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4 Challenges of Connecting Diverse System Integration

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Less than 6 min read Minute Read
May 27, 2024
4 Challenges of Connecting Diverse System Integration

There’s no question the digital revolution has transformed the world of business, standardizing and streamlining many of the processes and practices common to millions of companies.

Yet, as our digital age evolves, companies of all shapes and sizes actually have little choice; they must embrace many of the game-changing advances in the IT environment – or get left behind.

In order to keep pace with the latest tech, companies are increasingly having to update – or, rather, integrate – the digital systems on which they rely. Otherwise, they find their legacy systems are no longer fit to achieve day-to-day processes and long-term objectives.

For example, what hope does a developer of mobile pipeline games have of successfully launching its latest offering if its IT systems can’t meet the rapid scaling demands of millions of users worldwide?

Moreover, digital transformation projects aren’t straightforward and are far from easy. A recent survey by global consulting firm BCG found that only 30% of such projects achieve their targets (see chart below).

Are the targets of many system integration projects too ambitious, then? Perhaps, or maybe there are unexpected challenges along the way.

This article, therefore, will look at not just the many benefits of integrating IT systems but also the challenges – and, of course, how to overcome them.

Image sourced from bcg.com

The benefits of integrating systems

So, given the likelihood of total success of a system integration project, why are so many institutions, corporations, and companies getting in on the act?

It’s pretty obvious why a business might decide to purchase the best business phone service on the market, but integrating their IT systems? Why sink money into such a costly exercise?

 

1. Better access to data


Successful integration of multiple systems has a simple end goal – either to transform systems so they operate as a cohesive whole or to integrate them into one overarching, cloud-based platform.

Achieving this aim ensures all data is readily available because it’s in one place. The data is as accessible as possible for everyone that needs it. No more calling in help from colleagues who are better versed in IT to find what you need.

 

2. Faster and more effective processes


Time is money, as the saying goes. In today’s era of ever-increasing digital breakthroughs, customers expect services to be provided faster than ever before.

Quicker and more efficient service, however, is only possible if a company’s internal processes become faster and more effective themselves.

Greater system integration can really come into its own here. Employees spend less time each day trawling through different systems if they’re simply doing their work on one all-encompassing system (for instance, thanks to the likes of integrated AI, out goes the need for much manual entry, if any).

Integrated systems mean no overlapping databases and, instead, synchronized data, resulting in simpler and smoother data flow. You might say it’s rather like how an automatic call distributor (ACD) makes a call center’s operations simpler and smoother by routing calls more effectively. A win for everyone.

 

3. Fewer human errors


The bane of any business or organization that depends on handling swathes of data is when errors are introduced into the data.

This often occurs because data must be manually moved between non-integrated systems in order to be analyzed and used.

Conversely, integrated systems enable faster, smoother, automated movement of data, reducing the likelihood of data-related errors and, as a result, ensuring processes are more efficient. Again, this saves time and drives down costs.

 

4. Tighter security


Should an organization continue to rely on aging, creaking legacy systems instead of investing in a newer, more capable system, then it may well be saving money in the short-term, but it's also increasing the likelihood of that older system being breached and the data it holds leaked.

Nowadays, of course, institutions and companies are obliged to abide by security protocols like GDPR and to take steps to prevent leakage of sensitive details due to malicious attacks (indeed, when it comes to safeguarding financial data, they all need to ask themselves questions like “what are SOX requirements?”).

So, one of the best – and most comprehensive – ways to ensure data breaches don’t occur is by replacing multiple aging systems with a less leaky, modern system built with system integration software.

 

5. More productivity and reduced costs


With an integrated system, then, erroneous manual handling of data and wasted employee time becomes a thing of the past.

Data-handling processes become, as noted, more efficient and are completed faster, freeing up time for employees to focus on tasks they likely feel they’re ‘actually paid’ to fulfill.

In other words, they can use their talents and better get on with their ‘real jobs’. Obviously, the big upshot of this is increased productivity and, therefore, cost savings and better results for the bottom line.

