Digital integration is the idea that data or information on any given electronic device can be read or manipulated by another device using a standard format.
An organisation will have a platform integrated into different business functions in an ideal scenario, enabling data exchanges and getting information near real-time. All the data are being harmonised, enabling data analytic to gain insights into the various aspects of the organisation. Such is an ideal scenario, and it takes years for an established company to journey through the entire transformation.
Due to various considerations and circumstances, an organisation typically acquire systems modularly, progressively in phases, off the shelves. In Singapore’s context, the general thinking is getting ready solutions covered by the government grant. The advantages of this approach are that the implementation cost is significantly lower with a fast turnaround time. One of the shortfalls is that different companies own these systems, and implementing digital integration could be an uphill task.
Why Digital Integration?
Your POS could be from a vendor different from the one you bought the inventory management system. To start selling online, you work with another vendor to list your products online and a delivery partner for the fulfilment. To facilitate reservation, you engaged a vendor to allow the customer to book online and probably another for the customer loyalty programme. In this scenario, you could be working with as many as six different partners and exchanging information between the platforms manually.
Will it be better to manage all of them from a single portal, and data is exchange automatically? Of course, some situations need you to intervene, providing the human touch to the customer. It already helps to save you the majority of the work. Such integration also allows the data to be harmonised and correlate for data analytics in the future.
How can an organisation approach Digital Integration?
Before you start planning on how you can integrate, you need to decide on your end goal. What do you want to achieve on this journey, and how does the destination look like you?
Then, it would be best if you mapped out your technology map, listing down all the vendors and what they are providing and for which department. Most importantly, if those systems allow you to work on external integration. This exercise will give you clarity on the situation and the extent of work you might need.
After this exercise, you might even decide to postpone this until a much later date. If you choose to proceed, you will need to get a system integrator and explore how to execute this initiative.
Is it worth the investment in time and resources embarking on this?
It depends, and I am assuming that you integrate the technologies and the other aspect of your business. That includes the human and processes that drive your operations.
If you are looking at the long-term approach to integrating all the different aspects to optimise various functions of the business, this could be a worthwhile programme.
- You can now correlate data across different departments and making sense of how one aspect could impact the others.
- With the ability to see the relationship between different data, you can run different scenarios on optimising cost-saving, resource optimisation, job redesign, and others.
- The ability to digitise business enables you to move from a location-dependent operation to a location-independent model for some aspect of your process. Such also improve the scalability of your business.
If you are following what the others are doing to ride the trend of Digital Transformation without a clear strategic objective, then you might realise at the end that it’s not worth it. While every business is suitable for digital integration, digital integration is not ideal for all businesses.
It is seldom that an organisation is keen on developing customised solutions tailored to their business process. Apart from the time commitment, such an initiative usually comes with a higher development cost beyond the scope of a specific pre-approved solution.
But it does not stop one from taking the hybrid approach in getting off-the-shelve solutions and getting them integrated later. The challenge is to decide right from the start what are required and “Must-Have” before getting the system. You can talk to your existing technology vendor for their advice as they might know how your organisation functions and recommend the best approach. Alternatively, you can engage an independent technology consultant to evaluate and give you the advisory for you to make the decision.
Digital Integration is not an easy journey, and the programme could take months or years to reach the destination. The destination is the beginning of another trip for the organisation, leveraging this new capability to bring the company forward.