As a business owner, you initially base the software you purchase for a specific need that you want to solve. As your business scales, the number of different softwares you use to begin to accumulate as do your firms’ needs. Undoubtedly you will want to keep the best systems – but the multitude of software can become confusing and negatively impact your workflow.
A system integration is where you connect two different pieces of software together so that actions can be communicated from one to another.
Integration is a fantastic option for businesses that are operating a number of different systems and do not want to go through the hassle of copying data manually from one to another. It also eliminates the frustration of having siloed teams working off different information.
Reducing the time spent on different software systems allows business resources to be spent responding to customer needs and bringing in revenue for the business.
What are the steps to take if I want to connect my systems?
While a system integration may be a great option for your business, the process itself can be lengthy and costly if not done correctly. It’s important to first sit down as a business and walk through your current systems and long term needs with a specialist.
Step 1. Identify Your Needs
Companies too often make the mistake of investing in new software without mapping the workflow experience of their employees. The smoothest system integration in the world is meaningless if employees do not find the workflow easier or simpler.
The first step is to meet with your team, managers and integration specialist to outline the bottlenecks in your process. Then, you can determine a list of daily or weekly tasks that have gone to auto-pilot and people don’t need to spend mindless energy on.
Here are some questions to consider:
How much double entry is occurring to pass data from one department to another?
How much time do we spend on emails for simple handoffs?
How about for communicating requirements that should be readily accessible in one place?
Identifying these pain points can help pinpoint which systems and processes need the most attention.
Step 2. Analyze Your Current Systems
Prior to thinking about what to integrate, you need to analyze the current state and primary drivers in your company. Businesses may want a certain function connected, but it may not address the problem that employees are facing.
In a larger company, you might have different teams using different systems to do similar jobs. For instance, there may be a project team using Asana and another using Trello.
By using integrations to help bring about one source of truth and one coherent data set, you can eliminate one-off systems that come with those shortcomings.
Step 3. The Design Phase
During the design phase, you need to account for all the inputs and outputs you’re expecting and create a design that will tackle these scenarios.
For example, some systems prefer to just dump/send data out in flat (Excel) like files. For such cases, you will need some kind of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) connection. Some systems have direct API access and you can extract and update data using simple techniques.
A key part of an integration is making sure that the transfer of data is seamless, otherwise, it can lead to inaccuracies and issues. You need to plan out the ‘when’ and the ‘what’ of your data flow.
An integration platform such as Workato relies on the use of ‘recipes’ to map the process through a series of triggers and actions so to make your integration an easy step by step process.
There are a number of systems that do not offer the capability of real-time data synchronization between platforms or easy access to extract data. Thus, your specialist can help design a way to move data automatically on a schedule.
Step 4. Execution
Once the entire process is designed, it is nearly ready to go live. The last steps involve testing to make sure the automations in the workflow and the data transfers occur flawlessly.
Once deployed, you need to be in a constant feedback loop, gathering bugs and enhancements from your primary users (employees typically) to maintain their engagement.
Step 5. Support
One of the benefits of working with a quality integration provider is the ability to review any changes needed even after the new system integration is live. As a company grows and acquires new software, having an integration provider with intimate knowledge of your business process is invaluable for effective technology consulting.
Choosing to automate elements in your business process that negatively impact your employees’ workflow will pay huge dividends in increasing performance, satisfaction, and your bottom line.
While the process itself may seem difficult, having a team with clear communication working on your integration project can make going through each phase a lot simpler.
If you need help getting started with a system integration, meet with our specialists and get a complete integrations mapping for $100.