Integration. What does it really mean when it comes to the selection of software?
Interestingly enough, we could not find a definition in the dictionary that related to software integration but, Wikipedia defines system integration as the process of linking together different computing systems and software applications physically or functionally, to act as a coordinated role. That is an accurate definition in the manner in which we typically define it but, it is also very broad in the reality of how that integration actually happens.
Different Functions of Software Integrations
In working with many different software packages and many different clients on the processes of selecting and integrating software, the term has become clouded in its meaning and usage throughout the industry.
An example of this would be if a software package can export an Excel file and that file can be imported into another software package, is that considered integration? If the term integration is used loosely enough the answer would be yes, but if that process is manual is it still considered integration?
Again, depending on how you and the software vendor apply the term the answer is still yes. When we work with clients or software vendors on integration projects one of the very first things we do is to come up with a definition of what integration actually means to both parties and clearly define the expectation of the client in how we are going to apply the term integration.
An example of that would be i.e. the software must have an automatic, bi-directional interface between the selected areas of the software.
Why do you need Software Integrations?
Software integration is an important aspect of selecting and utilizing software but, it is only one aspect that must be considered.
In today’s business world, especially with cloud-based computing, many companies have:
- a CRM
- Accounting Software
- Timekeeping Software
- Payroll Software
- Specialized Software for their particular industry
All these software packages may be cloud-based software, or in-house systems or a combination of both.
This can really complicate the overall work processes for employees and integration of the software can become very difficult. In order to accomplish the integration of these packages many companies turn to custom software developers, assign the project of integration to an employee, or they pay one of the vendors to write an interface between the multitude of software packages and all these options have hidden pitfalls and costs.
That’s where we can help! Check out our integration solutions here.
Questions to Ask Your Software Expert or Developer
If you are looking for software, taking the time to talk with your software vendors about integration is worthy of your time.
We have seen some very slick software presentations that give the appearance that their software will integrate with just about anything and everything. When in reality it won’t, so it is very important to make sure that you define integration and understand the manner in which they actually and functionally integrate with other software packages.
Actual integration is primarily based on if the software packages are written in a common and similar language such as Microsoft SQL, C++ OR if they are dissimilar and writing an interface could be difficult
What is the Functionality of a Software Integration?
Let’s answer that question with another question.
Will the software packages automatically move data back and forth between the two packages, or does it take some kind of human intervention? If yes, then this can cause work process issues for your employees and is not a high-functioning software integration.
If you are buying a particular piece of software to support one area of the business but, you are increasing the burden on another department by introducing a workflow that is going to take time and reduce productivity then, you might want to rethink your strategy because your cost savings model may be out of alignment.
The Benefits of Software Integrations
As business owners we are always chasing that elusive software package that is fully integrated, gives our employee’s one-time data entry then, everyone can see and use the data.
We all want something that puts us into a workflow process that increases our data reliability and reduces errors. In my business, which is obviously technology, we only know of one package that does that across an enterprise, so integration is going to continue to be something that most companies are faced with in order to streamline data flow and increase productivity.
Things to Consider When Integrating Two Business Systems
It’s important to consider which system is going to be the master system.
There needs to be a system that has data continuity control to ensure that the data that is shared is validated and consistent throughout the entire system. Without this data validation, you run the risk of having conflicting data within your system which then invalidates the whole process of integration.
Error correction processes need to be in place so that errors are reported and can be corrected.As business owners we are always chasing that elusive software package that is fully integrated, gives our employee’s one-time data entry then, everyone can see and use the data.
Integration processes that don’t validate data and generate a report can be problematic. So, ensure that as these systems are sharing data in a consistent standardized manner, and that data entry errors, synchronization errors, data conflicts and missing data are reported throughout the entire process.