5 Ways Software Integrations Improve Business Operations
Running a business in the digital age requires using a wide array of technologies — hardware, software, cloud infrastructure, and cybersecurity, to name a few. And, because nothing really works in silos, it’s vital for each of these components to work seamlessly together.
This is crucial to maximize efficiency and reduce the risk of errors. Thankfully, software integrations make this a reality. But what, exactly, are they? In what ways can they affect your business? And how do you know which type would work best for you?
- What Are Software Integrations?
- 5 Reasons Why Software Integrations Are a Must
- Types of Software Integrations
- How Integrations Affect Business Operations
- Custom vs Out-of-the-Box Integrations
- The Software Integration Process
- How Do BrightGauge Integrations Work?
What Are Software Integrations?
Software integration means syncing different types of software so that your entire team can do their jobs effectively. It’s what allows you to pull all data together instead of having each piece of information isolated from each other. Imagine if your email weren’t connected to your calendar or project management system. Or if your cloud infrastructure couldn’t be enabled to be accessed by people outside of your organization — such as business partners and clients.
While it seems like common sense, it’s actually a common challenge many businesses face; especially as they grow and their number of applications keep expanding: customer relationship management (CRM), content management system (CMS), inventory management software, etc.
Fortunately, software companies are being proactive about solving this issue. And businesses who aren’t staying on top of this trend will undoubtedly see unfavorable consequences.
5 Reasons Why Software Integrations Are a Must
Software integration should always be non-negotiable. When your tools are able to work together, your entire team — and your bottom line — reaps the benefits:
1. Improved Efficiency
Think about all the job roles that overlap: sales and marketing, legal and compliance, finance and payroll. If everyone had to enter information manually and relay this data to other departments via other forms of communications, your operations would slow down significantly.
Time would be wasted. Items would fall through the cracks. Fortunately, when you're integrating systems, your business data is shared across all your tools.
2. Improved Cost Effectiveness
Having to find and export information can be time consuming — time that could be better used running the business, nurturing your leads, and closing sales. Time is money, and software integrations save you a lot of both.
3. Increased Productivity
When all applications are communicating with each other, you remove delays caused by having to manually share information among departments. This type of information flow allows all members of your company to access files and know the status of projects within seconds.
4. Reduced Risk of Error
Not having to rely on humans to input information sourced from elsewhere means a lower likelihood of mistakes, incomplete information, or duplicate work. This ensures reliability and better performance.
5. Better Customer Service
Integrations improve customer service in a couple of ways: When a client calls, no matter to whom they’re speaking with, your team member will have all relevant information — regardless of whether it relates to sales, marketing, or support.
Types of Software Integrations
There are several types of software integrations. Which one would be the most ideal for your business depends on your circumstances — such as the size of your team, your number of applications, and the need for each department to collaborate. Specifically, you can look for any of the following:
Star integrations (also known as spaghetti integrations) refers to inter-departmental interconnection of all their applications. This method provides high functionality, but the higher the number of connected apps, the more complex it can become to manage it.
Horizontal integration refers to having one main, central system that links to all other applications — yet the rest of the applications aren’t connected to each other. The central system is known as an enterprise service bus (ESB).
Vertical integration links applications based on how closely related they are within their job functions. This can be an efficient way to avoid confusion and unnecessary connections. However, each interconnected section works in silos; so you may still need to exchange communications manually should the need arise.
Common Data Format
If all your systems require different semantics to understand data, you would need an adapter to convert it every time it communicates with another application. This can be solved with common data format integration, which consolidates data from several sources and keeps it all stored in a single location.
How Integrations Affect Business Operations
If you’re old school, you may be tempted to think that if things have been working out fine with integrations, why change it? However, no person is an island. Your competitors are implementing them; and you don’t want to be the slowest business in the industry based on something as preventable as relying on outdated technology.
Software integrations provide you with the right information exactly when you need it — so you can make data-driven decisions as fast as possible.
In addition, software integrations enable you to run your business with a smaller team. By all means, hire as you scale; just not because your team feels short-staffed and overextended by the time and effort it takes to enter data manually across applications.
Custom vs. Out-of-the-Box Integrations
Ok. So you know you need software integrations to optimize your business operations. It also behooves you to be aware that there are two ways to purchase them:
Custom software integrations are specifically catered to your business needs. They are flexible, can integrate with all the other applications you use, and they can give you a competitive edge over other businesses who are still using standard software.
Do keep in mind that they have a steeper learning curve and require a higher budget. That said, they are beneficial on a long-term basis, as they can be scaled and adjusted as your business grows.
Out-of-the-box software integrations are relatively easy to learn how to use, and are ideal for businesses with standard operations (CRM, marketing, sales, support). There’s minimal effort to set it up and there’s no technical experience required; so you can start using it soon after purchase. Some of them also allow for minor customization.
The Software Integration Process
If you’re ready to get the ball rolling on integrations, first develop a roadmap that can help you determine what you need. Follow along with these tips:
Identify Your Business Needs
Make a list of all the solutions you are currently seeking. Get feedback from your team — especially those right on the front lines — about which types of processes would enable them to do their jobs more efficiently.
Does what you need exist? If not, can it be designed? Can you compromise on anything? Will you need additional features in the near future?
You need to take into account all of these questions to make a cost-effective decision. Otherwise you could end up making a purchase now, only to find out later that you’ll need to make another one a handful of months or years down the road.
Design the Infrastructure
Which apps need to be connected with which other ones? Which departments need to work together or have overlapping elements? This will help you determine whether you need a vertical, horizontal, or star integration, and optimize workflows.
If you opt for a customized solution, it needs to be tailored to your needs, and you should perform quality assurance. And even with a straight out-of-the-box solution, it needs to be tested once integrated with all of your required software and ensure all relevant data transfers are performed successfully.
Once installed, remember to perform routine maintenance checks to detect and patch any bugs and/or install necessary upgrades. It is also during this stage that you can decide whether it’s time to install additional features as your business needs evolve.
How Do BrightGauge Integrations Work?
At BrightGauge, one of our northern stars is to provide excellent customer service. We understand that’s the backbone of any company — ours and yours. It’s because of this reason that all our products (dashboards, goal management, and client reporting) integrate with many of the tools you're already using.
We also regularly listen to our customers’ wants and needs — providing solutions that address your specific challenges means giving you back hours of your time.
Our integrations process goes through several steps:
- Look into the existing support for software to integrate.
- Determine which key performance indicators the software will allow our tools to track.
- See if the tools are hosted or cloud-based.
- Understand complexity of connecting into their API.
- Determine if their database supports third-party queries.
We also take a good look into whether the trackable KPIs are relevant to your needs. This is because we always strive to provide you with useful data that can help you make better informed decisions.
Choosing the Right Integration Tools
Integrating software doesn’t have to be as time consuming as it sounds. With the right tools, like BrightGauge, you can have your business operations running as smoothly as possible. If you are looking to customize some of your own integrations, speaking with a product engineer is a great place to start.
Some of our partners have reported that our tools have saved them 8 - 10 hours per week, which is time they can now spend focusing on revenue-generating tasks — or on doing some fun stuff with their loved ones after a long day at work.