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How Does Integration Help in Business?

Improving processes for economic uncertainty in business

There have been many major global issues that have impacted businesses in the past few years, which has led to business turmoil and economic uncertainty.

Whilst businesses were still trying to recover from the health crisis and the impact of Brexit, the war in Ukraine just exacerbated the issue, creating even further chaos and leading to huge inflation, rising costs and a global recession.

These uncertain economic conditions are leading to many businesses reconsidering their strategies and looking internally to see how their business processes can be improved; not only to survive, but to also stay competitive in the future.

How does integration help in business?

The way of doing business has completely transformed over the past few years, and businesses will need to continue evolving and adjusting to the changing economic environment.

Buying and purchasing has shifted dramatically, with huge growth in eCommerce and online shopping. Customer expectations have also increased in line with this, as many now expect quick response times, especially with shipping and delivery.

There has also been a massive cultural shift actually within organisations following the introduction and adoption of hybrid and remote working. Obviously, this has created considerable repercussions for the IT department as they strive to adapt to a new digital age; installing and managing software that can facilitate this new IT ecosystem.

The key enabler that can help address all of these issues is digital transformation, and system integration is one of the most important components to achieve this.

Not only does it connect all business systems together, whether on-premises or in the cloud, it also provides the ability for businesses to automate numerous processes.

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Creating a foundation for digital transformation

Organisations need to develop a digital transformation strategy and transform into digital businesses or they will struggle to adapt or keep up with the competitive digitally-enhanced business environment.

Analysts from global marketing intelligence and technology advisory firm IDC have also concluded that digital transformation is a key technology priority for 2023, asserting that in order to do so organisations need to create a digital business platform.

“To succeed as a digital business, we argue that companies need to leverage a digital business platform. IDC defines this platform as a multilayered, enterprise-wide technology architecture, integrating different systems and applications, to enable use cases that ensure business competitiveness and innovation. Only 13% of European organisations have such an architecture, according to IDC’s Digital Executive Sentiment Survey, October 2022.”

The crux of this argument is that organisations need to have a foundational tech layer in place, the building blocks to delivering digital transformation, to help create a digital platform and thus a digital business. With a platform in place the organisation will then be able to implement technology that can help deliver acceleration and resilience.

Integral to this foundational tech layer are system integration and process automation.

Both these functions provide the catalyst for all the other components within a foundational tech layer, providing the connectivity between cloud-based applications, legacy systems and microservices, and then automatically synchronising and processing the data for business intelligence, monitoring and planning.

Why is integration important in business performance?

This has been a major topic of conversation for businesses and a large portion of the IT channel over the past year, with many partners citing an increased demand from customers for system integration and business process automation.

“Customers are very interested in streamlining their companies at the moment. They are looking for ways to digitise their business; streamlining how they move information between systems, people and also their customers. I think the pandemic created this urgency. It made companies think about how they can streamline their business and become more efficient. This is often driven by the need to reduce their operating costs, whether that’s to become more profitable or to help the business survive. Therefore, streamlining or digitising, using technology like BPA Platform, is an interesting area for them.” Jonathan Wilkins, Director, Avrion.

Although businesses may already have some sort of a digital presence with an online eCommerce store, website or using cloud-based applications, if they are not actually connected then they almost become irrelevant for any aspiring digital business.

Without system integration data becomes siloed in disparate business systems, applications and databases. This means that organisations are not utilising their data effectively and are basically limiting their aspirations of transforming into a digital business.

System integration, whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, enables businesses to connect all these different data sources and then read and/or write data between them.

This reduces the amount of resources required to manually load data into different business systems, thus enhancing performance and improving efficiency.

System integration is therefore an essential component of digital transformation as it provides the framework for automation, especially the processing and management of business data.

Unfortunately, too many businesses still seem to rely on manual data inputting, cutting and pasting data from one system to another, which is not only time-consuming and inefficient, it can also lead to errors and create bottlenecks within the business.

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How can automation technology improve business processes?

Business process automation is unsurprisingly garnering a lot of interest recently. The economic pressures on businesses are mounting and they need to find solutions, and the automation of processes is high on the agenda.

The three main priorities that businesses hope to achieve by introducing automation technology are:

  • Lowering operating costs
  • Gaining greater efficiency
  • Increasing customer satisfaction

“In the last year, customers are all tightly reviewing their processes, people and resources, and becoming far more reliant on automation between systems, enabling them to save time. This allows people to reduce headcount in certain areas and focus their efforts on the areas you can’t automate and to really see where the value is added, where the big gains are. That’s been a substantial shift this year, as many companies will know and have experienced.” Andrew Phillips, Customer Success Manager, Seidor UK

As we have discussed, automation can only occur once systems, applications, databases and/or web services have been integrated. Only then will it be possible to address some of the common issues that businesses want to improve via automation.

