Whether your business strategy right now is to hire top talent, understand your customers better, or examine market trends, data always plays a crucial role.
By data, we mean the information about your employees, customers, business assets, etc. that are stored in your different systems such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, human resource (HR) software, and IT service management solution.
Harnessing this data requires you to mesh together these siloed systems so that information sharing is seamless between them. With faster and easier access to data, you can better track the performance of business verticals such as employee productivity, sales, and operations.
In this blog, we’ll help you understand how you can go about creating an integrated digital ecosystem using software integrations.
Software integrations, also known as application integrations, allow you to connect a group of related applications to fulfill critical business requirements. Gartner defines it as the process of enabling independently designed applications to work together.
The working together of applications or software happens at multiple levels, such as:
Sharing and storing copies of the same data between different applications
Accessing functionalities of different software from a single interface
Integrating the flow of activities between disparate systems
Software integration happens between two different software applications. When applications integrate, they share information, which saves you time and reduces errors by automatically updating data in the linked applications.
Below are some of the common ways you can integrate software applications:
1. Application programming interface (API): API integration has become the standard way of connecting computer programs, including applications, websites, and databases. APIs are a set of common code languages that allows computer programs to access and share each other's functionalities or data.
2. Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS): These are cloud-based integration service platforms that offer the environment for developing integration flows between both on-premise and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications.
3. Enterprise bus service (EBS): EBS are tools that sit in the middle and facilitate data exchange between two or more applications. EBS solutions are typically used by large companies, in a service-oriented architecture (SOA)*, to connect internal enterprise applications.
SOA is a style of building applications as a collection of self-contained but loose parts that can be reused by other applications.
Software integrations link your existing or new tools so they can easily share data and functionalities.
Let's consider project management (PM) tools. These solutions allow you to plan project timelines, assign tasks to team members, and track their completion. However, to effectively manage projects, your teams will typically use a range of other solutions too, such as chat applications, file sharing tools, or email software.
Integrating your PM solution with these systems can help your employees work faster and more efficiently. For instance, integration with email software could allow employees to instantly turn emails into tasks. To learn more about PM software integrations, check out our report on the integration leaders in project management software.
Below are some more examples of software integration:
Social media integration: This integration can happen via a Twitter or Facebook API that automatically updates your accounts whenever you publish content on your website or blog.
CRM integration: The integration can be between your CRM tool and email marketing software. This can make it easy to create and trigger email campaigns right from your CRM software or, conversely, receive email alerts for any changes to client information in the CRM. Learn more about CRM integration and the integration leaders in this category.
IT service management (ITSM) integration: ITSM integration is a complex process that connects many different kinds of solutions. The integration allows data exchange between tools such as ticketing software, IT asset management software, and license management solution to automate the tracking and reporting of service requests from internal and external users.
As a company grows, so does its requirement for software solutions. However, along with purchasing software, businesses also need to ensure that different systems work cohesively.
Software integrations become critical to facilitate the easy exchange of information between different systems. This reduces the errors that employees may make when manually entering data into multiple disconnected systems.
With software integration, systems become connected, which saves businesses time as they get a consolidated view of processes from a single system. For instance, if you’re considering purchasing a new HR system, such as absence and leave management software, then finding one that integrates with your accounting solution will help you make faster and more accurate payroll calculations.
While software integrations help businesses execute tasks faster and improve employee productivity, they can also become a burden, especially for small businesses with low IT expertise and small budgets.
Managing integrations between multiple systems can become complex and long-drawn when requirements evolve later on, such as having to add new data or more users to the systems. You need to ensure that the software vendors (of the systems being integrated) are capable of managing the integrations with changes to your business requirements.
Also, it’s not enough just to have integrated systems. The systems need periodic updates and bug fixes from their vendors to avoid performance issues. Some vendors might charge you extra for support costs; you might also need to invest in an IT team for the upkeep of system integrations.
Finally, different vendors charge differently for system integrations. Some vendors charge a one-time fee, while some charge every time their API is called, which can skyrocket the cost of the integration.
To ensure you are investing in the right software integrations, you need to have these top considerations in mind.
How much does software integration cost? Integrations can be as simple as plugins that allow you to automatically post blogs on a social media channel. Or they can be complex, such as a bank automatically filing compliance reports by calling on the APIs provided by regulatory bodies. Typically, the more complex the integration requirement, the more money you’ll have to invest.
Should I integrate all of our existing software solutions? The answer depends on your business needs and the overall ROI on software integration.
For instance, when integrating a CRM solution with an email tool, consider the importance of email to your business. Is email marketing one of the major ways you acquire customers? If yes, then such an integration can be worthwhile.
Also, consider the time and money that will be required. If the vendors of both the solutions have built-in integrations for each other, then it may just take a few days. However, if you need to request both vendors for bespoke integration, the process might become expensive and take longer.
Will integration compromise the security of my data? Software integrations invariably require you to share data between different systems. This can be a security concern if unauthorized users get access to sensitive client data.
You need to ensure that systems holding sensitive data have adequate data protection measures, such as data encryption and backup, to ensure information is not lost or compromised.
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