Entrepreneurs love to pursue software integrations. There are certainly advantages in doing so, such as making user interfaces easier to navigate, improving employee productivity, and sharing data between platforms. But is integrating different types of application software always the right move?
What Is Software Integration?
Just in case you're not familiar, let's talk about the basics of software integration. It's a buzzy, vague phrase that's easy to misinterpret. Software integration simply means taking multiple types of software and tying them together in a way that allows them to work together.
That could mean pulling data from one software application so it can be used in another software application. It could also mean something much more complex, such as combining the functionality of two different platforms to create one super-platform.
For example, you might integrate your ERP software with your maintenance software, taking advantage of all your maintenance related information and using it with your resource planning software to make more intelligent decisions at a high level.
More commonly, organizations often use software integrations to piece together functions from many different smaller apps, much in the way that Voltron is assembled from several smaller robots.
Potential Advantages of Software Integration
Software integration does have enormous potential, especially if you do it right.
- Efficiency and time savings. Software integrations have the ability to save you time and streamline efficiency. Rather than jumping back and forth between two different software applications, your employees may be able to do everything in one spot. You may also be able to automate communications between these platforms, saving even more manual effort.
- Accessibility. Employees generally have a much easier time navigating one or two platforms, rather than learning many different ones. Streamlining your software functionality leads to greater accessibility, which in turn gives employees more confidence and higher morale.
- Automation. Automation is an increasingly high priority for modern businesses, and it's one of the most common motivations for integrating software in the first place. If you have all your data in one place, or if you're leveraging many different services at once, you can create dynamic workflows that run by themselves.
- Consistency. Keeping all your information and workflows in one place allows you to establish a single source of truth, helping you achieve greater consistency throughout your organization.
The Disadvantages and Vulnerabilities of Software Integration
However, it's easy to become enamored of software integration, seeing it as a pure good. Too often, organizational leaders overlook some of the disadvantages and vulnerabilities of software integration.
- Security issues. Let's talk about cybersecurity. Every new software integration you create is going to introduce some new vulnerabilities. If you have 15 different applications working together, a single vulnerability in just one of those applications could spell doom for the entire system. Additionally, APIs that connect different platforms together can introduce vulnerabilities of their own.
- Technical complexity. As you integrate more software platforms, you're going to add more technical complexity to your system. It's going to get harder and harder to successfully manage as it grows bigger and messier.
- Functionality hiccups. Simple API calls and data exchanges are relatively easy to set up, and should flow smoothly. But if you're integrating software with the intention of creating dynamic new functions, you're probably going to experience some hiccups along the way. This can lead to productivity and workflow disruptions -- and in rare cases, lead to total outages or data loss.
- Cost. Integrating software is always somewhat expensive. Even if you're using in-house resources to connect two platforms together in a simple and straightforward way, it could take several hours to ensure proper functionality. And of course, if you integrate software incorrectly or inefficiently, you'll end up spending even more money. This is especially true if a new security vulnerability eventually leads to a data breach.
- Future issues. Just because your integrated software is working now doesn't mean it will work forever. New updates to any dependent platforms could present failures or other issues that require immediate resolution.
Building Software From the Ground Up
Rather than stitching together the software you want from a variety of different independent sources, you can always consider building your custom software from the ground up. This is a time intensive and expensive ordeal, especially if you're simultaneously trying to manage an existing organization within an existing set of software applications. However, in the long run, it may be worth the investment.
As we've seen, software integration is often the right move. It can make your organization more efficient, more organized, and more profitable. But it's not entirely beneficial, and utilizing it properly can be challenging, especially if you don't know what you're doing. Make sure you understand the risks and disadvantages associated with software integration before leaning on it too hard.