Naturally, many businesses are now looking for end to end automation packages for specific purposes and/or verticals.

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Customer satisfaction

In this digital age, customer expectations are extremely high. A 24/7 way of life has permeated the consciousness and customers expect quick transactions, expediated deliveries and quick response times. Businesses therefore need to be able to process orders and shipping as quickly as possible to keep customers satisfied. Effective communication is also an essential part of this process, especially in regard to customer enquiries and support requests.

Automation technology can therefore play a key role in achieving this by automating numerous tasks and processes throughout the customer journey.

Common processes that businesses are looking to automate include:

  • Processing sales orders from an eCommerce store to an accounting, CRM or ERP system
  • Sending invoices, receipts and order confirmations to the customer
  • Placement of sales orders with the most economical or suitable courier service provider
  • Delivery and tracking number notifications sent to customers via SMS or email
  • Communication with customers regarding deliveries, new stock, services etc.
  • Delivery of welcome packs, documents, statements etc. following customer enquiries

A customer portal integrated with back office systems is another way of enhancing customer service and satisfaction. Providing a single point of access to manage and review documents and policies, invoices, place an order, raise a support issue or arrange payments, 24/7, 365 days a year, will help reduce data entry tasks and costs, as well as streamline business processes.

Supply chain agility

Another major concern for businesses trying to embrace digital transformation in this current climate is supply chain management.

Global issues have obviously had a significant impact on supply chains, with major disruptions causing many businesses to re-evaluate their strategies.

A recent survey by SAPinsider revealed that process automation was high on the agenda for improving supply chain management, especially in regard to resiliency and agility, in order to mitigate some of the problems they face.

89% of respondents believe process automation in the supply chain is either “important” or “very important” to attain digital transformation objectives. 82% want an end to end supply chain visibility and 96% use or are considering order management solutions.”

To achieve this, organisations require trusted data and therefore need to integrate business systems to provide the automation capabilities that will facilitate this transformation and visibility.

If a competent integration solution is in place it could also help onboard new suppliers much quicker. An integration platform could easily set up new EDI integrations, connect to a wide variety of business systems, such as ERP systems, via their APIs, as well as automate supply chain processes, including procurement and risk analysis.

Gaining financial control

Finance is obviously another major concern for businesses currently. CFOs are under extreme pressure to balance the books and look for ways to streamline operations to ensure the stability and future growth of the business.

In order to achieve this they need accurate and auditable data. This isn’t limited to just numbers, however. They also need operational, marketing, economic market and social data to make informed decisions about the direction that the business needs to go in.

Data therefore needs to be pulled from multiple sources and reports generated. Automating this process not only helps improve business intelligence it also enables financial officers to focus on more creative work that can help the business succeed.

Common financial processes that can be automated include:

  • Debt management, including monitoring and email reminders
  • Running and distributing key financial reports
  • Credit referencing of customers via services such as Creditsafe
  • Screening customers or suppliers and for red flags, such as insolvency risk, financial crime, sanctions etc., and issuing alerts
  • Validating VAT numbers by integrating VAT Information Exchange System (VIES) with accounting or ERP systems
  • SAP Concur integration with accounting systems
  • Sending reminders for annual returns, such as tax and VAT
  • Bank reconciliation processes from online payment gateways, such as Sage Pay, Stripe, Worldpay etc.

Improving data analytics

It’s not only CFOs that need accurate business intelligence. Every department within a business needs to have insight into performance, customer behaviour, production processes, performance metrics and trends.

Access to this information will help with forecasting and enable businesses to understand where to focus on areas that need looking at or to exploit new opportunities.

The automation of data analytics generated from sales, marketing and operational data, can provide this intelligence, and can help with more proactive tasks, such as understanding when to send a marketing campaign based on previous open-rates or engagement levels.

System integration and process automation obviously provide significant roles in collating all of this information from the various data sources into a central database, system or report ready for analysis.

Managing hybrid and remote working

The global health crisis imposed a dramatic change within businesses, fundamentally shifting the way in which people work. Many employees are now either working from home or in a hybrid capacity, and this seems set to stay for the foreseeable future.

In a way, it has actually forced businesses into moving towards digital transformation even quicker, with system integration and automation technology central to this again.

The hybrid / remote working environment unsurprisingly led to a huge rise in the use of cloud-based applications. As a result, these applications needed to be integrated with core business systems, such as ERP systems, especially if these were on-premises.

It also meant that various processes could not be done manually and therefore many businesses have looked at how automation can be implemented to improve efficiencies, performance and workflows, especially for sales processes, customer support or supply chain management. Which is still the case.

