Systems integration may be the answer for your expanding business
If your business is experiencing high growth, you may wonder whether there’s a better way to manage your expansion than to continue using several disparate applications that do not work across all of the areas of your business. The good news is that a solution does exist: systems integration.
Systems integration essentially links various computer systems and software applications, making information shareable across all of the departments in an organisation.
Types of System Integration
There are essentially four types of system integration: horizontal, vertical, star and common data format.
1) Horizontal Integration
Horizontal integration’s main feature is the creation of a single subsystem from which all other subsystems interface. The single subsystem format also allows replacement with another subsystem if necessary, without any effect to any of the associated subsystems.
2) Vertical Integration
This integration type sees subsystems being integrated according to their functionality. This is done by creating ‘data silos’ with basic functions at their base, and with higher-functioning programs moving upward.
3) Star Integration
Star integration connects each single subsystem to multiple subsystems. When depicted in visual format, these connections take on a star formation, hence the name.
4) Common Data Format
This solution involves setting a common format, which eliminates the need for the adapter to convert between several application formats.
The Risks of Not Having an Integrated System
There are many downsides to not having an integrated system, especially for those companies experiencing high rates of growth. Challenges can arise from not having an integrated solution which can actually cause a business to become less productive, as well as grow more slowly.
Cost and Complexity
Such a high number of disparate applications can also be very time-consuming and costly to use as well as maintain. As well, even after new versions of applications have been obtained, it can sometimes mean that even more maintenance is required than before.
Lack of Confirmation of Real-Time Activity
With time and effort, a business can see all aspects of its operations. But this information can take a lot of time to source, extract and analyse. As a result, many businesses simply do not bother to try and acquire the information, thereby resulting in a lack of real-time data to review, forcing them to either make slow critical decisions or hasty decisions without any solid data. This can put a business well behind its competition.
Without an integrated system, your employees may spend hours re-entering data into a single system. This can mean that more hours end up being spent dealing with the entering and modification of data than analysing that data or increasing the efficiency of their customer service department, which reduces the company agility that’s critical to continued growth.
The Benefits of Implementing a Systems Integration Solution
When a system is integrated, a business’s operations and business functions can work together seamlessly. However, there are many additional benefits to system integration.
Completion of Higher Quality Work
Introducing more technology to a business integration project can give staff more time to complete their tasks, ultimately allowing them to complete work that’s more meaningful, such as the building and nurturing of customer relationships.
Better Customer Service
As stated previously, the implementation of system integration frees up more time, allowing staff to complete more meaningful tasks like customer service. The ability to quickly and efficiently respond to the needs of customers will only increase their likelihood of singing the praises of your company.
Integrated systems involve the connecting of data from all departments, including financial. When an integrated system is functioning at optimal levels, the result is the ability to know where your money is going, allowing you to better plan how it is spent.
Higher Rate of Sales
Online or offline, integrated systems can drastically improve your business’s bottom line. This is because they help make it easier for customer to purchase the products and services you provide. The More effortless your purchasing process, the better your chances of persuading customers to buy more from you.
An integrated system can greatly reduce the amount of time previously taken to complete tasks, resulting in more time for other activities such as team building or vacations.
Faster and More Efficient Processing
From accounting to order management, system integration can dramatically improve efficiency, regardless of department. When such process are automated, there is no need to spend money on new hired to manage them.
When a company’s information technology, business cultures and objectives have been synchronized, and its goals and business strategy aligned with technology, it can be in a far better position to grow than it ever was previously. As well, doing this can allow a company to have and keep a solid position in the marketplace, ultimately making it more of a threat to the competition and more visible to potential customers and investors.
Beata GREEN is Managing Director of HeadChannel Ltd., London based bespoke software development company. She is responsible for overall strategic direction and overseeing the company’s continuing growth, building closer client relationships and maintaining best working practices. She enjoys brisk country walks with her red fox labrador and then relaxing in front of a TV crime drama with a glass of red wine.