What is System Integration?
System Integration refers to the process by which multiple individual subsystems or sub-components are combined into one all-encompassing larger system thereby allowing the subsystems to function together. In other words, the symbiosis created through system integration allows the main system to achieve the overarching functionality required by the organisation.
In most organisations that use system integration there is a need to improve efficiency and thereby productivity and quality of their operations. The objective is usually to get the company’s various IT systems to communicate with each other in the background so as to avoid the time and effort spent manually sharing information with other departments/components of the organisation including upper management. Through system integration, the organisation will experience increase in information flow speeds as well as reduced operational costs.
Furthermore, system integration connects the organisation with third parties such as suppliers, customers and shareholders. Each of which have their own unique interests in information generated by your company. System integration allows suppliers keep track of raw material levels, allows customers to keep track of finished goods inventory and shareholders to view the company position at a glance in a dashboard style in real time. All of these conditions can be met very simply through the use of system integration supplied by a reliable systems integrator.
CRM Systems Vs ERP Systems – What’s the difference?
In very simple terms, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system helps organise, manage and, at the end of the day, use customer data. A CRM is a form of system integration that keeps your business up to date on each customer’s contact details, transaction history, accounts as well as communication. In other words, your company’s entire ‘relationship’ with customer is available at a glance and the primary objective of the system is to help you improve sales.
Alternatively, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is designed to manage any and all business processes and automate various backend or back office functions that need not be carried out manually. In many ways, it is the representation of the concept of system integration. An ERP software typically integrates all aspects of operations which includes product planning and development, procurement, vendor management, manufacturing, sales and marketing, all in one database and user interface. The primary objective of an ERP, much like system integration, is usually to lower costs rather than increase revenue.
What are the methods of system integration?
Determining an appropriate systems integration solution is not a simple task by any means. You must select the correct subsystems, the correct locations and the correct nature of the relationship. For this it is very important that you as a company understand exactly what processes are involved, how they interact with all the stakeholders as well as the business objectives. If you are clear about why and where the business requires harmony in operations, the systems integration will go smoothly.
System Integration Method #1: Point-to-Point Integration
Point-to-Point integration / connection is not system integration in its truest sense. In that the complexity of the functions that can be performed is limited despite the systems functioning as a whole. Typically, such forms of systems integration handle one business function at a time and are ideal for a 1:1 relationship. i.e. one system to another system. The more the number of systems in play, the greater the number of connections and therefore, a point-to-point systems integration quickly becomes unmanageable.
System Integration Method #2: Vertical Integration
Vertical systems integration differs from the other types of systems integration in the structure that is formed. Basically each sub-system is linked to the other on the basis of how closely they are related in the function that is performed. This leads to a ‘silo’ like structure with the bottom being the most basic function and the rest getting progressively more complex. This type of systems integration is fairly simple and involves a small number of systems but on the other hand, this system integration model can be inflexible. Adding any new functionality means adding its very own ‘silo’ which, in the long run, makes things difficult to manage.
Let us consider for example that the Point-Of-Sale (POS) system tracks orders and records sales transactions while another software generates the invoices. This is where the term “silo” comes into play since the system is tightly integrated to serve a specific and narrowly defined business function, holding the data in one place without coordinating with other silos.
System Integration Method #3: Star Integration
Star integration is very simply a collection of point to point system integrations. In other words, a larger set of simple connections come together to create a star connection. The more the number of sub systems connected, the more the points on the start and subsequently lines in between.
Furthermore, when this system integration method interconnects each system to the remaining subsystems, the series of connections can look like a star polyhedron at the best of times. More likely the actual diagram of the system integration will look like a plate of spaghetti (hence star integration is also known as spaghetti integration). In other words, the ideally neat and tidy IT infrastructure quickly becomes jumbled and difficult to map if a company approaches system integration using this method. Because as you can imagine, this will provide far more functionality than the individual point to point connection but the management of the integrations becomes very demanding.
