Today’s business world is more complex than ever before – especially when it comes to the world of Information Technology (IT). It’s estimated that the average company spends somewhere between 4-6% of all revenue on their IT budget. As the cost and complexity of IT systems grows, we can only expect this number to continue to skyrocket. And even though modern IT applications and infrastructure are very powerful, they’re often hard to work with.
Most companies use dozens of different applications, databases, ERP systems, and other IT infrastructure to maintain a level of competitiveness in an ever-changing business environment. This leads to issues like data siloing and overlap, which decrease efficiency and increase the costs associated with running your IT systems.
So what’s the solution to this problem? How can companies ensure that they are not running redundant systems and that their existing IT applications and infrastructure can work together?
The answer is business systems integration.
In this article, I will take a close look at business systems integration, discuss its benefits, and give you some examples of common scenarios where it can be helpful to reduce the complexity of your IT systems and improve efficiencies.
What is Business Systems Integration?
At its most simple, business systems integration uses custom applications, information architecture, and APIs to connect different component systems, subsystems, and applications that are used in your business.
Basically, you are trying to get all of your isolated business systems to talk to each other in one cohesive integration. Something like this:
Picture a busy restaurant. The waitstaff takes orders from customers, and they want to transfer these orders to the cooks in the kitchen. But they can’t just hand over their order slips, because the cooks can’t understand them as they’re written.
Instead, they have to take the time to “translate” these slips, and then transfer them to the cooks manually. This leads to slower service times – because every item must be translated – more errors, and overall poor performance.
Now, imagine that there was a system in place that connected the waitstaff and cooks – eliminating this manual “translation” step. That would result in more seamless service and performance, and help both the cooks and waitstaff become more effective.
That’s business systems integration!
It’s a bit of a simplified analogy, but it holds true. Business systems integration increases efficiency by reducing manual data entry and allowing all of your apps and services to communicate seamlessly with each other.
Types of Business Systems Integration
There are a few different types of business systems integration:
- Horizontal Integration – In a horizontal integration model, a unique application is created that becomes a single interface between a diverse set of subsystems. This is also known as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).
- Vertical Integration – This method creates “silos” of functional applications. For example, your databases may be integrated with analytics software, e-commerce software, and other similar applications.
- Star Integration – Star integration allows subsystems to be connected directly to each other. Because each subsystem is connected to the other, it ends up looking like a “star” – hence the name. This method is flexible and powerful but can be expensive.
- Common Data Format – Common data format integration uses specialized custom software to convert data into a single format that can be used across all relevant applications and subsystems.
Depending on your business, any of these options may be right for you.
The Benefits – Why You Should Consider Integrating Your Systems
Business systems integration has dozens of benefits, but here are the most important ones to consider:
- No more wasted employee productivity – If your employees are forced to use manual data entry to input data into diverse applications, this can chew up quite a bit of their productivity. Data entry is nobody’s idea of a good time – and chances are that your employees would be better served doing other tasks. By eliminating the task of manual data entry altogether, business systems integration saves hundreds of man-hours per year. One study by HubSpot found that 72% of salespeople spend an hour a day on data entry, that’s a whopping 260 hours a year:
- More holistic datasets with fewer errors – Transferring data between different systems can lead to corruption, missing datasets, and dozens of other problems. These issues are only compounded if manual data inputs must be used – even employees who are very careful will still regularly make errors while inputting data into your systems. Business system integration removes this “intermediate” step entirely. Your data can be transferred between diverse systems and applications without any manual steps, risk of corruption, or data loss.
- Up-to-date, real-time data – Siloed data, by its very nature, will need to be integrated before it can be analyzed by Business Intelligence (BI) analytics software. If your different applications cannot “talk to” one another and don’t integrate their databases, you won’t be able to analyze your data until you manually integrate them. However, business systems integration allows you to eliminate this issue altogether. All of your data systems and applications can be integrated into a single whole – allowing for better data analytics.
- Significant operational cost savings – With a single, holistic business systems integration, you can eliminate redundant systems and shoddy workaround solutions. Your IT staff can spend less time wrangling your data, and you can eliminate expensive legacy infrastructure – resulting in serious operational cost savings.
Still not sure if you need business system integration? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
What Are Some Common Examples Of Business Systems Integration?
Here’s a real-world example of business systems integration that can help you understand its benefits.
Imagine for a moment that you are part of a large manufacturing company. You have both a sales department and a customer service department – but they are using different systems.
Your sales department is using a CRM, and your customer service department is using a totally different helpdesk system. On their own, these systems function just fine – but customer data is split and siloed. There is no way to automatically transfer data about sales to customer service – and vice-versa.
Unless a sales representative and customer service representative work together, they cannot integrate data about customers into a single, comprehensive data set. They must manually transfer information about sales, customer support calls, feedback, and more – which is time-consuming. This leads to serious cost overheads, and poor customer experience.
A custom-built business systems integration platform.
Using the proper APIs and data transfer tools, a platform can be built that allows your CRM and helpdesk software to communicate directly with one another, and use a single, centralized database for customer information.
This allows sales staff to get access to information about previous customer support calls and issues, which can help them sell more effectively. And your support staff now have access to information about previous sales, and other details about customers that can help them provide more friendly, personalized service.
The result? More sales, better customer service, and a thriving company. Cost overhead is reduced because there is no more manual data entry, and your customers are thrilled with your company’s ability to provide incredible, personalized service.
Contact Sharp Notions to See How You Can Benefit From Business Systems Integration
We hope this article has been helpful to you as you explore the world of business systems integration. With the proper tools and integration platforms, you can save quite a bit of time and money – and dramatically increase the efficiency of your company.
If you want to learn more about our business systems integration services, simply contact us here.