Most of our clients use more than one system to run their businesses, whether bespoke systems, off the shelf solutions or a combination of the two. This multiplicity is very often the right approach. It can allow them to use the latest and best tech for each pillar of functionality, or permit a phased approach towards something bespoke. However, while we often see a careful and thorough thought process preceding the choice of tools, the forgotten element is often the connectivity or integration between these systems. When it comes to efficiency, system integration can be as important as the system itself, so using the latest tech for integration is vital. Don’t think you have achieved connectivity just because you have used an API.
So here’s our frustrationThere are many benefits to off the shelf software, but remember not to take their definition of connectivity as good enough. If there are still manual steps this could make the difference between an efficient and an inefficient process. A few years ago the biggest issue was information sitting in spreadsheets, communicated by email and people not being sure where to find the latest version or where they put that email. Just because we’ve now got online CRM, chat, quoting, project management as well as accounting and stock control it doesn’t mean we’ve solved things. If they are disconnected, or worse badly connected, you’ll still have different departments working on different systems, re-entering data or wasting time searching for information.
Examples of poor connectivity from the real worldAs a business we use a variety of off the shelf systems and we’re aware of glitches in connectivity that slow processes down. For example;
- It’s great that your cardless payment system links to an accounting system. However, we have seen payments feed back but without being able to manage partial payments other than with manual correction. Additionally payments are not marked off against an invoice as they come in. This means that there is a lot of manual work to ensure everything is updated correctly.
- We have seen a CRM tool link with a quote tool where there are many good features of linking the systems, however once you have created a quote it can’t be seen in the CRM tool and a manual update is needed.
Taking steps towards a Connected World with FileMaker 16You need to understand the importance of communication between the components of your systems when making your technology choices. We don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel. We like to use pre-existing tools wherever they are appropriate, usually web tools. Many of these have links to other web systems and have a level of integration. Looking at the level of integration is important. If your CRM system enables you to initiate a quote and transfers the client data through it’s a great start. However if the client’s interaction with the quoting tool, e.g. acceptance, isn’t fed back to the CRM system how integrated is that and what is the likelihood that it will lead to errors? FileMaker 16 has significantly enhanced API capability. What does than mean in business English? Well it means that it’s much better at talking to the rest of the world. So what’s the ‘rest if the world’? Well here we are referring to the connected/digital/online world. The IT world of tools that can really help you be more efficient. In short FileMaker 16 can be used to create intelligent auto transfer between systems. Just moving data from one place to another is not enough. Validation against expected values, ensuring only completed data sets are sent and flagging exceptions are the sorts of things that make it intelligent. This leads to efficiency. Really that’s the crux of this whole connectivity thing, it’s about efficiency and not just speed. Doing something badly but quickly, or creating errors by rekeying doesn’t achieve this.
What’s next for my business systems?
- Don’t spend money on different tools and forget to invest in the communication between them. Ask your developers about refining the processes to make efficiencies. We Know Data can help here of course.
- Don’t forget to look at adding audit capabilities. This will mean that you will know who changed a piece of data and when. This helps with recovery, security and training purposes.
- In some areas maintaining logs of system usage is a legal requirement. This is now much more achievable than it used to be. It used to be very time consuming and expensive and sometimes even had performance implications for the users – this need no longer be the case.
- The ability to integrate different web components into your system can add value and flexibility to your system, but you have to be mindful of the security implications.