System integration brings together processes and tools to make them all work effectively connected, but what for a company may need such transformations? A business develops not linearly, contrary to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The environment and market change constantly, the same do client requirements and companies need to tailor processes to meet those new challenges and requirements. Changes may be stressful, especially for big-league players and enterprise-grade companies. Every time a technological business faces a need to change a process, it looks for the technology that helps companies to transform. Usually, a company uses software and several digital tools to automate everyday activities. The bigger a business is, the more varied processes it uses to ensure operation. And transformation means to unite or replace existing solutions with the new ones addressing new challenges. Here is where business meets system integration.
What is system integration
So, what is system integration and what does a system integrator do? System integration unites systems, software, tools and all components into one coordinated system. It links all business processes together, ensures one place for communication and interaction with internal and external partners. SI is the abbreviation for the term system integration.
A system integrator task is to physically or functionally connect disparate components into a single business running solution. System integrators use different methods and techniques to integrate multiple separated units, to list some approaches:
- business and system analyses,
- computer networking,
- standards development,
- enterprise application integration,
- business processes management,
- engineering middleware,
- design of application programming interfaces and service buses,
- custom software development.
When companies may require system integration
As system integration is about establishing connections between diverse processes and software, it serves middle and large companies, enterprises and industry giants.
System integration is applicable for businesses that are big and complex enough
- to have separated processes for different businesses activities;
- to use extended communication cycles to connect internal teams and departments with external partners;
- to use a lot of software to automate business processes;
- to solve industry-specific tasks;
- and need to process data from multiple sources.
Many sectors, verticals and fields may require system integration: Telecom, Finance and Banking, Real Estate and Construction, Commerce, Media, Education, Health, Transport, Manufacturing and others. Consumers of system integration service are companies that
- do not run IT as their core business;
- use IT solutions to solve business tasks,
- and often there is no ready-to-implement solution to address their inherent challenges.
Deciding on system integration strategy
By its nature, system integration is a massive-scale initiative with prolonged effects. That is why it is essential to develop a business strategy from a long-term perspective first before starting the digital transformation. A tool or software solution itself won’t bring drastic changes. Transformation comes from management and strategy, from understanding business goals, transferring goals to tasks and defining ways of fulfilling these tasks.
So, strategic decisions on how to transform a business come first and result in technology. It is not the system integration’s role to change a company. Tools usually do not produce problems, it is leadership more often. To avoid common mistakes and make system integration efforts painless, keep in mind the following statements when planning digital transformation for your business.
- Apply system integration in your core business silos. Do not isolate the new technology from the main tasks, integrate solutions instead.
- Deal system integration as a core business activity, do not separate transformation from the main processes, it is no less vital for a business.
- Understand what you do, even if you rely on your system integrator. Do not trust transformation blindly, make sure all the offered solutions correspond to your business tasks and processes.
- Keep in mind system integration is a tool, not a goal. Business needs and goals are the driving forces of transformation.
- Plan system integration and implement digital transformation as a long-term project from your business development strategy.
- Grow relevant talents or hire some system integrator you rely on to keep an eye on digital transformation and to fix issues.
- Foresee new risks that system integration may bring your business, research them and be ready to handle risks properly.
When companies may require system integration
Since system integration is the result of the need to tailor business processes and solve new business tasks or to boost performance, it requires well-thought preparations, precise implementation and assistance with the operation and further updates.
Analysis — the vital phase of system integration
Digital transformation is an answer to calls and changes in a business landscape, so a system integrator starts with complete business and system analysis. This phase requires the most effort and attention, as it includes:
- business requirements analysis,
- business processes analysis,
- business goals analysis,
- existing systems analysis,
- definitions of pains,
- business tasks analysis,
- best practices research,
- negotiations with all stakeholders,
- consultations on existing solutions,
- recommendations on tools, software, techniques and methods,
- making a system integration plan,
- specifying vendors of solutions.
To make a long story short, at this stage, a system integrator makes an offer and a plan of system integration according to business strategy and to meet company goals, as well as negotiates all the aspects of collaboration with owners and stakeholders.
