Many businesses are using a process that has not been reviewed or audited because “that is how it has always been done”. Or they are using multiple systems to record the same information, meaning duplication of effort and time, reducing the amount of profit the company can make.
Understanding business processes and how IT systems work together can give businesses a competitive advantage against their competition. There are many ways integration can maximise value from commercial, off the shelf software products and your internal legacy systems. When looking at system integration it is key to understand the business processes to ensure that any integration adds value to the organisation, this will often highlight areas that could be affected that had not been considered.
System Integration allows two separate systems to talk and share data where necessary. This could be you CRM talking to your finance package, your warehouse management system talking to your transport management system. IT could be extracting data from a legacy system that is no longer supported and populating a new system with the relevant data. Effective integration will reduce the amount of “dead time” within an organisation.
- Horizontal Integration: Involves the creation of a unique subsystem that is meant to be the single interface between all other subsystems, ensuring that there is only one interface between any subsystem and any may be replaced with another without affecting the others by using totally different data and interfaces. This is also known as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).
- Vertical Integration: Subsystems are integrated according to functionality by creating “silos” of functional entities, beginning with the bottom basic function upward (vertical). This very quick method only involves a few vendors and developers but becomes more expensive over time because to implement new functionalities, new silos must be created.
- Star Integration: Also known as “Spaghetti Integration” because each subsystem is connected to multiple subsystems, so that the diagrams of the interconnections look like a star. However, the more subsystems there are, the more connections are made, and it ends up looking like spaghetti.
- Common Data Format: Helps the system avoid having the adapter convert to and from every application format. Systems using this method set a common or application-independent format, or they provide a service that does the transformation to or from one application into the common application.