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Methods, types, pros and cons of system integration

Angelika Agapow
Angelika Agapow
Content Marketing Specialist
August 31
10 min

Introduction

Systems integration is essential for any business – it not only improves communication between companies but is also needed to improve internal collaboration.

Current technological development allows companies around the world to use new technologies and thus to migrate digital systems. At first, many organizations were concerned about the changes but after some time they could see the real benefits. Nowadays, every company has to decide what to do – at some point there comes a time for everyone.

What will be the best option to manage a fast-growing business? Often, however, this decision comes too late, and by that point, the steps that were taken result in the inefficiency of business processes and create new challenges you have to face during the software integration. Let’s check out the pros and cons of system integrations!

What is system integration?

System integration is simply the process of combining subsystems into one large system. By definition, it is the process of combining various IT systems, software, and services to enable them to work together in a functional way.

Why does your company need a system integration?

If you have not performed a system integration yet, you should know that such a procedure will improve the efficiency and quality of your operations. System integration will speed up the flow of information within the company, as well as reduce operating costs. Although, it’s worth mentioning that integration doesn’t have to include only your internal systems, but also those of other companies you work with.

Nowadays, most companies are fully digitized, and this guarantees better work results and management. Of course, this is not a guarantee of smooth sailing through the business world, but it makes things much easier.

Let’s use an example: You own a company and have several departments, but they are not integrated with each other. Some have better-updated systems than others, or one department can’t access the information it needs from another department.

There are things that both the finance and human resources departments need, and yet the sales department sometimes needs to look at it, too. Everything needs to be shared in one space.

Of course, you can use a variety of applications and tools, but over time you can get lost and feel overwhelmed by the number of them. That’s why systems integration is such an important step.

Systems integration is carried out by specialists who can integrate separate applications from different vendors so that they run smoothly and work together. However, if you are planning such a huge step without hiring a SI, you can face some challenges such as planning, testing, etc. Such activities may not be very effective without the technical knowledge and experience involved. Hiring the right person for the job is definitely a time and effort saver.

Types of system integration

There are different types of system integration and the implementation process depends on the business needs of a particular company.

 

Legacy applications integration

Many companies are still using obsolete software, but the real challenge is to replace it with a new technology since people can get used to something that is already deeply integrated in some way with the company’s daily operations. This is where integration involves modernizing the system by adding a communication channel based on new technology.

 

Business applications integration

The purpose of this integration is to connect the various subsystems that are inside of one business environment. Such a procedure will support the company’s growth and improve front-office and back-office processes. All functions are combined into a single chain and the process of real-time data exchange is automated.

 

Third-party system integration

With this integration, you scale up what is already available. A company looking for new and interesting features without custom software development should use a third-party integration. For example, you can connect an existing application with a payment gateway such as PayPal. Many independent elements will be combined to work together.

Stages of systems integration implementation

Integrations can be carried out on your own, although this is not recommended due to the fact that you need more technical knowledge in this area. Nevertheless, we would like to present step by step how it should be done.

 

Integration planning and requirements analysis

The first step is to make a general assessment of the applications which should be Integrated and to define an appropriate strategy. The most important thing is always to determine the scope of the integration, timing, and the potential cost of the whole project. Detailed lists of software and technical specifications will be needed, as well as identifying potential risks associated with the entire process.

 

Creating a project

Create detailed plans for how your systems should work. Maybe you will need some custom architecture that needs to be designed for your business? Perhaps one of the basic types of integration will be enough, but it depends on the particular company. This is the hardest stage of integration, as it has the biggest impact on the whole process – you need to determine the integration model and method of implementation.

 

Implementation process

This phase should be short. Before the integrated systems are put into general use, you need to run a load of tests and make sure that everything is connected as it needs to be and that no data is lost in the transmission process.

 

Maintaining the system

An important and final step is to schedule regular maintenance of the system so that there will be no surprises and all components can work properly.

The methods of system integration

Now we’ll briefly introduce the most popular methods of systems integration. They include:

 

Point-to-point integration

Some people say it isn’t a typical system integration because it lacks the complexity of standard integration, however, it’s still a method of connecting one system to another so they can work together. Most often, this integration is offered as a product – ready-made integration modules for the most popular IT systems.

 

Vertical integration

The vertical integration method involves integrating system components by creating functional silos – starting with the basic one. It’s a very easy method, covering a limited number of systems, but the downside is that it’s difficult to manage, since any new function will require its own silo. However, such integration can be a good choice when you need an integration with only a single function.