System integration in action: methods and techniques
After the analysis and consultation stage, a system integrator starts implementing transformation according to the established plan and business processes. System integration may use one of the patterns neatly as well as a hybridized mix of approaches and techniques. Business tasks and goals influence the decision on system integration methods, and they are as follows.
Horizontal system integration or Enterprise Service Bus. This method is used when there is a need to reduce the number of connections between system components, when a business requires extra security and when one system’s unit or software should be replaced by the other with similar features.
Vertical system integration. When functionality is the essence, this method is in use. Tools and software are united into units or entities corresponding to their functions and form separate business silos. This method allows performing system integration in short terms.
Star integration is also called spaghetti integration. It is when every system integrates with any other units the way that all the components are interconnected with each other. Like a bowl of spaghetti or a drawing of a star. This method may be more time and cost-consuming, however, it allows reusing the functionality of subsystems and adds the whole system additional flexibility.
A common data format. This method allows saving time and capacities as it provides a service of converting data from application-specific format to a common format and vice versa.
A lot of digital transformation techniques stand behind every system integration method. A system integrator provides services of
- management of different vendors,
- setting the priority of system integration activities,
- establishing service level agreements (SLAs),
- business process management,
- designing system architecture,
- creating single points of access,
- data migration,
- application integration,
- custom software development.
Keep system integration going smooth: maintenance and support
Every enterprise-grade business operates with large amounts of data via multiple interfaces and versatile business processes. The price of a single mistake may be too high and even ruin the business. Besides, companies constantly develop and face new business tasks. That is why a system integrator often becomes a long-term partner that takes care of the whole system, prevents failures, implements further improvements, develops new functionality and ensures an overall result.
Benefits of system integration
System integration as a set of efforts connecting different services, tools, applications and software into a system enabling execution and governance of multiple business flows, processes and data across the whole organization has many advantages.
- Better managed processes increase customer satisfaction and provide a better customer experience.
- A single solution for all business tasks simplifies management.
- Organized and structured data, regardless of its source, diminish the lack of information and data conversion problems.
- Increased ROI (Return on investment). With system integration, a business can prolong a legacy system life-cycle because if enhanced with modern integrated solutions, outdated software can continue to function longer. And a company can postpone digital transformation, save some time for preparing a migration plan or stage-by-stage replacements and save resources on maintenance and support of outdated software.
- Improved communication between both internal departments and external participants.
- Connected business processes ensure better workflow.
- A company eliminates business silos, thanks to integration processes.
- Real-time data processing ensures getting and transferring instant results from input data and keeping all the system components work with the latest information.
- Increased efficiency. The integrated system connects various business processes together.
- Centralized management. Business processes and tasks may be governed from one place.
- Multitenancy. One software instance is used to run a service for multiple clients or tenants.
- Improved security and compliance. System integration allows setting and adding extra levels of protection or rules of operation.
- Industry-specific solution because a business integrator combines a system tailored to the functionality your business, company and vertical require.
- Budget-saving. System integration may be more cost-effective compared to the development of new features to existing software in the long-term perspective.
- Time-effective. Implementation of system integration activities may be faster than the development of software with similar functionality from scratch.
- Resource-effective. Starting system integration with business and system analysis allows implementing modern solutions that are more effective for business tasks. A business can save on licenses for proprietary software and staff to maintain outdated hardware, on-site servers, and so on.
- More flexible and reliable solution. Modules, parts and components of the integrated system can be changed and updated one-by-one when needed. The whole business does not rely on a single piece of software.
- Stability. System integration works with time-proving technology and skills that perform stable for years.
Better business strategy results with system integration
Companies rarely use one software or solution to fulfill all business needs. It is nearly close to impossible to have universal software. So, almost every business develops a strategy that includes digital transformation and uses system integration services this or that way and to some extent.
SYTOSS is an experienced partner providing system integration services: business and system analysis, creating single points of access, data migration, application integration, middleware, service bus implementation, custom software development for industries incumbents in Telecom, Real Estate, FinTech, Shared Economy, eCommerce, Marketing, Digital Media, and Publishing verticals. If you are ready to move your business to a new level, we are a consummate IT partner to consult you on the available solutions and implement functionality for your specific business tasks in an integrated system.