Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Integration now- and am not just talking Hairspray!!

By David Akka

The well known cry from Hairspray ‘Integration now’, is the cry more and more of us are hearing from our users of ERP and CRM systems. This was highlighted by a recent article 8 CRM Trends You Need to Watch in 2012. The two key trends highlighted here were; CRM integrating with Other Critical Business Systems and Mobile Applications Will Empower Customer-Facing Workers and Consumers. Now I have covered a lot in this blog around mobility and mobilising business processes but here I wanted to focus on the nuts and bolts that hold the whole thing together and make it possible; integration.

As CIO pointed out more and more users are “will expect CRM to be woven with ERP, ecommerce and professional services automation applications, to get more integrated and efficient business processes” this becomes even more true when one looks at mobilising business processes effectively. So here I wanted to share with you a few tips to take into consideration when you do start down that road to integrate your CRM with your existing in house applications whatever they may be.
Don’t go manual and Don’t DIY
In my experience many integration projects fall at the first hurdle, it is often assumed that manually programming interfaces between applications is simple and can be easily taken care of in house. On the surface this may appear true however, having programmed a direct connection many enterprises see problems begin. Point-to-point integration can quickly become very confusing and can create an integration environment that is difficult to maintain with each change request further adding to the complexity. Instead enterprises should consider pre built integration solution that take care of the hard work and allows them to continue to focus on what they as a business want to achieve rather than what is technically possible or achievable. These integration products should contain pre built connectors for the applications that need to be integrated this further reducing the complexity of any integration project and allowing it to get off the ground.
Always use a certified integration solution
This is one of the key things to consider when selecting an integration solution, the solution chosen must be certified for all the products involved as the last thing you need if a problem arises is the integrator blaming the CRM and the CRM blaming your integrator quickly spiralling into the blame game.
Choose a software and hardware agnostic integration technology
In almost every business the IT landscape is heterogeneous this means that integration may be required between systems that often seem worlds apart. When choosing an integration system you should always go platform-independent. This will ensure you can integrate easily with your chosen CRM and ERP as well as handling options for interoperability with Web, mobile and whatever comes around the corner in the future.
Choose a tool which allows you to visualise a solution
The ability to visually model business processes and the integration processes that support them will ensure that both stakeholders and IT managers are in alignment. Therefore, any integration technology chosen should use a graphical user interface that can visualise processes for both technical and non-technical users.
These few quick tips really are just the tip of the iceberg and much has been written around integrating CRM and ERP systems including Magic’s own Whitepaper in the subject but I would advise anyone undertaking a project to research and read widely before commencing anything.

David Akka is the Managing Director of Magic Software (UK) Ltd and have worked with Magic Software for over 14 years.
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