 

Horizontal integration

Horizontal integration means that a separated subsystem is used as a shared interface layer between the subsystems. This means that each subsystem has one interface and uses it to communicate with all the others. But how does this work in practice? 10 systems are 10 connections. Simple, right? Here the advantage is that you don’t have to create new interfaces even if you change or replace a subsystem with another one.

 

Star integration

This integration involves connecting subsystems using point-to-point connections. With such integration, the functionality of the whole is improved, but as the number of systems grows, it becomes a challenge when it comes to management. Perhaps we can visualize it. Connecting, for example, 10 systems will require something about 45 separate integrations, and when there is a change in one system, we have to fix 9 other connections again. Sometimes they call it spaghetti integration because it is so tangled.

Pros of system integrations

System integration like everything has pros and cons, but now we will focus on the advantages of such a process. Let’s see what you can gain!

 

  • Easy decision-making based on data

Thanks to the integration, you don’t have to manually download and export data, because it is shared and not located only in specific systems. Now you can easily make quick analysis and faster decisions.

 

  • Improved productivity

Your company’s productivity will be boosted, as employees will be able to easily access data from different applications whenever they need to, and therefore complete more tasks than without an integrated system.

 

  • Cost reduction

Generally, the cost of integration is lower than investing in new tools and applications for a single system. After integration, you don’t have to store data in many different stores, so the cost of providing data space goes down.

 

  • Convenience of operation

With the ability to store data in one place instead of several, you can avoid waiting a long time for the manual synchronization of data on multiple systems. In this case, when you modify one subsystem, the data for other systems is updated automatically. An additional advantage is that users won’t have outdated information, since updating is also automatic.

 

  • Time-saving solution

Having the whole data in one place will result in employees not having to contact other departments and wait for information to be sent or consult changes and make decisions after a long time. Each employee will receive up-to-date data for further processing and will be able to concentrate on their responsibilities without interruptions.

Check out the case of time-saving ERP machine integration we implemented!

 

  • The efficiency of processes

Everything works more smoothly, and processes such as management, processing or invoicing, and many more, are fully automated. As a result, there is no need to hire new employees, as you don’t have to be involved in running these processes.

Check out the case of ERP system integrated with POS!

 

  • Accelerated growth

You can easily expand your operations to multiple locations and create additional sales channels. This allows your business to operate more efficiently and also you can sell more.

 

  • Improved analytics

The more data you have, the harder it is to track your company’s performance – especially if the data is in many different systems. By having all your data in one connected space, you’ll be able to create better analytics reports and also do it much faster.

Check out the case of the automotive giant and improved analytics with optimized quality control of post-sales servicing!

 

  • Scalability

Currently, many systems rely on the cloud. Separate data storage or a new computing platform for each subsystem is a big cost because of the need to expand capacity as data volumes grow. With an integrated system, you don’t have to worry about this because the subsystems share resources.

Cons of system integrations

Systems integration seems to be a perfect solution to a number of problems associated with using multiple pieces of software, however, it also has some disadvantages. Of course, no one says that any of the following will happen. If you choose the right software vendor, you will not be exposed to such experiences. Also, integrating on your own is risky and can cause trouble, so it’s worth having the right partner to take care of your exact business needs and integrate everything properly. If you don’t know how to choose the right people for the job, we invite you to read an interview in which we talk to an expert in this field – “How to select the right software services provider?”

 

  • Hacking is easier

Considering security issues, having several different systems is better than one integrated. Hackers can access all of your data at once, instead of just a part.

 

  • Complicated updating process

Your IT team may face some problems because integration doesn’t turn several systems into one; it only connects them with each other. Unfortunately, you still have to update them separately so the process may be complicated and time-consuming.

 

  • Saving time and money is just an illusion

With many different applications, the IT department spends a great amount of time and money integrating, maintaining and acquiring new versions of these applications. Generally, there is always a need for reintegrating, to make the different versions of the software work together. Thus, time that could be used to improve the company’s efficiency is wasted and maintenance costs rise.

Summary

A wide range of companies in many different industries uses advanced business software to keep up with the demands of a constantly growing market, as well as to speed up their own growth. Management of separate systems, rising costs, and decreased efficiency always become a problem. Integrated systems are definitely the ideal solution for any company that wants to easily achieve its goals and aims to move to the next level.

Angelika Agapow
Angelika Agapow
Content Marketing Specialist
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