What is system integration and architecture? And why your business needs an IT systems integration strategy
Digital transformation is no longer nice to have, it is essential for successful business operations. A key component is the integration of business wide systems to create a seamless customer experience and journey.
We are the experts in both traditional and modern microservice integration, and manage all projects with a SAFe Agile lens ensuring they are delivered to requirements and on time
What is system integration and architecture?
IT systems integration is the introduction of new applications into an existing IT landscape and architecture to make your IT infrastructure work better as a whole. This means your systems work more seamlessly together, delivering a better user experience and improved business efficiency.
It involves understanding business processes and how multiple sub-systems need to be orchestrated to achieve an interconnected, frictionless experience using technology or IT platforms.
Simply, it is the process of linking IT systems, software, and technologies so that they function better together.
But why is system integration important? Why should your organisation care? Do you really need a strategy built around it?
To answer these questions here are 4 reasons your organisation needs an IT systems integration strategy.
1. Employees need their systems to be accessible, easy to use & reliable
The modern workforce expects IT applications to be able to support them effectively perform their duties and satisfy customers.
This works best when a business’ wide range of IT systems speak to each other. Access to information and data needs to flow freely through them to avoid the perpetual bottlenecks and operational failures that can come from systems operating independently from each other.
For example, disconnected HR and Finance systems could result in payroll being inaccurate. Poor data mapping (integration) between pay type fields and the type of employment (contractor, permanent etc.) in your HR system could result in staff receiving an incorrect payment.
Although these errors would likely be picked up, it’s a huge waste of resources and time to to remedy a problem that could have been prevented through properly integrating a businesses HR and Finance systems.
Furthermore, issues such as these become more common as IT systems age.
As systems become outdated, they become harder to maintain, application upgrades or replacements can flow on and negatively impact multiple parts of your business. This not only frustrates staff but makes system failures more common.
By establishing a robust systems integration strategy, you can ensure all your systems are connected, working their best and future proof your business from a potentially catastrophic systems failure.
2. Customers demand a flexible and frictionless experience
The modern consumer is digitally native and expects to interact seamlessly with your business. Regardless of the industry, customer interactions will touch multiple external and internal IT systems.
Your business may be running marketing campaigns in one system, receiving customer enquiries in another, and managing purchase orders in another. Detailed data needs to flow through to your CRM, financial, legal, and even your document generation systems to effectively fulfil your customer’s needs.
This matrix of systems can be incredibly complex for a business to manage and keep connected to ensure customer interactions run smoothly. No customer will accept the software system as an excuse for a poor customer experience or slow delivery of a service. Organisations lacking proper systems integration end up delivering highly siloed, disjointed customer experiences.
Your systems must talk to each other. For example, your CRM system has contacts that have an associated ‘portal ID’. You may require customers to log into a portal to access your services, this relies on the ID or GUID number integrating correctly with an IDAM (Identity and access management) system.
If ‘Amy Smith’ is (ID) is mapped incorrectly to an IDAM system, every time she tries to log in to a consumer portal (eCommerce website, an educational portal, customer account etc.) she will be met with login errors.
Clearly, this is a roadblock for a customer looking to perform the simple task of logging into a portal to perform a transaction or access a service they have paid for. This can be avoided by developing a clear integration strategy, resulting in an enhanced customer experience that will help you to attract and retain customers.
3. It reduces business costs and simplifies operations
Lean streamlined teams can manage multiple business functions and systems can significantly reduce costs and simplify operations.
Effective system integration strategies allow for this by creating a centralised ESB (Enterprise Service Bus). ESB’s work by standardising and simplifying communication, messaging, and integration of services across an enterprise.
Integrating an ESB into your business means hardware and software costs can be shared by provisioning servers for combined usage and providing a centralised integration solution.
Consequently, a single team of specialists can be tasked (and trained if necessary) to manage multiple systems via a single platform and maintain these integrations. For example, a marketing team with an automation platform integrated using ESB could potentially fulfil functions that used to be relegated by analytics, media planning or a digital marketing team.
Similarly, having an integration strategy in place can reduce operational costs. An ESB allows organisations to seamlessly unify and standardise their capabilities across diverse IT environments.
Specifically, enterprise integration enables you to easily:
- Discover valuable services
- Applications and data
- Access and expose applications functions via API’s
- Connect multiple business services
- Monitor application lifecycles and governance.
Reducing costs should be more aligned to automation and cloud integration and ESB is more of an older technology term (people moving from SOA to Microservices even if in practice they are the same)
4. It generates a single view of your customer across your business
Unifying your systems can help you consolidate customer data and interactions to create a single view through one platform. Customers expect brands and companies to know their likes, preferences, and interests, and to have them reflected in the marketing communications and the products or services they are recommended.
To do this, your company requires data that captures the target’s traits and behaviours. Marketing teams can then analyse the data, allowing directed messages to be communicated to potential customers through large-scale personalised campaigns.
This relies on your customer data being consolidated from the various business systems they interact with.
Integrating your systems is essential as it allows data to flow freely across organisational silos or departments. The information can then be visualised into reports and dashboards that give you a single view of your customer across your whole business.
Connected systems provide you with data that can be used to gather detailed insights on end-to-end customer processes and introduce new features and functionalities that take these learnings into account.
So what next?
Take a moment to reflect on your company’s integration strategy and implementation approach.
You might consider internal development teams to integrate data, applications, automation and provide service orchestration. However, this is often far more than a business can handle whilst juggling BAU activities.
Our team can help you manage your systems integration strategy, leaving you and your team to focus on what’s important. Get in touch today for a complimentary chat on optimising your systems integration.
Business Development Manager