 

The challenges of integrating systems

Now, system integration solves several quandaries of how a business might keep up in an ever-advancing digital environment. Yet, as noted, integrating systems can also pose some challenges.

 

1. Integrating the old with the new


Unfortunately, system integration tends to involve complexity. Pre-existing systems hooked up to on-premises servers can’t just be switched off and instantly replaced with brand-new, much-improved, cloud-run systems.

Integration really is integration; the old systems and their new counterparts genuinely must come together, if only at first.

Therefore, this requires a project that’s often neither straightforward nor rapid because of how very different systems operate independently and because of the diverse functionality and data involved.

And, lest we forget, a business can’t simply down tools while this big job takes place. Just as a business must maintain professional communication while implementing an IVR (interactive voice response) solution, normal service must continue while systems are integrated.

 

2. Filling knowledge and skills gaps


Within businesses, the groundwork of such a major IT project as system integration often falls to a company’s general IT team. However, the business-critical nature of the undertaking means that the project may be overseen by a senior yet non-technical manager.

These professionals, while entirely capable in their spheres, may well lack an understanding of nuanced system architecture and complex coding.

Indeed, what does a non-IT-specialist manager know of efficiently implementing application programming interfaces (APIs); that is, software intermediaries that enable applications of different systems to communicate? APIs are, after all, at the heart of any system integration project.

Without the necessary expertise, a mostly ‘business-minded manager is unlikely to lead the project successfully, in a way that fulfills requirements on not just performance and scalability, but also future usability and maintenance.

So, what’s the answer here? Well, depending on the complexity and difficulty involved in the integration work, a business leader may want to call on a specialist third-party team for the project. Spending money to get the job done right may ultimately pay dividends.

 

3. Ambiguity and accountability


When it comes to updating pre-existing IT systems, it can be difficult to convince everyone within a company or an organization it needs doing.

The more complicated the fine details, the more challenging it becomes for everyone in every department to understand the end goal and what’s needed from them to get there. In other words, the aims of system integration can become blurred across departments and individual accountability for the project can suffer.

For instance, say a white goods company insists its sales teams implement cloud contact center software for their communications. Should managers and agents fail to see the benefits of doing so, this conversion project will be doomed to failure.

The same goes for departments needing to see the big picture with a systems integration. They must look beyond merely the applications and systems they use, and their day-to-day data handling, so the project can succeed.

Again, handing over the implementation of integration work to a skilled third-party team may iron out issues around misunderstood objectives and lack of accountability.

Indeed, such an expert team may also tailor the integration solutions to ensure that, going forward, system maintenance is easily manageable. Maybe, for instance, delivering a no-coding integration (where possible) will mean non-experts can maintain the integrated system(s) without having to regularly call on the aid of outside specialists.

 

4. Time may be of the essence

Inevitably, there will be time constraints on an integration project – because, again, time is always money.

So, on the one hand, trying to limit the project’s duration may seem advantageous; yet, on the other hand, it’s imperative that such an involved project runs its course, so it can achieve the aims of increased efficiency and overall cost savings.

What’s advisable, then, is to strike a balance. Easier said than done? Of course. Careful planning, buy-in across the business, and an agile, flexible approach to the project’s implementation are all recommended.

That way, not only will the project strike a happy medium, but adjustments should be possible when issues pop up and modifications are required along the way.

 

Final thoughts: the benefits outweigh the challenges

For better or worse, even a system integration project that looks relatively simple on paper can cause headaches and problems.

Nevertheless, the cost savings, increased productivity and profits, and unavoidable need to keep up with digital trends and advances mean integrating its IT systems is liable to become imperative for practically any business.

Any bumps in the road simply have to be overcome. After all, given the issues such a project causes aren’t usually related to integrated tech – especially if an expert team leads the work – but related to silo-working and lack of accountability, change management, and an unanticipated need for agility and flexibility, problems certainly can be seen off.

So, with proper planning, strong buy-in, and a realistically achievable timeframe and end goal, there’s no reason your systems can’t be integrated and maintained to face the challenges of the digital-defined future.

 

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