What can an integrated system do for me?
Integrated systems fall into three broad classifications:
1. A common platform for all solutions
2. Best of breed solutions with integration between all solutions
3. Hub and Spoke solution integrating best of breed solutions
There are pros and cons to each approach to integration.
Common Platform: Companies starting from a clean slate will often opt for this approach. This results in the most seamless integration, but there are costs. Such an approach requires the greatest capital expenditure. There are also issues in that the solution provider does not always have expertise in all areas. This results in a compromise. The solution provider may be an expert in grain merchandising, and the solution fits great, but the feed solution may be weak, or the financials limited. There are many legacy systems out there that look like this.
Best of breed – multiple integrations: A large percentage of companies fall into this classification. As their business has developed over time, so have their solutions and the integration points between solutions. The result is messy and inefficient, requiring multiple solution providers to work together. Visibility to information is difficult and not timely, as data needs to be compiled from multiple solutions. Upgrades to solutions are disruptive and expensive, requiring additional customizations.
Hub and Spoke: The most efficient approach for most companies. There is a central solution (typically the solution for the core business) that integrates with the other best of breed solutions. This eliminates the need for each solution to integrate with the others. Visibility to information is improved with most reporting coming from the hub solution. This does not require all of the solution providers to cooperate with each other – just with the hub solution provider. Upgrades to the solutions are more easily survived. This approach does require a solution provider that is an expert at integrating to other solutions as well as being able to cooperate with multiple vendors.
The benefits of an integrated system are many but really impact these areas:
- Reduction of errors caused by entering and maintaining the same data in multiple solutions
- Reduction of effort required to maintain this data
- Timely and accurate visibility to critical business information to adapt to changing business environments
- More effective traceability, reducing both the time required to react as well as reducing the scope of incidents
How integrated are your business solutions? How is that integration working for you?
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