Integration is a concept associated with many commercial technology solutions used in a range of everyday scenarios. But what are the practical benefits for manufacturers and distributors of specifying integrated solutions, how does integration work in practice and what are the key considerations when planning a successful integration project?
What does software integration mean?
Integrated software is essentially a collection of software designed to operate and control similar programs. Consider Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office software product, for example, which comprises a suite of practical applications housed within one fully integrated platform built within compatible parameters. In essence, the software integration process entails bringing together various types of software sub-systems to create a unified, holistic system that works as efficiently as possible for the wider benefit of an enterprise.
The issue in context
As technology uptake has increased markedly among businesses in recent years, integrating disjointed software solutions has become an increasing challenge. Essentially, when too many commercial applications are not connected with each other, it can result in pockets of key commercial data sat in different locations, making it unnecessarily difficult for organizations to make sense of and efficiently manage the ever-expanding amount of information they amass on employees, clients and suppliers.
In today’s ultra-competitive commercial environment, where marginal gains can make all the difference, getting systems to talk to each other efficiently can go a long way to transforming a company's performance. The improved data flow that occurs following software integration delivers automation and streamlines processes, boosting speed and accuracy and reducing the disruption associated with having data located in different places and on different systems.
What are the key benefits?
Integrated systems can bring a range of compelling benefits to organizations. They facilitate better access to the detail that matters by making key company and customer information available to every member of your team, updated and visible in real time.
They can deliver productivity benefits across an organization, by preventing the need for time-consuming data gathering and collation from different departments and locations, a process that is frequently open to costly human error.
Crucially, integrated systems give organizations better control of one of their most precious assets. Having data centralized in one location not only gives individuals more accurate results, but it also gives businesses the bandwidth to improve their overall business operations and redirect the time saved to the revenue-generating tasks that really matter.
The signs your systems might need better integration
Many organizations can actively be wasting time and resources on mis-aligned software tools that fail to deliver results without them really knowing it. Spotting the signs isn’t always straightforward but any recent increase in sales failures, unexpected loss of customers, a recurring need to replace staff and/or a drop in employee productivity could all be indicators that your systems aren’t functioning as efficiently as they could.
Planning a successful integration project
Choosing a software integration solution that’s right for your organization requires careful thought, with a one size fits all approach rarely feasible for manufacturers and distributors. What’s more, the systems or applications requiring integration may be old or new, from competing providers or the same company.
Whatever your requirements, following a few basic principles when choosing a supplier to meet your needs can simplify the process significantly. Being as clear as possible on your system requirements and how they align to your overall business goals is important, as is having a clear overview of the potential suppliers’ credentials - particularly in relation to their problem-solving capabilities.
Reviewing the scope of partners a provider has links with is a further telling way businesses can evaluate whether a provider is right for them. As a rule of thumb, those who work with a broad range of reputable partners are typically best equipped to handle more complex requirements. Finally, evaluating customer reviews and feedback is another way organizations can make more informed decisions particularly when the feedback is from players who work in the same field, are of a similar size or face similar challenges.
An integration-proof sales enablement solution
The beauty of sales-i is that it is fully compatible with a range of popular CRM, ERP and business software solutions providers such as Salesforce, Sage and SAP to name but a few. This means it can be easily integrated and start delivering meaningful insights to sales professionals from the go-live date. For example, users can automatically sync their Microsoft Exchange contacts, emails and calendar with sales-i to manage their schedules quickly and efficiently. Our Microsoft Exchange/Office 365 integration tool allows users to seamlessly update both their sales-i and Exchange accounts at once, which means your contacts, emails and appointments can all be viewed and edited within both your Microsoft Exchange/Office 365 email client and sales-i.
The bottom line
The good news is that software integration needn’t be onerous. With some forward planning and by being mindful of your business’ individual needs and the solutions available, integration can bring your applications closer together - along with your wider team. At a time when businesses are looking for any commercial advantage as they continue to grapple with operational restrictions around the Covid crisis, ensuring their software is truly integrated can save time and money, freeing up resources to focus where it is needed most – driving revenue through better sales.