In the last few years, I have grown to appreciate how quickly technology evolves. Every step, big and small, is an opportunity to change anything we can imagine and deliver everything we have yet to consider possible. But the story is a little different for integration – where few adjustments have been made to optimize today’s continuous wave of digital innovation.
When I compare today’s integration experiences against those from 10 or 15 years ago, I see a lot of technology providers that are focused on providing “fast,” “convenient,” and “easy-to-use” user experiences to further their growth. Now, these promises may sound impressive, but, at the end of the day, they are really just doing the same thing they have always done: moving data between a front-end system (such as CRM) and a back-end system (such as ERP).
The whole point of technology and innovation is to continually improve a given system or process. Although businesses are beginning to understand the value of this mindset, most of them have yet to move the needle towards any visible progress.
How integration with complex SAP systems affects the front-end user experience
To deliver on the expectation that information is accessible anytime and anywhere, integration efforts must remove boundaries traditionally fueled by the complexity of hard-to-integrate solutions and large data volumes.
Take, for example, sales order processing. Salespeople often have to switch through a disconnected series of CRM and legacy ERP systems to submit, organize, fulfill, and track a single order. When new siloed applications with different data types and additional touchpoints are introduced into the process, the business increases its risk for sales errors, inefficiency, loss, inaccuracy.
Such a user experience is unnecessary. Employee digital interactions should, and can, deliver so much more.
Consider the growing adoption of artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, and the Internet of Things. Any combination of these intelligent technologies can help salespeople create and submit an order in a matter of a click and let it filter across all relevant systems immediately. Meanwhile, the rest of the business – from supply chain and logistics to finance and operations – receives the information and triggers the transactions and processes needed to complete the sale.
Delivering this connected, seamless process requires the real-time integration of the front-end platform with complex back-end systems. For most of our customers, this approach allows for better engagement with their customers which in turn provides a better experience, and eventually, more sales. B2C companies like Amazon have set a user experience standard, and this standard has become the expectation outside of the B2C world.
Centralize, break down, and put digital connections back together
Effectively, IT must take complex processes that exist within a siloed, centralized system, break them down into smaller component parts, and open them to other functionally specific solutions. When these siloed systems are broken down, customized interactions can be designed, deployed, and integrated quickly and without operationally disruptive downtime.
Business can then benefit from a wide variety of technologies, this allows the appropriate solution to be utilized for a given task instead of using the IT provided solution, which typically is a lesser user experience. They can make critical data such as invoice, delivery status, and customer data, available to all areas of the business and the partner network – so everyone involved in a process can act on that data as one cohesive ecosystem.
While such an outcome may be a hot topic in the boardroom, it’s impossible to think that any business can keep up with the pace of innovation without evolving its integration strategy. Executives eventually shift their focus to something else – whether it’s 3, 10, or 18 months from now. For this reason, integration strategies must be viewed as a living and breathing plan that flexibly scales to changing business needs dynamically and quickly.
Upgrade your integration strategy with a focus on what matters most
The old ways of integration are just not going to work anymore. As technology changes, data volumes will explode and embed itself deeper into the core of business operations. This growing intelligence inevitably leads to the acquisition of new capabilities that matter most to business success – higher process efficiency, in-depth employee knowledge, and enriched customer experiences.
Just think about how much data was created within the time it took you to read this post. This will be a continually growing problem and without a proper integration strategy to act upon, your company will inevitably deliver a poor user experience and will eventually lose to a stronger competitor.