By Henning Lund - June 09, 2021
Data integration and software integration have become much more than buzz words. Integration has become a systematic part of most companies' business transformation plans. This is because people have understood that data transformation and business processes optimization are closely linked.
What will you gain from integrating systems? Aren’t software integration projects typically very long and expensive, and doomed to fail? Let’s take a closer look at it and bust the myths.
Software integration refers to the process of connecting two or more applications or software solutions together. The purpose of this connection is to avoid data silos and allow everybody in an organization to work with the same, consistent data.
In order to perform software integration, you need an integration software (also called data integration solution or tool).
Software integration and data integration are almost one and the same thing, but they are a bit different anyway. They serve different purposes.
In software integration (or application integration), the focus is set on connecting business software or applications in order to streamline some cumbersome processes. The integration is made point by point to help employees perform their business tasks in a more efficient way.
In data integration, the main focus is to ensure that the company’s data is combined in one single data repository. This way, you have only one version of the truth. Your aim is to consolidate data from disparate sources to ensure that the data stored is accurate and of high quality.
Data integration is working at database level, while software integration connects at application level.
If you have multiple software systems that process the same type of data (for example customer or product data), you can integrate the systems to avoid double data-entry. and streamline your processes.
You can also use software integration to streamline your business processes. You will avoid having to switch between systems during a work process. For example, in a lead to cash process, you would have to switch from your CRM and ERP software systems in order to perform the task.
Integrating multiple systems is not necessarily a difficult task. There are different ways of doing it. You can have custom-built interfaces, for example import/export of data, which is the simplest way to move data. It is often used to do migration.
You can use a generic data integration platform like Microsoft BizTalk to develop your own interfaces from scratch. Alternatively, you can use a data integration platform like RapidiOnline that provides ready-to-use data integration templates.
There are many different integration methods, for example Uniform Data Access, Common Data Storage, Application based integration or using a Common User Interface. As a basic tool, ETL is often used to “extract, Transform and Load” data from one data source system to another.
Generally, many system integration tools like RapidiOnline have been specifically developed to make software integration easy.
In the era of big data, combining data between two software systems has to be worry-free. Often, when people run into problems, it is related to infrastructure settings such as a firewall. Firewall issues can be solved simply by updating settings.
Other issues could come from poor data quality or redundant data. If you already have a lot of data in both systems before integrating, the records have to be linked in order to sync the information.
If you have been migrating multiple companies into one database, you may have duplicate or incomplete records. If this is the case, you often need to clean up your data before it makes sense to sync with other systems.
When asked, most people answer that they need to have real time data integration. While in fact, most of them do not need it. Real time software integration is definitely doable and if you pick it, you are sure to always have updated data. The reality is that 99% of all companies do not need it.
The issue with real time integration is that most companies would have to update their IT infrastructure in order to have it. In addition to that, poor data quality would make the real time data integration process very challenging.
In the time of big data, companies collect and exchange huge amounts of data and data sets every day. This would require advanced data management (to know what data is relevant and what is not) and very few companies have reached that point.
Most software integration platform vendors claim they can do data integration in less than 30 days. This is reasonable, considering that they often have to build the integration from scratch.
With a more specialized system integration solution like RapidiOnline, you can get the integration working within 5 to 10 days. This is because RapidiOnline comes out-of-the box with the pre-defined templates (standard integration).
Most companies running both an ERP and a CRM want to integrate these two systems to get a unified view of their customer data. Companies can of course integrate other systems, such as product databases, configurators, customer survey systems, or other data services. Learn about the Top 4 reasons for ERP and CRM integration.
The more data you integrate between your systems, the better ROI you will get. If you have very simple needs, an import/export feature might be enough and may not even cost you anything.
If you want to automate processes and have data integration running automatically, you should be prepared to pay 400 to 1500 Euros per month (subscription model). This will give a very fast positive return on your integration investment because of the time saved on automated processes.
In reality, it is not about how expensive the integration is, but rather about how much you can potentially gain from it.
With integrated systems, you have more productive and motivated employees. This is because they have better insights and they don’t have to switch between systems during their work processes. You get better data quality because you have eliminated manual double data entries and because the data flows more consistently.
Software system integration also gives you better reporting possibilities. You can use this to improve traditional reporting and define more sophisticated target groups, trending analysis and predictive actions.
When you automate central processes like lead to cash, you reach a whole new level of efficiency, enabling you to grow your business.
Today, getting software integration up and running can be very simple and fast. Integrating systems is typically a big wish from a lot of people in any organization. Often, the only thing holding management back is a fear that it is complicated, risky and expensive. This short Q&A should help you overcome your software system integration fears and motivate you to get started with your project.