I worked with a client once who was looking to implement an automated process for complaints handling. They explained their processes and began to slowly unveil their “integrated” customer system, explaining that over the years they grew to understand how information needs to move from one system to another for a single customer view.
And I froze in a state of shock.
I was looking at a standard application window with seventeen icons when it suddenly dawned on me; integration for this business simply meant the glossy front-end that held seventeen manual points of entry into the back-end, which a customer advisor had to navigate in order to fulfill a simple enquiry.
And that’s where all the problems begin. Lost customer information, duplicated entries, half-truths and poor decision-making were all a result of this unnecessarily convoluted system.
The little men in the radio
Did you ever wonder as a child where the little men were who lived in the radio or television? Let me spin a similar yarn for the challenge of integration.
First consider all the standard components of a business entity:
- Customer interfaces
- Transaction handling, billing, collections
- Order fulfillment and shipping
- Customer relationship data
- Customer service and enquiries
Imagine a customer entering your digital domain, ordering from your online store and completing the transaction under the impression it’s been a seamless experience.
And then imagine the newer challenges created by mobile, social, log and other growing sources of information.
Now consider having umpteen ways to pass that all of that data between all those components and trying to manage business at real-time speeds. It does seem like madness, but like the example cited at the start, it’s a reality for a lot of organizations.
Oompa Loompa doobedeedoo, I’ve got a bunch of data for you
And it’s nothing short of running an organization with an army of Oompa Loompas trafficking all that data from system to system in little buckets, maintaining a mass of pipelines to shunt a piece of business information from one point to another. It’s the only way you could explain it to a child who wanted to know what happens when they buy from your business.
It may be an extreme metaphor I’m painting I’ll admit, but it’s meant to highlight just how the word integration is treated by many organizations. A business cannot be agile and respond to rapid change and customer demand in real-time when the patter of tiny feet are what power its systems and processes behind the scenes.
- Sales cannot fulfil customer demand if they can’t build a real-time picture of customer historical and contextual information
- Billing cannot amend transactional information as it happens
- Order fulfilment cannot track an order when records are silo’d in multiple systems
What Integration Is
Integration is a fluid transition of data between systems and processes, the ebb and flow of information as it moves and changes within the organization. It powers strategy, tactics and decision-making at just the right moments.
Leave the Oompa Loompas to their chocolate factory; integration is the only golden ticket you need for business agility.