Integrate Your Business Applications to Achieve Maximum Impact and Enjoy These 4 Benefits
To manage their companies, successful business owners need the right tools, which often come in the form of software applications. According to an Intermedia report, the average small-to-midsize business uses 14.3 separate applications. These software systems address issues such as logistics, sales, marketing, accounting, human resource management and social media engagement.
But unless integrated, each individual application is an information silo, which limits businesses' ability to access data and obtain a clear picture of their operations. Application-integration, also referred to as enterprise application integration, allows you, as business owner, to achieve the maximum impact from each of your systems because you've linked them into an interactive whole.
Here are the benefits:
1. You can boost productivity.
With integrated applications, employee productivity may be improved across the board. Data entry, in particular, will experience a major productivity boost.
Rather than enter the same data into each software program, integration will allow data to be entered once and then correlated across all of the other applications. This approach has the added benefit of reducing opportunities for human error during the data entry process.
Integration also improves productivity by eliminating wait times. An employee in one department can access needed information from another department, rather than waiting for a return email, phone call or report. The opportunities for increased productivity will depend on your company, but integration will almost certainly have a positive impact on your bottom line.
2. You can access real-time data.
Your company’s success depends on access to timely and accurate data. With application integration, every department will have access to real-time data regardless of its origin within your organization. This will allow production, finance, marketing and sales to have accurate information about what is happening in the company so that leaders can manage operational effectiveness and develop long-term strategic plans.
Timely data also maximizes your organization’s ability to respond to market changes, since you have an accurate picture of what is happening and how the market is evolving. With this information, you can identify ways to get ahead of the curve rather than following the pack. Knowledge truly is power and application integration puts that power into your hands.
3. You can increase efficiencies.
Software system integration can increase your organization’s efficiencies across nearly all aspects of your operations. The process improves communication, since everyone is on the same page, and meetings can now focus on applying data rather than presenting it.
The information generated from an integrated system can also help identify potential supply chain issues, allowing you to address them before they negatively impact production or delivery. Efficiencies may also include improved operational functionality and a faster response to market trends or customer needs -- both of which can keep your business operating at peak performance.
4. You can improve customer experience.
Without the integration of your applications, customer data has to be housed across several independent information silos, such as lead generation, marketing, sales and fulfillment. Even when these activities are consolidated within one application, not every employee has access and those that do may not fully be aware of the data content.
An integrated system, on the other hand, provides companywide access to every aspect of a consumer’s experience related to your organization. This process allows employees to access and share relevant information with the customer and easily address issues, such as the fact that an item is out of stock.
With an integrated system, you can also respond to unhappy customers before situations escalate. For example, if an employee in order fulfillment receives a cancelation due to an unsatisfactory customer experience, this information becomes immediately available to marketing, sales, finance and other departments, so appropriate corrective steps can be taken. This level of responsiveness is key to obtaining and retaining customers, managing your online reputation and supporting your brand.
So, what are your integration options?
There are two basic options for integrating your software applications: hiring someone to create a custom integration system or utilizing an existing platform.
The option of a custom-integration system makes sense for small companies that use only a few common applications. However, there are three challenges with this choice.
- First, it is expensive, since creating a customized process will take significant time.
- Second, it is difficult to maintain because only your developer knows how everything fits together.
- Third, it is difficult to scale as your business grows.
Regarding the third challenge: A custom program can’t plug in new applications or expanded versions of existing ones. If you are starting small and plan to stay that way, this may be a good choice, but it isn’t if you anticipate growth.
There are several integrated platforms to choose from, such as Workato, MuleSoft and Red Hat JBoss Fuse; these are specifically priced and scaled to serve small-to-midsize businesses. Each integrates internal and/or out-of-the-box third-party software systems to achieve the productivity, efficiency, data access and customer support services you need.
The platforms are structured for quick implementation and ease of use. Pricing varies, but each can add, update or remove software programs as needed.