No matter how many innovative tools your business is using, they may turn out to be counterproductive when working separately. The latest technologies help your company to remain competitive only when they are properly integrated. Even though only a few businesses have heard of connecting various components and features into one and even fewer organisations have experienced its benefits, system integration is a must.
The reason why the term and what it refers to are not as popular as business intelligence tools or e-commerce solutions is that system integration has already been practised for almost half a century. Despite its long history and the fact that it is a great approach to save time and money, many companies have still not decided to change the way they access their tools. If you happen to work in one of those companies, let me explain to you what system integration actually is.
What is system integration
The easiest way to explain system integration is to describe it as putting various hardware or software elements together so that they can work as one. When all of the independent components function as a whole, they can ensure seamless connectivity and thus let an organisation succeed. The process, however, is nowhere near easy and smooth, as system integrators must make sure that old and new components, all coming from different vendors, cooperate without harming valuable data at the same time.
What is a system integrator
As system integration is a complicated and rather risky operation, it takes more than a group of amateurs to perform it. The safest way is to hire a company or a team of professionals to handle it – because this is what a system integrator is. Their aim is to ensure that all of the subsystems enable the data to flow between the applications.
It takes a lot of time and effort to become a professional and valuable time integrator. They have to be fluent in a variety of technologies, as the components they integrate are often both old and new, and serve a different purpose. However, a system integrator should also possess soft skills. In order to perform a smooth integration, they need to envision the outcome as a whole, understand the requirements of their customers and translate them into actual needs.
How system integration works
If you have been following our blog, you will most probably notice the similarities between developing a bespoke software which I have discussed here and integrating several systems into one. The steps of both life cycles are nearly the same.
The process of system integration begins with gathering requirements. A system integrator seeks to discover how the customers expect the components to work both separately and together. After that, a thorough analysis helps the professionals to understand the possibilities of the subsystems and to start building the system architecture. Only then system integration can be developed, tested and implemented.
System integration vs. point-to-point integration
As opposed to system integration, there is point-to-point integration which is often described as an easier and quicker way to put together several components into one. It may be a good solution if you wish to integrate two or three subsystems and no more, as this method is based on connecting each part with another separately. Unlike system integration, it does not create one system, rather an infrastructure of multiple constituents, which may harm the data and make it impossible for your organisation to meet business demands and goals. In addition, when your company evolves and needs to expand the integration, any new component must be linked to every other already existing unit.
Advantages of system integration
System integration does exist to simplify your work, but the reason why it has been used for many years now is that there are many more benefits you can experience after having your systems integrated. After all, system integration is the base for one of the hottest technology trends nowadays, which is the Internet of Things. Here are four main advantages of system integration:
- Time – using several systems equals the necessity of switching from one platform to another in order to perform specific business tasks. The problem is there is no link between the applications, this creates the need to type the same data several times into several different systems. Having the systems integrated eliminates this problem, enabling data to flow between the components in real time. Data is also translated for all the platforms to be read properly.
- Data – the greatest advantage of system integration is improved data accessibility. By being able to read data from every platform you use, you can start collecting and analysing it. The results will no longer be artificial, as the data will be seen as a whole and not as separate. In the long term, system integration leads to better decision-making and business growth in general.
- Cooperation – having the systems integrated, all of the participants of different organisations can now share more information in real time, with a few clicks. Every change you make can be viewed by the rest of the company and there is no necessity for both sides to send updates or introduce them to multiple computer systems, as it is done for you automatically. You can now focus on improving your performance.
- Costs – Integrating your systems allows you to save money in two ways. By using just one application instead of several, you spend less time on introducing data to the system and thus reduce energy consumption. Another way is being able to integrate your financial system as well, which allows you to track your incomes and expenses more accurately. In the case of online stores, system integration can easily boost your sales by making it easier for your customers to access your data and purchase your product. Having more time, you can also improve your customer service.
Disadvantages of system integration
Despite the fact that system integration has many advantages, there is a great danger, which every business should pay close attention to, and it is:
- Security – when using multiple platforms, you limit the probability of having all of your data stolen by hackers. Accessing all of your systems one by one is possible but is also time-consuming. On the other hand, when you integrate your systems and store all of your data in one place, there is a bigger threat that your company may be hacked. That is why you need to make sure your system is secured and your business can avoid cyber attacks.
TO SUM UP
Nowadays, having your systems integrated is a necessity if you want your business to remain competitive. It helps you to save both time and money, but more importantly, it allows you to analyse the data and make sure the results are more reliable and of the highest quality.