System Integration Method #4: Horizontal Integration
Horizontal integration refers to achieving systems integration using one specialised subsystem as a common user interface layer which links all the other sub systems. In other words, the number of connections necessary for system integration is reduced because the subsystems are not interconnected directly, they are connected indirectly through the main system. If there are five subsystems, then there will only be five connections. If there are ten subsystems there will only be ten connections. Therefore, the primary advantage of this method is the reduced number of connections necessary to maintain functionality which in turn reduces time, effort and money spent building the system. This intermediary layer / subsystem used in this form of systems integration is commonly known as an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).
Some of the most common examples of horizontal integration can be found in the healthcare sector in achieving a simplified method for medical systems integration. Furthermore, through a customized approach to development of the software, an ESB integration interface can efficiently and effectively mesh with current, on premises systems. Existing subsystems that are generating data or require data movement and integration will only need to be linked to the ESB. In order to ease the transfer, transformation and integration of data coming in from multiple sources, it would be a good idea to also implement technology such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Managed File Transfer (MFT), and application connectors.
How to choose an Integrating Systems Vendor/Company?
Be Certain of your system requirements
It is very important that you are clearly aware of what you need your software to do. The performance of the system should be aligned with the objectives / goals of your business. Ideally, you should make a list of the features you have to have and those you would like to have but are not necessary for operations. Also ensure that, since the systems integration solution you desire will most likely be used by multiple departments, all concerned staff / officers should be involved in the process of determining what is needed. In this way you can avoid investing in a system that has all the frills but none of the core capabilities you need.
Verify the service provider’s credentials
Once you have established your core needs, evaluation and selection of the systems integration service provider can begin. It is important to consider where the vendor is coming from, are they growing or downsizing, what experience they have especially in terms of problem solving. A company that specialises in standard software may not be able to give you the ingenuity you need to implement systems integration within your business.
Secondly, the service provider’s certifications and qualifications will give you a good idea of how likely the vendor is to have the necessary skill set in dealing with your systems integration needs.
Evaluate the company’s partners
Ideally, when looking for an integrated systems service provider, a large base / collection of partners is a good indicator of how well the company will perform. More than anything else, a larger partner base means the company is far better equipped to handle unforeseen events than a company that works with a limited number of partners. Especially with regards to system integration, it also reduces your dependency on the company itself in case of a mishap.
Evaluate customer reviews and feedback
Customer reviews and feedback play a major part in all buying decisions especially if the feedback in question comes from someone close to you. Similarly, while the actual volume of reviews is a good indicator of a large, engaged user base, you should seek out references that originate from businesses of a similar nature and in similar situations as you. When delving into the world of systems integration, these reviews are more relatable and hence not only give a clearer picture of the vendor’s capabilities but may also give you an idea as to how you can solve your own problems using the same vendor. It is also a good way to figure out any potential pitfalls with the system integration solutions that the company in question offers.
Who is a System Integrator?
A systems integrator is an individual or business that brings together multiple elements such as hardware, software, networking and storage from multiple vendors in order to create a system for the client. In broad terms, a systems integrator is as a company that specializes in implementing, planning, coordinating, scheduling, testing, improving and sometimes maintaining IT systems.
That is to say that by using a systems integrator instead of communicating and negotiating with each party yourself you can save time and effort in the systems integration process. The company has the necessary connections and know how to get a better deal than you ever could on your own. In order to get the best systems integration results, the systems integrator It can bring together cheaper, preconfigured, standard components and commercial off-the-shelf software, and gear it towards the key business goals set out in the beginning of the selection process. This is a far better situation than investing in a more expensive, customized system integration process that may require unique programming from scratch and or manufacturing unique components.
Furthermore, hiring a systems integrator can simplify the vendor management process for you since you have to deal with only one entity, you do not have to worry about how everything will fit and who will provide what component.
What does a systems integrator do?
In terms of system integration, the role of the systems integrator is crucial. Usually it entails enabling the data integrations between the various existing systems of the final customer as defined by the project scope. This can include anything ranging from simple point-to-point connections to very complex many-to-many connections both internally and with third parties.
