What Is Systems Integration?
Why does your business need systems integration? Does your personal life need it too?
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Your business needs systems integration. Hey, you probably even need systems integration in your personal life. You might even be using systems integration already — without even realizing it.
Systems integration is a complex task that:
- connects disparate systems,
- to further automate business functions,
- which. in turn. causes fewer errors
- and helps people to do less manual work.
Systems Integration in Your Personal Life
If you own an Amazon Alexa or Google Home device, then you’re already using a product of systems integration. These central hubs let you control all of your other devices (or even search the internet) from the one device. Instead of fumbling around for the light switch and TV remote, you can now just say, “OK Google, turn on the lounge room light and turn on the TV” when you walk in the door.
You can even create more complex logic when you add in software like If This Then That. For instance, you could set up a trigger that’s fired when you ask for your sport’s team’s next game, which automatically sends a text message to your buddy to ask whether they’re keen to watch the game with you — if the time isn’t blocked out in your calendar!
Systems integration in the workplace is equally, if not more so, impressive.
Let’s Examine a Business Example of Systems Integration
Do you use ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software within your business? ERP is a series of integrated systems itself with modules such as Human Resources (including rostering, payroll, etc.), Project Management (such as project planning and resource planning), and Management Accounting (like budgeting and cost management). These systems all share data so you can see, for example, whether a particular employee has the time to work on a particular project next month.
Before ERP systems, organizations had to use disparate systems, each with their own data, making repetition and errors common. Many organizations still use these types of disparate systems as the cost of complete ERP packages can be high.
Even if you do have an ERP solution in place, is it everything your business requires? Or are there overlaps from other systems, such as your CRM?
Building Systems Integration Solutions
Building a systems integration solution is a complex task best guided by the help of a systems expert. With an expert along to help you, this means you won’t miss any crucial integrations and wind up with a solution that’s incomplete, ineffective, or outdated as soon as it is deployed.
The first step in your own organization’s systems integration journey is identifying possible workflows from system to system and mapping overlapping data. You should also take a closer look at any manual systems that could be completed by a computer to add to your final solution.
Once you have this overview, you can investigate the market to see if a ready-made solution already exists that encompasses the functionality you require — and that lies within your budget. It may come to be that a ready-made solution is near perfect, in which case, it’s often possible to purchase and build out smaller functionality to suit your needs.
For other businesses, who either want to keep their legacy systems or find existing solutions don’t quite fit all the business needs, you can seek a custom systems integration solution. This is when a software developer comes in and connects existing disparate systems, builds new GUIs to better access the data, and automates workflows between the systems. This is done by creating a common software interface — an overarching system to support each of the subsystems.
Systems integration solutions need to be built with flexibility in mind for future-proof solutions. This means designing solutions so that they are easy to plug in new modules later on down the track.
The Benefits of Systems Integration
By sharing data between systems, this means there are fewer errors caused by duplicate data — there is one single source of truth for any one piece of data.
By enabling the flow of data between systems, we can automate tasks that would’ve in the past meant opening up another application and copying over data.
By gathering data from disparate systems, we are able to provide a complete overview of the bigger picture in a new way.
By automating data transformations between systems we can avoid mistakes in manual calculations.
By providing a single, cohesive access point (GUI), employees can avoid having to use multiple different software applications throughout their day, which also means training for new modules is reduced, due to familiarity with the overall system.
Work between systems can be fluid, rather than stop-start as is often required from disparate systems.
Published at DZone with permission of Graham Church. See the original article here.
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