Understanding the system integration process allows organizations to determine whether data sharing would enhance their overall performance and functionality.
System integration (SI) connects multiple subsystems so they can function together and share information to enhance supply chain management. From internal operations to communicating with third parties, data transparency is essential for efficient execution. In other words, businesses with several software systems can use an integrator to create a centralized sharing network that gives users access to all information.
Implementing an integration solution eliminates the need to manually enter data across various software, saving time, labor costs, and reducing the risk of human error. This open network of data sharing enhances communication throughout a company's departments, optimizing operational efficiency.
This system software also connects with external contacts such as suppliers, clients, and customers. With extensive security measures held by integration systems, businesses can share specific information with a third party without disclosing data from other processes. This transparency allows companies to build partnerships with open communication, trust, and efficient decision making.
Organizations debating whether they should begin a system integration project should first seek to understand the implementation process and the various methods available.
7 Simple Steps of the System Integration Process
An integration project requires extensive planning, system design, and software development to ensure successful implementation. Businesses can begin the process by following seven comprehensive steps-
1. Determine Requirements
Throughout this process, businesses will be working closely with the IT department and a software developer to ensure their integration need is fulfilled. But first, a company management team must gather a list of requirements that their integrated system needs to address. This outline should mention any operations, business processes, or insights that the company wishes to improve. With this information, the developer can build a user-friendly system with the necessary components to enhance business performance.
2. Conduct Analysis
After the requirement list is complete, the IT department will analyze it to determine the feasibility of designing software that will adequately address all of the concerns. At this phase, the business must be prepared to make compromises as they may suggest further functions that they believe the company will eventually need. Although it may initially cost more to add features, if the company skimps on software design and later needs better functionality, they must invest in a whole new system. Therefore, it is more cost-effective to overprepare for the business's potential needs.
3. Design Software Infrastructure
Once the analysis is conducted and approved, the software developer begins building the system's architecture. Detailed blueprints layout the design of how the various systems will integrate and aggregate data.
4. Develop a Management Plan
After the infrastructure is designed, the management team must collaborate with the other parties to calculate risks, create a timeline, and determine alternative options. This preparation will ensure operations can continue to run smoothly even if developers run into issues or require an extension.
5. Design System Integration
Designing the system integration is the most work-intensive and time-consuming phase as it outlines the process, system tests, methods, and logistics. This step's success relies heavily on how well the previous steps were performed and if all necessary details were covered. With proper integration, all systems will seamlessly integrate without losing any data during transfers.
6. Implement the Solution
After the software solution is designed and tested for quality assurance, it is ready to be implemented. When the integration process is complete, management can begin training employees on the new system.
7. Perform Maintenance Checks
Perhaps the most overlooked step is performing routine maintenance on system integrators. Users should run scheduled diagnostics on their software to ensure that no new errors have populated and the functions do enhance their performance. If any problems arise, the IT team can be contacted to fix technical issues or add more components.
System Integration Methods
Businesses must also determine which system integration method can handle their specific data management. Typically, there are four main strategies, including-
A point-to-point integration system consists of simple connections between two subsystems rather than a complex network. The simplicity of this method makes it ideal for businesses that focus on enhancing one function instead of implementing an entire database. If this method is used to connect several software applications, the connections become unmanageable and technical issues may arise.
Also known as spaghetti integration, a star integrator is a collection of point-to-point connections in a star polyhedron sequence. This structure is not only able to connect software but also makes interconnections between other subsystems. However, because of its complex mechanism, if a developer were to make a physical model of star integration, it would look like a plate of spaghetti, hence its nickname. This method's ability to make numerous interconnections provides users with more functionality but requires more maintenance.
Horizontal integration establishes a subsystem that acts as the centralized database that all other software connects to. This reduces the number of connections needed to integrate all processes by eliminating interconnections. Therefore, if there are seven subsystems, there would only be seven total connections, one from each system to the central integrator. Minimizing links saves time, capital, and effort required to build and maintain the solution.
The vertical integration method forms individual silo structures based on the subsystems' functions. In other words, this strategy groups similar software together without making interconnections to systems handling other operations. For example, a silo would be created for linking a point-of-sale (POS) processor with inventory management and ordering software because they handle similar functions. This integration would give users access to real-time stock quantities and purchase orders. However, if a company wishes to integrate other software, more silos must be created, which can quickly overwhelm the network.
The system integration process requires a complete digital transformation within a company's operations. However, successfully preparing an integration plan ensures the business can seamlessly connect processes to enhance their overall performance.