The task of systems integration at this point usually begins with a meeting with the client aimed at assessing the client’s business needs and defining the technical requirements for a system or collection of systems that meet those needs. Only then can the systems integrator supply the most appropriate modules and configuration to ensure smooth system integration.
The role of the system integrator usually covers all aspects of design, implementation and testing of the solution offered by the company. In some cases, the systems integrator may also be involved with maintenance in terms of ongoing management of the solutions as well as contacting third parties to enable connections with them. Most importantly, however, the systems integrator brings with him the integration expertise that the customer is otherwise lacking internally.
Examples of Major System Integrations By Folio3
Folio3 is a California based software development company that helps entrepreneurs and large corporations build innovative, world-class software solutions by providing offshore application development and support. We specialize in Enterprise Applications, Mobile Apps & Games, Websites and Web-based Applications and Social Media Platforms & Applications development.
The company helps organizations worldwide improve their processes with innovative solutions. Folio3 assists businesses with digital transformation, cloud migration and the implementation of agile organizational structures.
Some integrations Folio3 provides are listed below:
- Dynamics Shopify Integration
- Dynamics Magento Integration
- Dynamics Amazon Integration
- Dynamics WooCommerce Integration
- Dynamics Ebay Integration
- Dynamics Salesforce Integration
Systems Integrators Vs VARs – What’s the difference?
A Value-Added Reseller (VAR) is usually a company that adds features to an existing product, or in this case, a system and then resells it as a form of system integration for which the VAR will charge its own margins. In many cases the VAR will simply bundle a third party software application with its own hardware or vice versa. Although it is possible that both components are from third party suppliers. Furthermore, this “value-added” system is often customized for a specific purpose, and if often sold to the final customer under the original design manufacturer brand; with that manufacturer’s warranty, support, and license agreements.
In much the same way, a system integrator completes the systems integration process by combining software, hardware, infrastructure etc. into one complete system. Although the key difference is that a VAR only resells value added products while a true systems integrator may do the same. For system integration to succeed the integrator may also build a complete new system from the ground up to achieve the same goals.
System Integration Services at Folio3
System Implementation Services
Supported entirely by Microsoft Dynamics, Folio3 offers implementation processes which are always timely, within budget and accurate. Return on investment is quickly achieved and will, therefore, leave you a happy customer. As the top Microsoft Dynamics implementation partner, Folio3’s project managers understand where things can go wrong and will therefore pre-emptively avoid the pitfalls and unpleasant surprises in systems integration process by using a tiered/phased approach focusing on the system integration process.
System Integration Services
The use of systems integration and other important services within the enterprise helps in enhancing business efficiency and streamlining processes. Integrating Microsoft Dynamics with third-party applications and services such as Magento, Shopify and Amazon allow organizations to better leverage and automate their information.
Microsoft Dynamics integration allows you to provide better customer experience, connect with untapped upsell opportunities and eliminate any inaccuracies or discrepancies present in the data. This is especially true for situations where, in the absence of systems integration, discrepancies occur during the input phase rather than the processing of the data afterward. The absence of an efficient solution for seamless MS Dynamics integration with different e-commerce platforms prevents businesses from taking full advantage of the power of enterprise connectivity and the true meaning of systems integration.
Integration Consulting Services
With Folio3’s Dynamics Services you not only get a Dynamics development partner, but a dedicated team of professionals that are attached to your systems integration project from the onset. The company focuses on understanding your requirements and developing custom solutions that are most effective in solving your problems.
System Integration testing services
Folio3’s quality assurance team ensures that all aspects of the Microsoft Dynamics development processes meet requirements and satisfied in the most effective and transparent manner. The company will help you and your organization accomplish your system integration plans by identifying and eliminating performance bottlenecks through in-depth audits. Furthermore, Folio3 is an expert in helping you troubleshoot all your problems related to MS Dynamics systems integration, customization and development.