Automating mundane tasks also enables employees to concentrate on more creative tasks that they can concentrate on outside of a busy office environment, which makes it a much more fulfilling working experience and can add value across the business.

The other significant issue that has arisen from recent events is the changing workforce. Many industries have experienced a ‘great resignation’ and are now facing staff shortages and a drop in skills talent. Facing this dilemma, businesses are now looking at ways that automation can help combat these issues – automating tasks and processes that can fill the skills gap.

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What are the main advantages of integration and process automation?

Improving efficiency and reducing costs have always been an aspirational target for most organisations, but the current economic situation has brought this to the forefront.

There is mounting pressure for businesses to prioritise investments, with many looking for solutions that can deliver the fastest and greatest ROI.

Integration, and especially process automation, can have a considerable impact, providing instant value in rapid time.

The greatest benefit for any business is that process automation is very simple to measure, as it can quickly deliver:

  • Productivity gains
  • Error reduction
  • Increased compliance
  • Cost savings

Simple business tasks can be easily automated to instantly reduce the amount of time employees spend on manually inputting or cutting and pasting data, thus freeing them to concentrate on more productive and creative tasks that can add value to the business.

Due to having more resources available businesses can generate and explore new revenue opportunities, new routes to market and innovation, as well as focus on core functions of the business, such as customer satisfaction.

System integration provides the framework to achieve this automation and also provides businesses with unique technological opportunities that can support the digital transformation process and improve business performance.

With a competent integration solution in place, businesses can easily incorporate cloud technology or smart mobile solutions into their IT ecosystem, such as applications for specific business tasks and projects.

These can be easily combined with legacy systems, meaning that existing software does not have to be ripped out, which would be an expensive and wholly inefficient strategy for many businesses.

Company mergers, acquisitions and onboarding new partners can also be achieved more smoothly by implementing a purpose built intercompany integration solution.

“For our customers, it’s the ability to do more with less. Ultimately, it’s not just about integration, it’s about process automation as well. The ability to enable people to be more efficient, especially in today’s climate. It’s not necessarily about growth anymore, it’s about adapting to the current market conditions. That might mean having to scale the business back or use technology in order to find efficiencies in the business. Therefore, we see BPA Platform as an enabler right now, but we also see it as being part of the story for growth in the future once more.” Craig Wiltshire, Managing Director, Struto

Discover more process automation case studies.

Moving integration to the cloud with iPaaS

The availability of iPaaS solutions makes system integration even more efficient. As it is hosted in the cloud by an external provider it removes many of the costs usually associated with integration and business process automation.

An iPaaS platform will be able to offer the full mix of integration scenarios, including on-premises-to-cloud (public or private), private cloud-to-public cloud, and public cloud-to-public cloud integration; application-to-application and business-to-business integration. It may also include mobile app integration and Internet of Things (IoT) integration.

As all the tools and connectors are hosted, upgraded and maintained by the vendor, businesses can simply subscribe to the service and start integrating applications, loading data, automating business processes, migrating users, and incorporating the application into the organisation.

Learn about iPaaS

Technology for the future

It’s going to be a turbulent few years ahead, so businesses need to be prepared, stay flexible and ensure that they deploy the right technology in every area of their operations and target the right processes.

Implementing system integration and process automation will provide the platform and the framework for businesses to quickly adapt to economic changes or new business challenges, ensuring that they can become more agile, resilient and stable.

For more information on the benefits of system integration and process autaomtion, and how they can help your business, download the brochure below or call us on +44(0) 330 99 88 700.

Frequently Asked Questions

The way of doing business has completely transformed over the past few years, and businesses will need to continue evolving and adjusting to the changing economic environment. The key enabler that can help address this issue is digital transformation, and system integration is one of the most important components to achieve this. Not only does it connect all business systems together, whether on-premises or in the cloud, it also provides the ability for businesses to automate numerous processes.
Without system integration data becomes siloed in disparate business systems, applications and databases. This means that organisations are not utilising their data effectively and are basically limiting their aspirations of transforming into a digital business. System integration, whether deployed on-premises or in the cloud, enables businesses to connect all these different data sources and then read and/or write data between them.
Integration, and especially process automation, can have a considerable impact, providing instant value in rapid time. The greatest benefit for any business is that process automation is very simple to measure, as it can quickly deliver:
• Productivity gains
• Error reduction
• Increased compliance
• Cost savings
Simple business tasks can be easily automated to instantly reduce the amount of time employees spend on manually inputting or cutting and pasting data, thus freeing them to concentrate on more productive and creative tasks that can add value to the business.

BPA Platform Brochure

BPA Platform Brochure

The Business Process Automation (BPA) Platform enables you to quickly and easily build automated processes unique to your organisation through an intuitive drag and drop graphical user interface.

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