How many times have you stood in front of a retail counter or an airline desk, or spent valuable appointment time waiting for your doctor, nurse, attorney, or a service professional – while people looked up information in various software systems? Have you been passed around a company’s telephone system, hoping to find somebody who can help you and can see a transaction history?
As customers and clients, most of us know how frustrating it can be when a company’s systems are not integrated and people have a hard time helping you. It doesn’t give comfort to imagine that the same thing happens frequently within the organization, as well.
For trading partners and supplieras, poor systems integration can make the difference between a productive engagement based on shared goals and an unsatisfying relationship where you are made to wait, or receive incomplete or outdated information. Engaging with that kind of vendor or trading partner can quickly get expensive and inefficient.
Common business tasks can be similarly delayed and unproductive when people need to enter or look up information in multiple systems. It’s very easy to forget something or make an error when you need to overcome hurdles to do your work. When customers or finances are impacted, mistakes can be costly. At an executive level, poor integration often means that decisions are made without consideration of all pertinent facts.
When systems are not connected, it becomes easier to forget them if you’re not a habitual user. Certain data stores can then lose much of their insight-enabling and decision-driving value. Over time, these data islands can become vulnerable to theft and fraud. Once people realize their access to data stores is limited, they may request information and reports from IT, taking time away from more critical tasks.
Companies may disregard the business potential of integration because they don’t often stop to think about what it can help them accomplish. Integration is seen as a technical task that belongs to IT. However, it can have wide-ranging consequences. A few examples of what might happen if systems are well integrated across the company:
Systems integration is not as spectacular as virtual or augmented reality, 3D-printing, or other innovative technologies, but can help you bring about remarkable outcomes. The range of integration tools and tactics – including standard integration, data migration, EDI, and integration in the cloud – is not well known outside of IT. But becoming a little more familiar with it might pay off in terms of more productive employees, faster-moving processes, and happier customers.