We've told you before and we'll tell you again: it's not easy getting all your technology to work together.
Customers engage businesses through different devices — and this can cause a lot of confusion when you want to deliver seamless customer experiences.
But while integrating all of your technology can be a challenge, it will ultimately pay off with lower costs, increased customer satisfaction and, in many cases, increased revenues. These benefits are not only immediate but long-term, too, industry experts concur.
Focus on Your Goals
Before you even begin to integrate legacy software with new technology and software, stop and think. What are you trying to accomplish?
Heather MacFayden, CMS Analyst and VP, Production at Falcon-Software Co., said silos or repositories of data should be accessible to users and that solutions should be developed to bring the data to users. “Step back and think about what you're trying to integrate and why you're trying to do it before you start thinking about how you're going to do it,” she said.
Robert Bredlau, COO and Managing Director at e-Spirit, a supplier of content management solutions, suggested a more holistic approach to tech integration.
“A vendor only has limited knowledge, so partnerships are necessary. Each company has its own specialty,” he said.
He also recommended a best-of-breed approach — select a few vendors and pay attention to their live demos. When asked about specific recommendations based on industries or sizes of the businesses, Bredlau advocated for early intervention.
“Talk to vendors as early as possible to find out what issues they want to solve,” he said.
MacFayden urged businesses, regardless of industry or size, to define the most pressing issues they want to solve regarding tech integration.
Integration Technology 101
MacFayden said businesses should focus on their goals and how they want to approach them.
“Businesses have a lot of data and they need to get that data to the right people,” she said.
She also mentioned that marketing automation and website personalization play a huge part in tech integration. These tools are frequently used across platforms, both desktops and mobile.
Bredlau advocated a flexible approach. “No single solution fits everyone,” he said. Even so, it is important to define a schedule as well as the long-term goals of the integration plan.
Tech integration is a difficult task from a technical standpoint. And sometimes, top executives don't make it any easier.
When asked whether technical or business issues were the bigger hurdles, MacFayden cited business issues. People, she noted, make the final decisions — and, depending on the industry, may not be well-versed in tech issues. That complicates the process and makes the integration even more challenging, she explained.
Bredlau stressed that cross-functional communication and clear cooperation between departments can go a long way toward alleviating technical integration challenges. "Companies need to get the communication going between IT, business and marketing,” he said. “Everyone needs to have their own expectations addressed and be on the same page.”
Choose Your Partner
Tech integration is hard — and hardly something one company can do alone. Get help, and get the best help for the job at hand, the experts agreed.
According to a Gartner study on digital commerce, there are an average of 15 tech integration points on a typical digital commerce site.
These points include enterprise resource planning (ERP), order management systems (OMSs), web content management (WCM), digital marketing, payment processing, logistics and warehousing and analytics systems, just to name a few.
The presence of so many integration points make partnerships essential for better integration solutions, Bredlau said.
He also mentioned that the business environment changes quickly and the variety of solutions keeps growing. As the options grow, so will the need for even more integrations — at least for businesses that want to remain competitive in their respective industries and markets.