunities, the challenge is to then identity the IT solution(s) which will provide the necessary levels of integration you need.
How is it achieved?
The most common means of integrating systems today is through an Application Programming Interface (API). Essentially this is a tool, or library, that assists developers in writing code which interfaces with other software.
Many software providers increasingly use open APIs, which they make available free of charge in order to encourage other providers to link their products, so creating a wider range of offerings for their customers. This approach has certainly taken-off in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world where many of the leading business apps come with integrated offerings already in place for other complementary products, so it’s well worth checking what’s available before making a selection.
Other specialist integrators offer customised solutions, an approach that’s often used when there’s a requirement to integrate legacy systems with cloud-based services.
One of the key reasons why you should consider integrating your systems now is to keep up with the levels of service that customers are increasingly expecting. If your systems aren’t capable of providing this service now, you can guarantee your competitors will be ready to step in.
Find out how Superfast Business Wales can help you to understand more about making the most of your software, services and applications.