Every organization depends on a variety of systems to get work done, and they usually exist in siloes scattered across the enterprise. This makes it almost impossible to have full visibility into the overall performance of the business, especially in rapidly growing organizations. Purposeful integration connects people, systems and things that matter and provides business insight, so leaders have all the information they need to make informed decisions faster.
A fully integrated information ecosystem streamlines your organization’s data across all platforms for all users. On the front-end, the experiences your employees and customers have are simplified and more personalized. Behind the scenes, tight integration makes your systems more robust and your data more contextualized.
Integration matters because it helps everyone: employees, lines of business (LOB), industries and partner ecosystems. Even more importantly, it establishes a future-proof foundation for growth: 80% of business operations leaders say integration is critical to their success (Forbes, Mar 2020).
Streamlined processes enable employees to complete their regular tasks in a less stressful and more efficient manner, giving them time to focus on value-adding tasks. They transition from manual data entry and information transfer across disparate business applications—each with its own tedious, time-consuming login and required format—to focusing on the outcomes they’re trying to achieve and for whom they’re trying to achieve them. Integration leads to increased productivity, creativity, and morale.
With integration, LOB processes become more efficient and less prone to error, complex processes are simplified, and friction that may be caused by manually transferring data is reduced. As the information flow speeds up, productivity increases, and operational costs decrease. As information is connected within context, the business also gains visibility through better reporting and reduced risk with simplified governance.
Through integration, your organization can connect with IoT (Internet of Things) devices and third parties, such as suppliers, partners, customers and shareholders, each of whom have their own unique information needs. It enables suppliers to keep track of raw-material levels, partners to stay up to date on products and programs, and customers to follow inventory—all in real time. Through integration organizations are improving their resilience to disruptions, security, and accelerating time to value. Organizations are more connected with their supply chain and partner ecosystems than ever before, and the need for reliable, accurate and timely exchanges with suppliers and partners has never been more important than now.
Purposeful integration is no longer just an option, but something that every organization should be working toward. In fact, Forrester recommends organizations plan to fully integrate from the beginning. The benefits speak for themselves:
Working in separate business applications—logging in and out, searching for and re-entering the same data again and again, creating new tickets and process—simply stretches out work. Capturing information and integrating it into the context of business processes eliminates waste and can provide a big boost to productivity by reallocating resources from effort- and time-consuming work, such as payroll processing, fulfillment, expense management and invoicing.
The cost of working with various systems and projects can be quite high. Each program requires specific attention from your IT department and support and overhauls can be tedious and expensive. And they might not work. Although there is a price for integration, the return on investment is significant and growing.
Reduced risk of error
No one wants to be the one to blame the human, but purposeful integration significantly cuts down on the need for data recapture. This translates to fewer human errors in data collection and processing and ensures workflows are not left on a desk or in a siloed system and keeps them moving to meet deadlines.
Stronger customer loyalty
System integration provides a complete view of the customer and enables your organization to use the data collected from buying journeys, profiling and segmentation, interactions, testing and more to personalize and improve customer experiences. It also reduces friction along the journey for users and helps make every customer touchpoint more significant and more positive.
Stronger foundation for the future
Instead of maintaining multiple systems, worrying about the integrations required across these platforms and monitoring which applications and systems are up to date, your IT department can spend more time future-proofing your organization: helping to find ways to optimize your business processes and increase the security of your critical infrastructure and creating a foundation for AI and automation.
Even though system integration is by all accounts where organizations are heading, there are some things to keep top-of-mind when moving toward full integration:
The question of security
Just as employees can access everything with one login and decision-makers have all the data they need to work with, one misrepresentation or hack could gain access to all your data instead of one part of it. Look for vendors that are leaders in security software and can help your organization build a complete platform for securing information across the enterprise and beyond—from the network to the endpoint.
Not always a DIY project
Full integration across the enterprise is not the easiest of DIY projects. The project can be unpredictable and tedious for your IT group, so you may want to consider products that offer process-focused integration out of the box and leverage the expertise of an integration managed services provider—both of which could save your organization a considerable amount of time and money in the end.
Initial cost of integration
Like any big project, there is an initial cost you will have to prepare for, but the rewards are becoming very clear: according to the Gartner 2019 Business Application Integration Survey, respondents reported increases in employee productivity (15%), improvements in project delivery (50%), increases in online user metrics (30-40%), higher efficiency for order processing (33%), increases in associated revenue (10%) and improvements in financial postings (20%).
Purposeful system integration is critical to scaling a future-proof digital business. The question is how are you going to do it? You need to discover proven integration initiatives that could be critical to your business.