Critical Phases of Software Integration
There is no such thing as too much data when it comes to managing your business and serving your customers. However, when this data is siloed into separate instances, businesses aren't making the most of their software investments and continue to have lapses in their processes. For example, a company maintaining separate ERP and CRM systems still has to manually enter data from one system into the other. Activities such as payment authorization and order fulfillment require users to switch back and forth between systems, wasting precious hours that should be going towards revenue-generating tasks.
That's why manufacturers and distributors are becoming more invested in connecting their back office with their customer-facing services through enterprise software integrations. When data is shared between all of your processes and departments, it becomes infinitely more valuable. With total system integration, customers can have real-time updates on inventory levels and delivery times, while your business can understand and predict your market’s needs, habits and processes better than ever. When enterprise data and systems are joined together, users can automate processes and gain visibility from end to end of their business.
To make your integration effective and reap ROI in no time, some essential steps need to be taken. Read on for the five stages required for a prosperous software integration.
Business Process Modeling
Every successful software project, integration or implementation begins with a thorough model of your business processes. Business process modelling (BPM) doesn't just consist of taking a snapshot of your current systems. It entails creating a detailed map of your desired processes—a living model of what you want your business to look like in the future. Carefully map out goals for your project. How do you want to consolidate certain processes and empower employees with this integration project? With the future in mind, you can then successfully plan and prioritize the key features of your project and get your software integration working exactly the way you need it to.
Building use cases for your integration project is one of the easiest ways to increase enthusiasm and user adoption for the new software system. Use cases are in-depth, fully mapped definitions of how specific users will interact with the integrated software to achieve their goals. Your cases need to be thorough to truly encourage user adoption and explain how the project will positively benefit your team. You are hopefully integrating your software to better connect, and thus benefit, every employee in your enterprise from the shop floor to the sales team. Consequently, drawing up positive use cases for every team will naturally get them excited about all the ways software integration is going to make their lives easier.
How much communication does your shop floor and your sales team have currently? Without full software integration, it is likely very little. This is what your connection is aiming to fix. To create a more connected enterprise, transparency throughout your software integration project must be a constant focus for your entire team, especially during the implementation and training process.
Without collaboration, users will interact with the integrated system in silos, stunting your attempts at aligning your departments. Everything about the project needs to be accessible, on the table and open to collaboration from all of the affected employees. Not only will involving your team members from day one make for easier training on the platform, but it will also encourage user adoption post go-live. If users feel they have had a significant hand in how the software integration was installed and know that their contribution has helped the larger team, they will be more likely to get involved in making sure that the project is successful in the end.
It may be tempting to take the easy route and just set aside a day for a couple of routine tests before go-live, but this is an invitation for software disaster further down the road. Suddenly, all the money you thought you saved through that half-hearted testing is thrown down the drain (likely along with more) when your integration fails and you have no safety net in place or any idea how to rescue lost data and customers.
To truly ensure software integration success, you really have to put your software system through the wringer. Throw every possible disaster scenario you can think of at it, making sure you have a safety net in place for your data and your business in any possible situation, be it a security breach or a downed server. Only after you take such an extensive approach will you be able to determine if your integration can keep up with workloads and recover from potential problems. That way you can approach the go-live day with total confidence in both your software and your team.
Then, Go Live!
If you have followed all of the previous stages closely, then the go-live of your software integration should really be a non-event. With continued maintenance, change management and adoption techniques already in place, employees will be convinced that the integration is the best solution for your business, driving revenue and cutting costs within the business all while focusing their work ever more strongly on the customer. Your business will be more collaborative and transparent than ever—enjoy those benefits!
Enterprise software integrations happen on a much faster timeline than implementations, especially when you use the right solution. However, you still have to put in the time up-front to meticulously map out your software integration and establish specific, measurable and realistic goals. When you execute these steps, you will save a massive amount of time and dollars in the long run and end up with the solution your business needs to thrive.
For a robust software integration, look no further than Datix. Our Unity application is a pre-built solution designed to seamlessly connect Epicor ERP with an array of front-end systems, such as CRM and eCommerce. Datix's premier consultants will take you through all the necessary steps to ensure your integration is executed smoothly. We'll install the solution quickly and take care of essential customizations as well as maintenance and upgrades throughout your software's lifetime.
To maximize your software investment, get in touch with Datix to take advantage of our landmark integration solutions and services!