All organizations need to standardize, streamline, and integrate their ever-growing list of systems and related data sets. Integration provides an organization with 360-degree access to its operations and data. 

Integration helps reduce errors, promotes efficiency, decreases manual efforts, and controls costs. Workflow automation allows for systems to work autonomously according to programmed routines. Meaning they continue working even when your organization is closed for the day.

What is integration? Why is it important? 

Integration allows for data/information to be easily shared between systems without human intervention. It is usually automated and occurs on an events basis (e.g. issuing an invoice) or on a schedule (e.g. once an hour).

Systems integration is the process of getting various applications, databases, platforms, and services inside a business to effectively speak the same language. It provides a standard format and structure for the various systems to interact and exchange data with each other. Standardization allows for process automation which in turn allows for work to occur with little to no human intervention. This allows the organization to expand and scale without having to directly add additional human capital.

Examples of Opportunities for Integration 

  • Pushing an invoice from the accounting system to the customer management system so the salespeople can see the status.
  • Pull information from the inventory system to the website so customers can see current inventory levels.
  • Pushing orders from the website directly to the operations system for fulfillment.
  • Working directly with UPS, FedEx, etc. to automatically generate shipping labels when orders are ready to ship.
  • Automatically send your customers notifications about the status of their orders.
  • Employee onboarding paperwork (e.g.W4, W9, etc.) automatically shared with payroll, human resources, and IT departments.

Why Is Integration Important And Useful?

For the most part, it is a requirement as your company grows and operates. As you grow you need to have systems in place that can facilitate growth. Otherwise, what you will see is that as revenue increases, cost increases at the same rate. 

Labor is almost always the highest cost in any business.  Integration and automation can help save your staff time and cut down on your labor costs.

  • Cost Savings. Integration between systems helps reduce cost in the long run as it reduces manual effort.
  • Error Reduction. Integration will automate your data workflow. It will do exactly what you tell it to do every time.
  • Scalability & Efficiency. Data sharing will help your organization scale faster and will automate low-value tasks.
  • Security. Automation is great at keeping information private as humans aren’t generally involved.
  • Standardization. Integrating the various systems across your organization will encourage you to streamline and standardize your operations/data.

When Shouldn’t You Integrate Your Data? 

Generally, integration between systems is considered a good thing. However, there are some exceptions. Some things to consider:

  • Highly Manual & Complex. Transactions that are highly varied and require substantial human review. For example, evaluating artwork or listening to audio.
  • Not Standard. When the format of the data isn’t consistent and can’t be standardized.
  • Some Systems Don’t Support Integration. Some older and legacy systems just don’t have the necessary components to allow data to be systematically imported or exported.
  • Changing Project Requirements. Generally, you don’t want to start integrating data until all the requirements are established and agreed to.
  • Upfront Costs. Integration projects can have a higher up-front cost. Generally, these costs are one-time and fixed. However, the cost can be cost-prohibitive to some projects.

Features of Good Integration

  • Scalability in Future. Can it grow with your organization?
  • Complete Traceability. Can you trace a transaction from start to finish? Can you see where the data is going?
  • Failure Recovery. Are there safeguards in place to ensure the system can recover and data isn’t lost?
  • System Upgrades. Can you change systems inside your organization without causing major disruption? For example, changing accounting systems.
  • Change in Business Process. Can your integration change as your organization changes? Is it flexible enough to deal with minor changes to the data without requiring major alterations?

What To Look For When Integrating

  • Repetitive. Tasks that are done a lot or in high frequency. 
  • Simple. Tasks that are clearly defined and standardized.
  • Timely. A task that needs to be done on a schedule, where timeliness matters.
  • Prone to Error. Tasks that are usually prone to clerical or human errors.
  • Security. Tasks with sensitive data which would not be ideal for humans to be involved with. (e.g., storing a password, charging a credit card, etc.)
  • Stored in a System. Tasks that are already contained inside a system and a database.

Where Is Our Data? What Can Be Integrated?

  • Your organization probably utilizes at least a half dozen or more systems.
  •  You should consider integrating your most used and widely accessed systems.
  • For example, accounting, customer relationship (CRM), order processing, enterprise resource planning (ERP), your organization’s website, and more.

Integration saves time, reduces resource requirements, reduces errors, improves efficiency, and promotes effectiveness

Much like an aircraft carrier in a military strike group, good integration and workflow automation is a force multiplier for any organization. It allows you to accomplish greater feats than without it. Computer code works 24-hours a day, seven days a week never gets sick, and doesn’t observe holidays. It’s working even when your staff is at home and finished for the day. 

Automated solutions will continue to work, processing orders, updating customer accounts, sending notifications, working with your vendors, and much more. The operating cost of these solutions is negligible compared to a single hour of employee time. Want to learn how to start integrating workflows? Learn Power Automate

Want to learn more about Integration? Check out our free podcast at CPE Today

Need custom integration solutions? Check out https://devmatics.io/services/integration/