Business System Integration Considerations
If you’re looking to integrate your business systems, you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to integration software – maybe even too many options. Narrowing the search can seem overwhelming. So before you go shopping, just take a few minutes and think a little bit about what you’re looking for and what you need it to do for you. Here are a few things to consider, to help you make sure you get what you really need out of your business integration platform:
1. Your needs and workflows: Obviously, this is the starting point. What do you need your integrated systems to actually do? What kind of data will you be sharing? What are the workflows your company uses, and will your integration software be compatible with them? Whenever possible, you should try to avoid changing business processes that are working for you just to accommodate a new piece of software; however, sometimes this can’t be avoided. In that case, look for software that will cause minimal disruption to your workflows.
2. Cost: It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: how much does it cost? We all have hard budget constraints these days, which means there are almost certainly going to be attractive options that just aren’t in the budget. The good news is, the list of affordable business integration software products is longer than ever, with many open-source options being completely free.
3. License type: Speaking of open-source, you’ll want to be aware of the difference between that and proprietary systems. The code for a proprietary system is owned by its developer and subject to copyright protection. The code for open-source software, on the other hand, is owned by nobody. It’s in the public domain, which means that anybody with the know-how to do so can improve and extend the software – as long as they make their code freely available.
Open-source is often a great option for companies that need flexibility and customizability, both for cost reasons and because it’s a relatively straightforward matter to extend the software in whichever direction they need. The downside is that it does require a good deal of programming know-how, which you may not have in-house.
4. Maturity: How long has the software been around? If it’s new, that might mean it has features that its competitors lack – but it also might be buggy or have as-yet-undiscovered security holes. We generally recommend our clients go with a setup that is more mature, more tried-and-true – but not so mature as to be obsolete.
5. Compatibility and interoperability: Not all business integration software products can work with all operating systems and databases. This is especially critical if you plan to have Windows machines working in tandem with Macs, Linux boxes, or even IBM, HP UX, or Solaris operating systems.
This also applies to databases. Some, like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and Oracle, are very widely supported. But if you’re using something else, make sure it’s supported by whichever integration software product you choose.