System integration (SI) is a decision point that nearly every business encounters whether the company is small, medium, or large. Techopedia describes SI as a process to join different systems or components together as one large system. The goal of bringing together different, and often disparate, systems is to deliver business value in the form of improved efficiencies, cost savings, and customer satisfaction.
Businesses which enjoy high-growth in a relatively short period or have been around for a long time without a sound technology plan are often the ones who should consider SI the most. These businesses have frequently implemented many stand-alone systems to meet their immediate needs and find themselves spending more time managing each one. Your company should contemplate SI if you answer “yes” to any of the questions below.
Do you experience increased overhead or administrative costs due to manual work needed to enter, consolidate, and reconcile data on multiple systems?
- There are 5 employees who enter the same data into 5 different systems.
- Another employee then manually retrieves data from each of these systems to reconcile and generate a report.
- System A lists a customer as “Mr. Robert A. Smith” while System B lists the same customer as “Mister Bob Alan Smith”.
Is a root cause of your customer complaints due to poor response time or inaccurate information from manual processes retrieving data from multiple systems?
- It takes weeks to generate a customer report because the process for retrieving data from multiple systems is manual and there is disparate data requiring assessment, confirmation of accuracy, and, reconciliation before finalizing it.
System integrators specialize in bringing together various components in a synergistic manner so the end result is greater than its parts. A broad breath of system knowledge is more important to a qualified system integrator than depth of knowledge. Seek expert skills and experience in the following:
- Problem solving skills are essential as each integration has its own unique challenges
- Software and hardware technologies particularly on those that you are using or intend to use
- Enterprise architecture to account for your current and future business growth
- System interface protocols for systems that ‘speak’ to each other
- Configuration management to enhance the optimization of the overall system
- Component and Integration testing to ensure that each system functions as expected and in harmony
- User training and adoption which is vital to your employees to work effectively and efficiently and to minimize operational disruptions
- Security and potential vulnerabilities from integration that should be mitigated
The decision to undertake a system integration project is not an easy one, particularly for a small or medium sized business with limited resources. Ninestone can help you take the first step to assess your current state and options and guide your decision making through the system integration and implementation process.
Tammy Chu, Ninestone Senior Consultant
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