Integration vs Implementation The Value of Each in Business Transformation

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its parts: Re-evaluating Integration vs Implementation, and the Value of Each.

You’ve gone through the exhaustive effort of research, testing and programming for a digital business transformation that you believe will drive process improvement, better support staff and facilitate customer satisfaction – only to hit one hurdle after another after implementation.

What went wrong with your implementation?

While likely the answer is multi-faceted, after-action reports indicate that the underlying challenge for many is a limited or restricted collaborative approach.

More specifically, not fully benefiting from the implementation phase of the process to drive success.

Let’s have a deep dive into the integration vs implementation business transformation problem and understand the value that each brings to the table.

What is implementation?

In the world of Information Technology (IT), implementation usually refers to installing a new hardware or software system or application.

What is integration?

Integration, or systems integration, is the connection of data, applications, APIs, and devices across your IT organization to be more efficient, productive, and agile.

Integration vs Implementation – in the context of business solutions?

Integration and Implementation of business systems need to work hand-in-hand

Implementation is the natural follow-up step to product selection while integration is the act of bringing together smaller components or information stored in different subsystems into a single functioning unit.

Implementation is transactional, while integration is transformational.

Understanding that seemingly small distinction, and then embracing the value of both, can be the key to a successful implementation and customer experience transformation.

From a business standpoint the undertaking should not be integration vs implementation, but rather a combined integration and implementation effort.

Transactional Limits – What most digital implementation don’t meet their targets?

Ideally, an enterprise digital implementation effort takes a plan from an idea to its projected goals, which includes optimized workforce operations and improved customer relationships.

Consider customer relationship management (CRM) implementations.

CRM platforms are typically implemented because companies are looking for a stronger customer centric relationship. They’re often transactional in nature in that they emphasize hardware and/or software implementation as well as specific technical specifications.

The focus is installation and operation.

The implementation process usually includes a set of multi-phased steps such as

  • Requirements analysis (setting goals/objectives)
  • Criteria for success, scope of influence
  • Resource plan and risk analysis
  • Timelines
  • Roles/responsibilities

Yet, despite all that well thought out methodology, most CRM projects miss deadlines, go over budget, underestimate hours required by staff, and run into issues with external partners.

Studies show that 70% of CRM implementations fail, despite seemingly good planning. That’s a percentage that gives many pauses before investing.

A missing ingredient for success is likely the integration side of the process, the strategic unification of all of these capabilities.

Synchronized and Strategic: Importance of integration in business strategy

Synchronized and Strategic business software integration

Integration starts with an implementation, but then combines with other platforms to create a more comprehensive system that shares and leverages shared data when needed.

From an IT context, integration refers to the end result of a process that aims to combine different – often disparate – subsystems so that the data contained in each becomes part of a larger, more comprehensive system that, ideally, quickly and easily shares data when needed.

In the context of business, integration is a strategy to synchronize IT and business cultures and objectives and align technology with business strategy and goals.

It’s essentially a direct reflection of how IT is utilized as a function of business—and the benefits are many.

An integrated solution automates and simplifies data collection and the processing of data across different subsystems, improving accessibility, simplifying data collection and data syncing.

Since all the data is automatically updated and synchronized between disparate subsystems, the data is more accurate which leads to improved efficiency and enhanced decision making.

Here are the top five advantages of a successful business integration:

  1. Streamlined Purpose: IT serves the business and business integration aligns IT with business goals. Successful integrations result in reduced costs and operations bottlenecks by creating streamlined and optimized processes or workflows while preserving legacy systems.
  2. Improved Accessibility: Business integration transform assets into business services. Business integration can help to make the business more responsive and agile, enabling employees and customers to access data, place and track orders, or request service as part of a well-established workflow.
  3. Increased Efficiency: Business integration seeks automation and orchestration to connect and streamline business processes and workflows. An effective system integration automates the flow of information between systems, eliminating the need for repetitive and manual data entry. This enables users to allocate their time and resources wisely and improve their overall efficiency.
  4. Scalability: Well-integrated systems are also typically more scalable and cost effective, largely because most rely heavily on the cloud for data storage. If a business grows exponentially and additional storage is required, it can be quickly scaled up by the cloud provider.
  5. Opportunity for Innovation: Business integration seeks to use IT to enable new opportunities for business. It can help a business digitally transform and create new assets and services, enabling the business to innovate and compete in ways never before possible. As one example, a business might employ IoT devices and artificial intelligence to enhance product transportation or other supply chain activities.

The Need for Integration vs Implementation Harmony

The notion of business integration may seem simple, but actually implementing and integration strategy can be strikingly complex.

A business integration initiative typically involves the same elements and considerations, such as collaboration, planning and scalability, that might be found in other IT projects.

The most common challenges experienced during integration are largely related to change. Any organizations that has been around for five or more years will likely have legacy systems in place that are critical to their business processes and can’t be replaced easily.

Digitizing, orchestrating and automating complex business processes and workflows demands a deep understanding of the business and its security, compliance, and operational needs.

A second stumbling block is accountability. A system integration involves various subsystems and multiple stakeholders, including vendors and system owners, none of whom are responsible for the entire integration process.

Each involved party only takes care of their side of the integration and doesn’t offer accountability if something outside their territory goes wrong.

Effective integration requires experience and expertise in technology and a strong command of programming languages and system codes.

A key to success is teamwork. For instance, customer service programs that fail often lack a collaborative approach to building products.

Those that succeed have built cross-functional relationships that have a unified vision on the experience to be delivered, data needed to be shared and the technology to deliver it.

Here are three key points to keep in mind:

  1. Cross Business/Operational Clarity: Digitizing, orchestrating and automating complex business processes and workflows demands a deep understanding of the business and its security, compliance, and operational needs.
  2. Maintain Goals: While business integration can accelerate the pace of everyday business, the use of orchestration and automation demand guardrails to ensure that events occur in predictable, repeatable patterns.
  3. Provisional Adjustments: Any business integration initiative must include ample provisions for change as business needs and legal or regulatory requirements shift over time.

Orchestrating a Successful Transformation – Integration vs Implementation solution

An enterprise-wide transformation, such as what’s required for a CRM, is often complex, with hurdles that span technology to training.

A successful business transformation should not be an integration vs implementation problem, but a combination of both working together. Those that have been most successful have embraced implementation while using integration to bring every piece together.

In this case, the whole truly is stronger than the parts.