Written by – Nicholas Price
A few decades ago, software integrations were unheard of. It wasn’t that long ago that businesses were happy just to have computer programs that worked somewhat reliably. Computer programming has come a long way since then. Software programs are now more user-friendly and easier to install than in the past. They can be a great asset to modern businesses.
To be competitive, modern businesses need software programs to do much more than past programs were capable of. Part of the reason is because today’s customers demand a higher quality customer experience. Software integrations are extremely helpful in creating ideal circumstances for support and sales representatives to provide superior service. These cross-platform applications are readily available, cost-effective, and simple to implement, making it possible to meet the needs of customers and businesses alike.
What Are Software Integrations
Most software applications are designed to solve a particular business need or problem. In many cases, software applications are designed somewhat in a vacuum. Every software solution is unique and a lot of software solutions don’t always “play nicely” with others.
The term software integration refers to the process of joining two or more software applications, so they work in tandem. More importantly, software integrations can be designed so that you don’t lose any valuable information when they interface.
You’re probably familiar with business software applications that you download onto a computer and run updates as necessary. Plenty of companies are still using these types of business solutions, but they have limitations. Notably, they don’t have the capability to be a single source of data, and they never will.
To simplify things, some companies might opt to use SaaS, or software as a service, especially if they don’t have the advantage of employing their own developers. Cloud-based SaaS solutions have become mainstream in recent years because users can access them from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. With the strong reliance on mobile devices today and the growing importance of remote capabilities, mobility is an important factor.
VoIP, or voice over internet protocol, is a process where you can transmit voice over the internet. VoIP integrations in work with cloud based phone systems, and other software solutions to develop a multi-functional business solution with multiple communication channels.
The History of the Software Integration
System integration is a process where various computer systems and software applications can work together in a coordinated and unified way.
Today’s businesses need accurate analytics to make sound business decisions. With the wide variety of systems and tools available, synchronizing data has become very complex. The only way to get accurate information is to integrate data from disparate systems. Technology has come a long way toward integrating software solutions to consolidate data in ways that make it useful.
The first recorded system integration technology appeared as early as the 1970s and it was called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). EDI was developed so companies could exchange documents with each other. Since there was no standard computer language at that time, EDI defined the formats that would allow systems to exchange documents successfully.
Different technologies continued to evolve throughout the 80s and 90s and each had its own set of acronyms and limitations. Legacy systems are still being used today and companies have various reasons for hanging onto them. In many cases, updating systems may be too expensive or too disruptive to their business.
Modern Challenges for Integrations
One of the most challenging issues of today is that many software applications are still built on proprietary standards while others are built with open standards. The differences between the standards make it difficult for software applications to exchange and share data.
The newest technology for sharing information is application programming interface (API), which is a fragment of code that allows you to get data from outside sources. APIs work by talking to the connections between computer systems without disrupting the connections. With APIs, integrations have become easier for developers to build, and they’re more functional for users.
Overall, APIs make it possible for businesses to tap into disparate software applications and unify their functions into a single source.
The Importance that Integrations Play in Modern Business
Modern businesses have diverse needs. Cloud based phone systems, VoIP systems, and integrated software solutions play an increasing role in business.
The following statistics demonstrate that traditional data centers struggle to meet the demands of modern applications and workloads.
- According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market is expected to grow by 17% in 2020.
- Cloud infrastructure services are projected to have the highest growth.
- Public cloud services are forecasted to grow to $266.4 billion which is up from $227.8 billion in 2019.
- SaaS services are expected to grow $99.5 billion in 2019 to $116 billion in 2020.
- Gartner projects SaaS services to net $151 billion by 2022.
The rapid growth of software integrations clearly represents the value they offer for everyday business needs. Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner said, “Building, implementing, and maturing cloud strategies will continue to be a top priority for years to come.”
Consumers demand immediate service, often in real-time. For businesses to meet that demand, it’s essential for various programs to have the capability to exchange information readily and continually.
Advanced technology makes it possible to send and process messages and data. Software applications also save a wealth of data which companies can use in understanding personas, purchasing patterns, sales cycles, and customer interactions.
Software integrations open up seamless communication between software applications. Updates are quick and easy, which makes it even better. They’re the key to better communication, greater efficiency, cost savings, and a seamless customer experience.
How to Know Whether Your Team Needs a Solution That Allows Integrations
Upon founding, a company’s digital needs are usually fairly basic. As the customer database grows, sales and customer support become less efficient and profits suffer. Figuring out which solutions to add can be overwhelming. Trying to understand if they’ll work together can be even more confusing.
