System Integration: Why Does Business Need It
It is quite common to use various IT tools and applications for different tasks of a company's operation. But once companies expand their business functions, they might find themselves lost while dealing with these overwhelmingly disjointed tools that are not able to share data or collaborate. This is when we need to leverage system integration.
Some existing methods and techniques used to combine separate pieces of software and hardware into one ecosystem will be examined within this article. This means that in this article, we will cover the key stages of integration and the role of the system integrator.
System integration and its benefits
System integration refers to the process of combining software and hardware components into a united infrastructure that allows all parts to function as a whole, which is called system integration. Sometimes it is also referred to as IT integration or software integration. Technically speaking, it can bring the following benefits to your business:
- Provide one single version of the truth to manage data. An integrated system allows data to be updated simultaneously across all separate parts of the system. As a result, all departments will be able to access the most up-to-date version of data and stay on the same page.
- Enable data-driven decisions making. You no longer need to manually download and export data to use in your departments since data no longers disperse across siloed storage like it used to anymore. Thus, performing data analytics is much easier and quicker. Having a complete picture of all the information can help you obtain valuable insights for your business and make the right decisions in a more rapid way.
- Improve the performance. As integrated systems enable business organizations to streamline and manage all the daily processes, the efficiency of the entire workflow can be increased significantly. Since employees can easily get access to all the data of the company resides across various apps whenever they need it, from a single point of entry - employees will be able to get more work done in lesser time.
- Cost-saving. More often than not, the cost of system integration is typically less than the cost of replacing all the separate tools with a new single system. Not to mention the complexity of the implementation process of the new IT environment.
Types of systems integration
Depending on the different business needs, the following are the most common types of integrated systems.
Obsolete software is still being used by various companies for many of their critical business processes. However, it is a challenge to remove or replace those outdated systems with the latest technology due to the fact that those legacy apps are deeply integrated into the daily business workflow. Rather than doing so, it can be much easier to modernize the old system by building a communication channel with more latest information systems and technology solutions.
Example: connecting an on-premises legacy accounting system to a data warehouse for advanced analytics or a modern SaaS CRM solution.
Business applications integration
Business growth can be enhanced by incorporating enterprise applications together which allows organizations to streamline their front- and back-office processes. Thus, the overall purpose of enterprise apps integration is to combine different subsystems inside one business environment. These applications typically do not share convergence points, whilst accumulating large volumes of data separately. With EAI (Enterprise Application Integration), all functions are brought together into one business chain while the process of real-time data exchange between different applications is automated.
For example, an ecosystem for a company's accounting, inventory management, human resources, CRM systems, and ERP (enterprise resource planning) can be created.
Third-party system integration
This type of integration is to scale up the current capabilities and functionalities of the existing system within the company
If your company is looking for new features but doesn't want to afford custom software development or is lack of patience to build them from scratch, you'd better consider using the integration of third-party tools.
For example, connecting an existing application with online payment gateway (such as Paypal, Stripe, Credit Cards Payments, etc.), Social media marketing (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), Salesforce CRM integration, and others.
Regardless of the situation, the main goal of system integration is always the same. It's about combining different types of independent parts into an integrated network. Next, we will move to examine existing technologies and architecture models that can have a huge impact on integration.
Things to consider for an efficient system integration process
By combining data and systems, organizations can have their business operations streamlined and have them reach maximum transparency. If implementing an effective integration and achieving immediate ROI are what you are longing for, there are a number of key factors that you need to take into consideration, as follows:
System Integration Implementation Steps
Planning and Identifying Integration Requirements
Evaluating the business applications that need to be integrated and devise an integration strategy are the very first step in any integration process. You are supposed to identify the scope, time, and cost of your integration project.
Here, try to make a detailed lists of your existing software as well as its functionality and technical specifications, while identifying all the requirements for integration. Besides, any potential risks should be mentioned in your plan, so are the ways to address them.
Furthermore, you are also supposed to have detailed blueprints of how systems will interact with other extended systems. One of those common integration types mentioned before can be chosen in this step, or perhaps, a custom architecture will be designed in order to meet your specific business needs. This step requires the most labor-intensive and has the most impact on the system integration process due to its great importance in outlining the integration model, methods, and process. At this stage, both the preliminary design and physical design are created.
You should try to make the implementation phase short to avoid potential problems resulting from possible changes that happen during integration. Before going-live and introducing the newly integrated systems to business users, it is essential to conduct systems testing, ensuring that all components are faultlessly interconnected, with no data loss occur during the process of transmission.
Change is inevitable during the integration process, thus, Scrum Agile project management metholody can be considered to help your team quickly adapt to the changing environment brought on by the newly integrated systems.
Last but not least, it is recommended to schedule regular system maitenance so that all components can operate properly and that there are no errors occurring.
How Does A System Integrator Help?
A system integrator (abbreviated as SI) can be an individual or a software development company that is able to integrate separate software applications acquired from different vendors and make those sub-systems work in a seamless and compatible way with one another.
If implementing system integration in-house, you will have to deal with various tasks, such as planning, adjusting, testing, and ensuring the integrated systems get checked-up and maintained as regularly as possible.
Despite having the best built-in technology, it is of little value without human's technical expertise and experience. Thus, it could be better for you to leverage the services of system integrators with all the resources and experience you need rather than to design and build your own integration project on your own.
If you want to save time and effort, employing the services provided by a system integrator might be the best option. You can start by looking for vendors that have the necessary experience working on previous integration projects similar to yours to help manage your systems integration. You can achieve several advantages by working with a system integrator as they have expertise and resources that clients' in-house teams often lack.