Most businesses rely on a variety of software products to facilitate internal operations, gather and analyze data, automate processes, and perform other functions. Without software, most companies today would be crippled in terms of productivity and collaboration.
The trouble is, juggling many different software platforms independently can be problematic. If you have conflicting sets of data hosted on different platforms, or you’re regularly compelled to switch from one app to another, the process can lead to unfounded conclusions, compromises in your productivity, or simply waste your time. Software integration can fix many of these issues. But it’s not an inherently beneficial move.
How Software Integration Works?
Integration of software programs can happen in many ways. It essentially involves combining two or more software platforms in at least one meaningful way. In a simple integration, you might be able to use one software platform to pull data from the other. In more complicated integrations, you might manage to mesh the functionality of multiple platforms into a single, comprehensive user interface.
Nearly all integrations require at least some technical expertise to execute. Software platforms with open API documentation attempt to make integrations easier, but it still takes some development expertise to ensure compatibility and functionality.
The Merits of Software Integration
Software integration can be valuable for your business in several ways:
- Streamlined usability. In many cases, integrations lead to streamlined usability. Instead of being forced to jump from one platform to another, users could have access to everything they need under one umbrella. Rather than be forced to use a single feature in isolation, they can coordinate an array of features from different platforms and improve productivity or efficiency.
- New functionality. In some cases, integrations can offer brand-new functionality. Two platforms working together may be capable of accomplishing something that neither would have done independently. For example, you might be able to automate certain business processes if you automatically sync data between platforms and utilize functional elements of both.
- Consistent, accessible data. Many business owners pursue software integrations for the sake of making data more accessible or easier to sift. It’s crucial for your records to remain accurate and consistent, but this is difficult to accomplish if you’re gathering data in many different ways and on a variety of platforms. Successful integration can make your data more consistent and accessible, and eventually empower you to build a single source of truth (SSOT).
- Speed and time savings. Efficient integrations lend themselves to faster task execution and overall savings of time. Users can narrow their focus on one platform and get convenient access to the features they need the most. Smooth integrations are also automatic, highly usable, or both, which minimizes time or effort on the part of users.
- Overall user experience. The overall user experience of a successful integration is generally favorable. This can lead to higher morale and greater employee retention on a significant scale.
The Risks of Software Integration
However, you’ll also need to consider some potential risks.
- Time and money costs. First, it requires some time and extra funding to integrate software successfully. Even if you follow basic API documentation, this isn’t something anyone may crank out in a few minutes. You’ll have to conduct testing to ensure functionality, usability, and security; and if there turn out to be any issues, that’s going to delay the finished product. For more technically challenging or custom integrations, you might spend tens of thousands of dollars or more.
- Compatibility issues. Platforms aren’t necessarily compatible. While many modern software platforms are designed to be as accessible as possible, there are still technical limitations that may prohibit you from connecting one to another. In some cases, that may mean that integration may be logistically impossible; in others, the time and money costs will be much higher.
- Security risks. There are some security risks associated with software integrations, as well. If you have two software platforms working seamlessly together, any vulnerability inherent in one has the potential to affect the other. Also, API calls can involve security holes that lead to devastating consequences. You’d be wise to practice consistent security testing to close these gaps.
- Technical challenges. Certain niche technical challenges can pose additional wrinkles, especially for inexperienced developers. Even small errors could lead to missing or broken functionality for users.
Is Software Integration the Right Move?
So is software integration always the right move? Strictly speaking, the answer would have to be no, since there are at least some situations in which software integration doesn’t make sense, even if you’re using platforms that could theoretically be integrated.
However, many of the risks and downsides of software integration can easily be mitigated if you follow proper procedures and account for those risks and downsides. Always perform the proper due diligence before planning any major change to your technology stack.