The modern business world is full of enterprise software options: ERP, CRM, E-Commerce, BI, SCM—the list, and the acronyms, seems to never end. As more and more software options enter the field purporting to solve every business problem around, it becomes even more important to promote and understand the idea of the interconnected enterprise. The interconnected enterprise is business where software platforms are integrated and working together to form a single and powerful nexus of business operations. Instead of running a bunch of different applications in silos, businesses that integrate find they have one source of data that becomes not only more reliable but also less susceptible to the risk of human error when data gets transferred between platforms.
To achieve this kind of software synchronicity, a lot of software vendors claim to sell integration tools that can connect their platforms or tools to other systems you may be running, but you should be wary of integration applications offered by the vendors that provide the ERP or CRM themselves. Often times, they will be rigid integration tools, built specifically to connect single systems. These solutions are simply not the same as a cloud-hosted based integration platform service, though they can be often confused as such. Again, your company should be wary of expecting a platform and getting a singular tool.
But what really constitutes an integration platform, and how is it different from the familiar integration tools a software vendor will offer you? Let us break down the key differences—and point out the advantages that a platform will be able to provide your business over a standard integration engine.
Not a One-to-One Solution
Be wary of Point-to-Point Solutions
A software vendor offering their own in-house data integration solution can often make it seem like it would be the most logical option for you. Say you’re thinking about implementing a certain ERP system, but you’re worried about whether you’ll be able to connect it properly with a CRM you’re already running. The sales person on the call says: “No worries! We have an in-house option that’s built to connect our software to just that CRM!”. Convincing right? After all, these pre-built integrations might seem like the right option—especially if they are built by the same team that built the ERP or CRM you’re integrating. Not so fast.
In fact, sometimes these solutions provided by the software companies will be exactly the opposite of what you want. Since the solutions are built specifically for a single piece of software, or connection, they can be incredibly restrictive and uncooperative to any other software platform your business may be using. Sure, they marketed the tool as a solution for their specific ERP or CRM but are you sure that it will be accommodating for say, an e-commerce solution that you later bring on, or will that require another connector aimed at that platform? Before you know it, your business could be bogged down with a complex web of software connectors built by a wide spectrum of different developers—and thus unable to communicate effectively. This kind of logjam can seriously slow down business operations as they build up, and make it impossible for your business to grow dynamically.
Tools Are Expensive—And Prohibitive
Not only are singular integration engines prohibitive in the number of software systems they can connect, but they can also cost significantly more time and money than they are really worth. Firstly, an integration tool that is built with a specific ERP in mind may be required to be installed onsite, on your own servers and based upon your available data capacity. It will also be only related to the ERP (or CRM) it was built for. If you find that your business’ capacity and needs drastically change due perhaps to a merger, acquisition or just a simple boom in growth, you may find it would be incredibly unaffordable to maintain the integration tool along with any other new systems and integrations that your business will need.
Integration Platforms Are Always Evolving
With a singular software integration tool all of the sync work and maps are placed in the hands of the original developer. That means that a partial integration solution (as the tools often are) will leave your development team to do the rest of the work with little support or accommodation from the actual application. Although ERP vendors sometimes do provide APIs to their customers so that organizations can connect their ERP to other applications, those APIs won’t behave exactly as expected, and be foreign and difficult for your IT team to grasp. Often these solutions are just single-function integration engines, which usually run slowly, and are incredibly rigid in their application and speak in restrictive languages.
On the other hand, an integration platform like Scribe will provide functionality that just isn’t available in an opaque pre-made tool. With features like an intuitive, developer friendly API, Scribe gives the power to your business, yourdevelopers and what you want your enterprise software to look like. Instead of trying to get a bunch of different engines speaking different languages, an integration platform will provide a common base of terminology so that all your applications can remain in conversation, no matter what direction your business heads. You also won’t have to worry about how any future software pieces your company might need to fit—the flexibility of iPaaS means that you will be able to build out a cloud-based integration between a huge range of enterprise tools, even if those solutions aren’t available yet. Since an integration platform is a living thing that can be manipulated and built around, one will usually find a community of developers and innovators that naturally grows around it.Platform providers like Scribe Online have entire marketplaces and forums dedicated to their technology and using the API in innovative new ways, ensuring that the platform is constantly evolving to meet unique business needs and overcome challenges as they pop up.
As the enterprise software market floods with an ever increasing amount of platforms and systems, it’s become more critical than ever that a company can seamlessly integrate their entire software arsenal. There’s a lot of integration tools masquerading as platforms able to provide this kind of company interconnectivity. In reality, these singular integration engines may just add clutter, complexity and sluggishness to your enterprise software suite. Instead of providing you with just the wrench or the screw driver, an integration platform will give your business the whole tool belt that will prepare you to take on any potential integration or software problem in your company’s past or future—and it’s important that your company can make this distinction when you’re deciding how to best integrate all of your enterprise software.
Note – Kayla Hollenbaugh is a marketing professional at Datix, a premier software services company based in St. Louis, MO. Unity is Datix’s pre-built integration solution for ERP and CRM enterprise software, available to connect your software seamlessly without any of the normal errors or bugs that can come with integration.