What is an integration?
Simply put, an integration is a connection between two systems. Let’s call them system A and system B.
An integration will make sure that data flows from one system to another. You might be hosting an event for which you have set up a registration form. When someone registers for your event through the form, having a data integration will ensure that this person is automatically transferred to whatever system you use to keep track of your registrations. Doing this removes the manual element of moving participant data from one system to another.
You could also build an integration (or have one built) where data flows both ways. So regardless of whether you insert data into one system or the other, it will automatically appear in the connected system.
For example, if you want your ERP system to communicate with your webshop so that, e.g., the stock is automatically updated. If you do so, you ensure that it will always be the correct information you show customers. Also, you’ll save a warehouse or administrative employee from counting and updating stock every time there are changes manually.
Two types of integrations
At Twentyfour, we’re often asked: “So, how do you build these integrations?”. That’s a fair question because building integrations take up much of our time.
But, how we build integrations largely depends on the project in question. The starting point for any integration is, of course: What (and how much) should this integration do?
Integrations can fundamentally be divided into two types: simple integrations and complex integrations.
A simple integration:
A simple integration involves a limited (often small) amount of data that needs to be transferred from system A to system B. This will most often be an integration between two relatively simple systems, such as one’s website and newsletter. This makes it possible to sign up for the newsletter through a form on the website. The integration’s function is “solely” to ensure that data that is filled out on the website is transferred to the newsletter system so subscribers will automatically start the journey you’ve prepared for them. Such a simple integration will usually not be a major financial undertaking.
A complex integration:
But there are also much more complex integrations. An example could be a connection (integration) between one’s webshop and accounting system. Naturally, the complexity of such integrations will depend on the complexity of the business. Typically, this kind of integration will be relatively heavy compared to the integration type above.
When you integrate your webshop and accounting system, there are many factors to consider; maybe you have a complex product with many different categories? Or perhaps your product is sold in other countries? Then you need to incorporate different currency codes into the system. And most importantly! You need to ensure consistency across your webshop and ERP systems. So, your accounting system will have a certain logic that is important to incorporate into your webshop system. It’s also vital that it can handle your customers using and clicking around the website and webshop. These types of integrations will take longer to build than simple integrations. But they will, naturally, also automate a more significant degree of your business.
Our examples of good integrations
At Twentyfour, we have years of experience with simple and (particularly) complex integrations across industries and systems. Therefore, it’s only natural that we have two concrete examples of data integrations we’ve built for customers needing a simple and complex integration.
A concrete example of a simple integration:
This example is one that we’ve used previously in this blog post. But it’s an excellent example of a simple integration that can save you a lot of time typing in everything manually.
A customer approached us because they needed help connecting their website with their newsletter through an integration. This customer already had a system to collect data from their newsletter, but they needed to integrate their two systems. So, before they approached us, their process was as follows: Once the form had been filled out on the website by their customer, this information was sent to them in an email that they needed to manually insert into their newsletter system to send this to their customer. So, signing recipients for their newsletter involved manual and time-consuming work.
Our solution was to automate the entire process by integrating the website and newsletter system. Now, the filled-out information will automatically flow from the website to the newsletter system. Therefore, our customer only needs to focus on producing exciting content for their newsletter. This is smart, time-saving, and frees up many resources.
Direct integration between two systems or through data integration tools?
Overall (and simplified for this blog post), you can approach an integration project in two ways. You can create the integrations directly between two (or more) systems or integrate the systems using an integration tool.
We will, without a doubt, recommend using an integration tool for your integrations. Let us explain what this entails and why we believe this to be the best solution.
When running a business, especially a business with an online component, you’ll have several systems that ensure the company runs smoothly. These systems might be different depending on the company. But the importance of them working as planned is the same, regardless of where and how you do business.
Maybe systems A and B have already been connected, but the rest of the system landscape needs to be optimized digitally? Traditionally, you’ll start with a, then b, c, d, and so on. The first (potentially the second) optimization will be somewhat easily managed. But the further down the system landscape we move, the harder it will be to replace the first system.
And if system A starts to fail, the entire chain of systems will encounter problems. Or what if you grow your business and decide to replace system A because it no longer fits your business needs? Then your entire data flow will come crashing down.
That’s why you’ll want a data architecture that’s centered around a decentralized unit. This sounds more confusing than it is – I promise.
Why you need to integrate with an integration tool
When you connect towards the middle (both ways) through a decentralized unit (a robot) that communicates with all systems, you’re building a system that’s easier to scale. Also, as you grow, you’ll often need more systems to meet increased demand. Therefore, it becomes important to build a scalable data architecture.
Another benefit is that such a setup will make it possible to remove or replace a system without having the rest of the data flow collapse. You’ll typically have an essential system or main system that handles a significant amount of data and is vital to your business. Most likely, this will be your accounting system. If your business needs to change, it will be challenging for you to replace your accounting system if you haven’t integrated it towards the middle. If you take out your key system, the rest of the organization dies. But, if you, on the other hand, have used an integration tool and integrated towards the middle, you can replace the old system with a new one whenever you need to. For obvious reasons, this is a significant advantage for your business.
Here, we use our integration engine, KOEBT, for building extensive integrations. KOEBT is a complete technical integration that acts as the decentralized unit in the middle, ensuring that all systems communicate. At all times!
Moreover, KOEBT has a dashboard that ensures uptime across all sales channels, even if the ERP system should break down for a while! That is a remedy for one of the most significant issues in an integration project; downtime on single systems while the integration is built.
KOEBT automatically and constantly stores a backup of the newest data, ensuring that everything can continue as planned, even if an essential system like the ERP system breaks down or is out of service for an hour or two due to updates.
Why do I need data and system integrations?
It’s no secret that data and system integrations can be quite a financial undertaking. At the same time, it also yields quite the economic reward, so be careful not to write off investment in integrations too quickly.
If you want to optimize your business process and minimize (or remove completely) manual type work, having integrations built is a no-brainer. When you remove manual work, you release employee resources so you can have your best hands and minds working on something that will create value for your business. Just let technology take care of the things that don’t require human involvement to be valuable.
Benefits of data and system integrations:
- An integration will save you a lot of time manually typing everything into systems a and b (and c, and d, etc.).
- Good integrations will remove human errors and reduce general mistakes as everything is put in process through a robot.
- An obvious advantage is that you’ll be speeding everything up by automation.
- Integrations make scaling your business easier.
- Increases productivity through better resource allocation.
- All your data can be both more accessible and better managed and analyzed through data and system integrations.
- And many, many more that we’d happily have a chat about if you’re interested in hearing more.
How do I get started with an integration project?
Integrations can quickly be exaggerated. Even though they’re essential and a great help to many businesses, they don’t necessarily have to be complicated or expensive.
You can easily start with a small, simple data integration between two systems and then gradually build. Do you perhaps have systems that would be helpful if they communicated with each other? That could, as an example, be (like our previous example) the contact form on your website and your newsletter. By integrating the two, your customers’ information will automatically be forwarded to the system you’re using for your newsletter. Then you can focus on producing and delivering valuable content to your recipients instead of manually moving data from one system to another and double (perhaps triple) checking that everything has been transferred correctly. You can just find comfort in the integration operating and taking care of everything behind the scenes.
So, to answer the question of how you get started with an integration project, step one will always be to understand your need. Do you need a simple integration between two systems or a more complex integration between several systems?
No matter your need, we’d love to have a chat about the types of integration most suitable for your business.