Technical Services: Systems Integration
Every business struggles to decide the best business system for managing its growing operations. Proper planning of an integrated management information system often takes a back seat to meeting short-term goals. Consequently, different applications are installed at different times in different departments, resulting in isolated "silos" storing and managing the data that drives the business. For example, it is not unusual for an organization to have separate systems managing its accounting, sales, inventory, purchasing, customer support, and order fulfillment business functions. Complicating the matter even more, companies might open new office locations and add new sales channels, introducing new applications and databases to support ecommerce, recurring billing, and financial consolidation.
More often than not, this approach produces a tangled web of business software system silos. Short-term immediate needs are met when the needs arise (sort of), jeopardizing long-term efficiency and scalability. This poorly planned architecture results in huge inefficiencies, added expense, increased administrative burden, redundant data management, and significant duplication of effort. Ultimately, this can create enormous obstacles to business growth and productivity.
Disadvantages of Business Information Silos
- Wasted resources: Business processes are disjointed and more time-consuming when data is managed in separate systems, disrupting employee productivity. Errors and mistakes are more frequent, and redundant effort takes time away from their more important responsibilities.
- Decreased visibility: It becomes very difficult to produce a consolidated view of important information when the data exists in multiple databases. This becomes especially problematic when separate systems contain data in overlapping domains, and data in one system conflicts with data in another. Reporting business performance across departments are crucial to daily operations, yet many companies cannot obtain aggregated business performance data on a regular basis due to effort required to source, extract, transform, load, and analyze the data in a shared, centralized repository. The result is unfortunate: businesses are forced to make important decisions slowly, based on inaccurate (or unavailable) information.
- Increased costs: Your Information Technology department may be required to spend an enormous amount of time and effort upgrading multiple disparate systems and maintaining the interfaces between them. Valuable resources that might be used to improve business productivity are essentially wasted.
- Decreased customer satisfaction: Unless your organization provides an exceptional customer experience, customers will take their business elsewhere. When your information systems are not integrated with one another, everything takes longer -- with potentially adverse affects on things like ordering, billing, and customer service. Without an integrated solution, you cannot easily ensure an outstanding customer experience.
Advantages of Integrated Information Systems
- Improved efficiency: In a recent study by one independent research firm, it was reported that systems integration for one company improved financial close times by nearly 50 percent, increased sales productivity by more than 10 percent, and increased inventory turns by more than 50 percent. In the same study, another customer reduced its order processing time by more than 65 percent.
- Improved visibility: Real-time information is critical to good decision-making. When information is accessible online from a web browser or mobile device, and the data is not dependent upon procedures to transfer it between systems, employees and managers can make better-informed decisions more quickly. Another company in the aforementioned study doubled its business in four years and saved $120,000 annually due to better integration of its vendor information.
- Decreased costs: When your Information Technology department is not required to procure, install, and maintain multiple systems (along with the interfaces between them), you can experience significant reductions in your operational costs -- and your IT department can spend more time improving business operations.
- Increased business growth: An integrated management information system enables business expansion into multiple locations, and it facilitates the introduction of new sales channels, because accounting data and order fulfillment data is consolidated in one place. Your business can also upsell (and cross-sell) more easily to your existing customer base.
- Increased innovation: An integrated management information system enables rapid response to business process changes. In turn, this enables everyone within your organization to participate in business improvement because it is much easier to respond to their ideas and recommendations, tailoring your system to better meet their needs.
Organizations in every industry use information systems to manage their business, but many still struggle because their "information infrastructure" is comprised of disconnected systems that create process bottlenecks and employee productivity issues. An integrated information system can transform how your business runs, enabling it to progress to the next level of growth and profitability.