I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. John Donne said it first, and best: No man is an island. What is curious is that a similar thought applies to technology.
It’s all too easy to discover your first solution fails to deliver in many key areas, particularly when you grow. So you add separate software such as payroll or dedicated HR… which don't really work with each other. And as time passes, things get tougher. Disconnected apps can make it hard to use data intelligently or generate profits. Meanwhile, audits and compliance become almost impossible.
So, how do you bring those apps together and turn your islands into an inter-connected archipelago? The answer: integration.
What do I mean by ‘integration’?
Integration, for the purposes of this article, is the intelligent inclusion of third-party applications accessed from within the main application, often at a hidden level. This way, publishers can choose to run the software that will optimise the business. In addition, there’s a high level of administrative uniformity and control across multiple departments.
This approach isn’t new. Think of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) from the 70s or RPC (Remote Procedure Calls) from the 80s. But integration works better today than ever before. Publishers of all types and sizes can grow and expand into new areas. They don't need to start again with a different database solution. In short, the right integrated approach can act as a real catalyst for business growth.
Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits.
1. Data starts to drive the business
Where a business uses disconnected apps, data sits in separate silos. It’s hard to carry out analysis and planning. Bring the data together, on the other hand, and you get more powerful and accurate data mining. That leads to richer insights. Because dashboards can report on data from all across the business, people work with a single consistent and accurate ‘point of truth’. Sales can make the most of every opportunity. Accounts can bill and process payments more accurately. And management can view the business through a clearer lens.
Here’s another point that could be even more important in today’s environment. With all their information in one place, it’s simpler for companies to check and show GDPR compliance. This significantly reduces the risk of major financial penalties.
2. People become time-rich
Chances are that, as reported in Information Age, 90% of your employees are lumbered with boring and repetitive tasks. Tasks such as searching for data, data entry, data processing and analysis, and combining data from multiple sources cost businesses around 19 working days per year per employee.
Integration allows you to automate regular functions. This saves staff time in transferring files, running updates or duplicating entries. At the same time, there’s less chance that they’ll enter or work with incorrect and inconsistent information.
3. Customers feel more cared for
Support has always been important in how customers see a business. Today, with social media jumping up and down on any failure to deliver, you can’t afford to ignore it. A fully integrated environment simplifies customer support. Agents no longer need to look up details on several different apps to find out what a customer has ordered, whether an item has been sent for picking and packing, if they’re due to renew a subscription and so on. The whole customer history is instantly accessible from a single point of access, leading to quick resolution of queries.
Behind the scenes, staff no longer face the time-consuming and tedious tasks we’ve already looked at. Instead, they’re free to concentrate on sales and serving customers. In other words, to get it right first time, every time.
It also has a positive effect on customer-facing areas such as emails and the website. For example, the business can send emails directing a customer to a personalised part of the website, for purposes such as sign-up or renewal payment.
4. The system creates more certainty
Third-party providers use application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow smooth collaboration between different applications or platforms. This lets businesses carry on using elements that are already up and running (such as payment gateways or accounts software, for example). No need to duplicate software. In parallel, it can also give customers reassurance that they’re using software they know and trust.
If change turns out to be essential, for instance moving to different address lookup software because of cost, no problem. Developers can easily switch with minimum effect on the end-user.
Integration can also present an opportunity for greater flexibility and to let the system grow as the business grows. You could use a different database engine such as Microsoft Dynamics or Oracle but have the front-end working as if with the native database engine. You might find the developer comes up with new and better ideas – or even want to discuss various licencing schemes.
Build bridges between those islands
It’s a changing world out there, not even just because of Covid-19. There’s disruption, a global industry, post-millennials with shifting views, and new competitors. Integration gives you the chance to build bridges between your software islands and have one point of access to your business potential. And the result? Optimisation that gives your business the flexibility it needs to compete in the future.
For more than 30 years, Gordon & Gotch has been developing and designing innovative software solutions for the publishing and events industries. Myriad, its latest solution, helps the publishing and events community release their full potential by becoming more efficient.
Tel: +44 (0) 118 989 2003