The technology in many small and medium-sized businesses is a piecemeal collection of task-specific software. Early on in the life of the business, the owner adopts accounting software to get control of the finances. As the business grows, new software solutions come on board to handle tasks like customer accounts, inventory management and communications. Each piece may be well-designed, but none of them can work together. Software integration connects the different pieces.
Software system integration is the process of connecting the data held by all of the different programs in an operation. The systems can interact with one another through either direct connections or an attachment to an intermediate system. System integration takes four common forms.
In this model, the business connects software with shared functions. All the financial and inventory software might be connected. Customer service and account data could be another connection. Although there is more communication, there is still not a comprehensive communication plan. The different software bundles cannot work with each other.
This integration model can work well for small organizations. Each piece of software has a connection with every other. For large businesses, the amount of connectivity required will quickly become impractical.
This is a unified model where every subsystem connects to an enterprise service bus that acts as a conduit for information. The subsystems need only a single connection to access the whole system. This is an appropriate solution for large-scale businesses.
Another solution suitable for large organizations is EAI or Common Data Format Integration. In this arrangement, a central system translates the data from different applications into a common storage format such as an API. When a program retrieves data from the storage container, it is translated into information the program can understand.
Moving forward in technology can be a scary proposition. When a small business is comfortable with its current level of tech, it will be slow to adopt something new. Larger businesses may worry about the logistics of developing a new IT model. However, most software integration examples involve companies that have improved their operations and communication by making this transition. Organizations begin the process for several reasons.
A data silo is any kind of virtual repository where stored data is inaccessible to other programs. Moving data from one system to another becomes a time-consuming process of manual entry. Any time a human employee is copying data, there are errors which will cost even more time. Integration removes data silos from the business equation.
Many organizations take on system integration when they update their systems. A good deal of modern software is designed for integration. Older systems may not have this ability. With a well-built integration plan, data from legacy software is available to the whole organization.
Cloud-based data storage makes integration an easier process. The data is already stored in an accessible place. Other systems simply need the ability to connect with it.
Some businesses insist on integration as they become larger and more complex. When an enterprise has many branches, strong communication keeps things moving forward. With an integrated system, the company can keep better track of supply chains and logistics in real time. A lack of communication can lead to disruptions in regular operations.
The internet of things is going to make data sharing a necessity. As everything from robotic manufacturing equipment to thermostats generates streams of data, system integration will allow for improved data analytics. When leaders see how different systems interact, they can make better decisions about workflow and general organization.
Any change in technology will involve some challenges as employees adapt to a new system. However, the benefits of integrated software systems greatly outweigh the inconvenience.
Software integration examples range from small businesses to large enterprises. In every case, an integrated system improves communication throughout the organization. Employees in different departments or different branches can look at the same real-time data. Customers on the company website benefit when they are looking at up-to-date information.
Manual entry is an administrative chore that no one enjoys. When an employee must enter data from one program into another, it is time that could be better spent. System integration eliminates this wasted time allowing employees to focus on more important tasks.
In addition to saving time, integration removes the mistakes involved with manual entry. Data entry errors can slow down operations and lead to missed or late orders. If there is an error in an integrated system, fixing it in one program will fix it for the whole system automatically.
Better communication and greater accuracy lead to better performance for the whole organization. Also, the business can use integrated data with powerful analytic tools to make better operational decisions. Leaders will have a handle on weak spots within the daily operation and can work to improve them. Data analysis is also an important tool in making decisions about the future of the business.
As businesses grow, they increase in complexity. They will need more software systems in place to thrive. Well-planned system integration provides a framework for future growth. The business will connect new software systems to the integrated network from the start.
When a business is looking to take advantage of integrated software systems, they need to look for the right partner. System integration is a complex process that requires knowledge of how different software packages produce and store data. The designer must know which integration model will best serve the needs of the organization. By working with an experienced software integration partner, businesses will receive systems that improve their operations and help them work toward the future.
Chetu, Inc. does not affect the opinion of this article. Any mention of specific names for software, companies or individuals does not constitute an endorsement from either party unless otherwise specified. All case studies and blogs are written with the full cooperation, knowledge and participation of the individuals mentioned. This blog should not be construed as legal advice.
Chetu was incorporated in 2000 and is headquartered in Florida. We deliver World-Class Software Development Solutions serving entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 clients. Our services include process and systems design, package implementation, custom development, business intelligence and reporting, systems integration, as well as testing, maintenance and support. Chetu's expertise spans across the entire IT spectrum.
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