Over time, it becomes pretty easy to make a spontaneous investment in software every time new business needs arise. While that approach may be easy on your budget initially, it will likely cost you substantially more in the long run if you end up with a host of independent software programs that won’t work together.
Inefficiency also takes a toll on your employees. Adding contact information and other data into multiple programs is time-consuming. Their time is better spent multitasking or tending to more important tasks. Also, repetitive work is tiring and unproductive.
Your customers expect the ultimate customer experience. When your data flow is suffering, your service won’t meet their expectations and that will definitely impact your bottom line.
Questions to Ask About Integrations
If you find yourself asking the following questions, your team needs a software solution that allows integrations:
- Does my CRM integrate with sales data ?
- Does my CRM integrate with my phone system?
- Do other software apps with helpdesk software?
- How can I get data on inbound and outbound calling that works with my other software programs?
- Am I able to access call recordings for coaching purposes?
- Is there a way to log calls as they come in?
- How can I get data that will help me make decisions about staffing needs?
- Is it possible to switch from text or chat to a phone call?
- How can I connect my salespeople with information about inventory?
The answers to all of these questions can be solved by software integrations. But what if you have a business need that serves a unique and different purpose? A developer can easily create a customized solution using a publicly available API.
The Impact Integrations Can Have
Integrations improve your business in notable ways. They give you timely information so that you’re always making decisions based on the most current information.
Specifically, integrations will positively improve your bottom line in these ways:
1. Gives you visibility in real-time
- Business leaders often have to make informed decisions at crunch time. The wrong data can set you up for some bad consequences. It can take many man-hours to update financial reports and other data manually and manual processes can be wrought with errors. When data collection becomes too difficult, it’s easy to divert your attention to other tasks that are less time-consuming.
- Integrations make it possible for your business leaders to access the right data exactly when they need it to make the best possible decisions for your company. By accessing the facts, you can effectively minimize risks.
2. Boosts efficiency and helps planning for hiring
- Automation takes away a lot of your employees’ frustration with manual processing. It helps them to focus on more important tasks like making bigger sales and providing the best customer support possible. Most employees appreciate having multiple tools at their fingertips to serve customers better. As a result, they’ll enjoy greater job satisfaction, and you’ll have less employee turnover.
- When you rely on manual processes, you have to staff accordingly. Software integrations make it possible to hire fewer people and maximize the potential of existing hires. The right tools allow you to focus less on manual processes so you can dedicate your time and attention to developing your team’s sales and support skills.
3. Increased sales and improved support
- Call center software and integrations are bound to have a major impact on your sales operations. Having access to data connectivity across departments sets your sales team up for success. Accurate data is especially important for eCommerce operations. Customers expect to have instant access to information about inventory and shipping before they buy. Inaccurate or poor data creates chaos and confusion. Software integrations keep systems updated in real-time which makes the sales process smooth and easy whether it’s a phone sale, in-person sale, or online sale.
- Access to real-time data also helps your support representatives answer questions from customers right away and get the answers right the first time.
4. Consolidates data into a single source
- With manual processes, you may need to enter the same data into two or more systems. If someone makes an error, it can be difficult to reconcile it. By having data in one location, you have a single source of information and saves computer storage space too. A single source of information can save you hours of work in updating information.
- Software integrations will help you reduce costs with virtually all business processes. By streamlining all your processes and making them work efficiently all the time, you can focus on getting a larger share of the market and finding strategies to beat the competition.
Software integrations are quickly becoming an essential component of the most competitive strategies. In addition to all the great benefits that integrations provide, the right data helps you identify problems before they become too difficult to manage effectively.
VoIP Integrations & Your Business
In the grand scheme of things, VoIP integrations automate and consolidate many of the processes that could only be done manually in the past. When your essential functions are all in a central place, your communications platform becomes the core for email marketing, document management, sales, and customer support.
Software integrations can work for you in the following three ways:
1. Native integrations built into CRM software
- Many CRM software creators have built native integrations into their CRM programs so that businesses can use basic functions like email and scheduling without having to leave the CRM. They’re easy to implement and use, and they work with popular programs like Gmail, Slack, and Intercom.
2. Third-party integrations
- Independent companies offer an even greater variety of integrations for users to connect your CRM with useful business tools.
3. Open API
- Software programs can connect and communicate with each other without intense work by developers. Open API allows for two-way communication between software programs.
In summary, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by business processes. Make software integrations part of your regular business strategy and let automation do the grunt work for you. If you would like to learn more about how TimeLinx can help your business with integrations between CRM, PSM and ERP click here.
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TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.