Small-medium enterprises inevitably need to integrate software; data needs to pass from one system to another, and quite desirably, back or to another system.
The usual path for integration is evolutionary. The first stage is through a labour-intensive process of exporting from one system, manipulating that data (usually in Excel), and uploading it into another system or alternative, re-keying it manually. The second stage is to automate the manual process by some custom code.
Both stages are beset by problems, the first requires application knowledge, usually known by a one or two in the organisation; the second requires a wide range of skills (domain, application & technical), willing participants and usually a decent budget and/or timeframe. In our experience the smaller companies don’t have all of these available to them, and as such application integration is a challenge.
The larger company/enterprise however is well catered for both in resources available to them and the gamete of applications designed to address the needs of integrating applications.
Our mantra is to reduce these problems by providing out-of-box application integration with a rich feature set which is comparable to enterprise style products, but matched against the needs and resources of the SME.
Solutions which are fixed in cost, known in functionality and reduce uncertainty, allow you or your customer to integrate applications rapidly through a configuration tool, and not by code.
Common Issues with Application Integration
- Cost overruns – Either the systems integrator or the customer ends up picking up any overruns.
- Project Scope – Scope often creeps during a project. Unforeseen changes to requirements can mean hours/days worth of additional development, these result in cost and/or timeline creep.
- Unknowns – There are always unknown elements within each integration project. This can range from complexity during development to dealing with people and procedures ‘at the other end’. Unknowns add to cost, time and resistance to integration projects.
- Deployment – Deployment into a live environment can also be painful due to issues unforeseen or not exposed within a development environment.
- Time overruns – Due to unknowns, budgetary pressures and scope creep, project timelines can move meaning missed deadlines & poor experience.
- Inflexibility – Bespoke development leads to inflexibility. Changes to bespoke development can be costly and can suffer from all the issues already described. Further, if a project has been painful the customer is often unwilling to make changes at the risk of breaking something. This can lead to unnecessary manual processes being adopted by the customer to augment/fix the integration.
- Maintenance – Applications need to be upgraded. Integrations need to be tested & altered where necessary. This adds to the overhead of the process, and can impede process.