5 Tips for Getting Started with Systems Integration

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As technology evolves faster than ever, businesses are reliant on IT infrastructures built over a course of decades, featuring a mix of legacy and cutting-edge tools. So, it’s no surprise systems integration (SI) projects are increasingly essential for modern enterprises  but where do you start?

Essentially, SI connects all the tools you use at work in the most logical and simple way possible to make your life easier. It’s what ensures your work computer has the ability to access printers, internet, corporate portals, private servers, business email systems and all the other apps necessary for your job – it’s also what gives you access to some of that remotely.

When your organisation’s IT infrastructure is properly integrated, everyone benefits from greatly increased collaboration and communication. With everybody using the same apps and accessing the same data, projects are more likely to stay on-schedule and business change happens more frequently.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? If we've piqued your interest in pursuing a SI project, here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Don’t be Afraid to Start Small

Years ago, businesses commonly relied on one supplier, in some cases a single system, to provide all the IT functionality they needed – from HR and inventory, to finance and sales. These days things are very different, and there’s an app for more or less everything, including an app for building apps.

You might think that with so many niche applications being used to perform individual tasks, there’s little point to ensuring they’re fully integrated with your IT infrastructure. You couldn’t be more wrong.

There’s so much choice available to businesses and consumers that you’ll often have multiple tools for the same purpose. Take customer service for example: you may have an email address specifically for this, but many customers might want to contact you via live-chat instead.

Without proper integration, when a customer contacts you via live-chat the conversation won’t be connected to your Customer Management System (CMS). You’ll have no record of their previous interactions with your business, what stage of the customer journey they're at or any of their details.

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That example shows it doesn’t matter how little technology is involved, the true measure of worth for a Systems Integration project is how much value it can add to your IT infrastructure.

2. Mind the Gaps with Customer Journey Mapping

Systems Integration is all about connecting your IT infrastructure so that every component can interact optimally with the rest. This is necessary for providing a customer experience (CX) that feels seamless across all devices and channels.

But this can prove challenging if you don’t know where the gaps and disconnects in your customer journey are.

Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) can help you gain the necessary insight into your optimal customer journey, and seeing this journey through the customer's eyes helps you better understand their needs and how to meet them.

CJM can, therefore, help inform you of the technology you need to integrate, which makes it the perfect starting point for any SI strategy.   

3. Don’t Focus Too Much on the Tech

It’s far too easy to get carried away with daydreams of how exciting advances in technology are going to revolutionise your business. The truth is that 99% of businesses don’t exist on the cutting-edge, because they don't need to.

It’s much more important to find solutions that help you to create the perfect customer experience than it is to have shiny new gadgets that might just collect dust on a shelf until your customer is ready to embrace them.

When two businesses purchase the same technology, it’s unlikely they’ll achieve the same results. In most cases it'll actually have a very different effects, with one company creating an effective digital workplace, but the other seeing little change.

4. Out with the Old, in with the New You

Just because you aren’t starting your SI with dreams of 3D printing, automation, androids and electric sheep, it doesn’t mean you should just connect up what you’ve already got lying around.

Whether we’re talking obsolete technology, equipment literally held together with sticky tape, dial-up modems or tin can telephones, there’s a good chance that some of your IT infrastructure simply isn’t up to the task in the late 2010s.

Simply put, relying on outdated tools can have detrimental effects on your business, including:

  • Inability to interface with new systems and equipment
  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Lack of support from providers
  • Higher chance of misfunctioning

To understand the potential cost of a reliance on obsolete technology you only have to look back to earlier this year when the NHS was left vulnerable to cyber attacks because it was running systems that Microsoft no longer supported. 

If you need more evidence that sending components of your IT infrastructure to the recycle bin is a great way to kickstart your SI project check out our Lifeworks case-study to find out how we retired thousands of modules and tools to create one integrated platform. 

5. Use this Opportunity to Embrace New Ideas

As we mentioned earlier, SI is a great method to facilitate communication and collaboration within your business – but it can also help facilitate new ways of working.

Although they are separate concepts, DevOps and Systems Integration are connected by shared ideas, familiar technology and overlapping goals. While Systems Integration brings an organisation’s technology together, the core tenet of DevOps is that an organisation performs better when its departments work together.

Taking stock of your IT infrastructure and working to better improve how it interacts provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate how well it facilitates collaboration between departments. Which is to say, during a SI project is the perfect time to also undergo a DevOps project.

At VASSIT we’re experts at helping businesses operate better digitally. Check out our resources to find out more about getting started with Systems Integration, and click here to dig deeper into what it means to have a DevOps state-of-mind – or click the image below.

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