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The Efficient Foundations Blog

To integrate, or not to integrate

Integration.  In particular, software integration.  This is something we come across almost on a daily basis.  Should you try and integrate our cloud software with your exsisting software?

The short answer from our point of view?  No, and here is why.

What we do for our customers is Digital Data Retrieval.  We allow businesses to go from paper forms that get lost/wet/unreadable/days or weeks late to the office, to a up to the minute live information stream.
Look, we understand.  When we show our customers the product, instinct is to think one step further.  The product is great, but lets automate everything!  Good thinking!  Honestly, it is.  But please realise things might not be that easy, and in a lot of cases the cost of integration far outweighs the benefits.

Let me explain this in a bit more detail.  What we are finding is that a lot of businesses use industry specific, or consumer grade software.  What this means is that in most cases something has been written on something like a MS Access or similar platform, or the software is designed for a small business, and it is still being used years later while the business has grown.  Integration in these situations, while possible, is not intuative and very expensive.  And even then, you are often left with overnight data transfers which are unstable and often crash.  What do you get as the end user?  Two companies trying to figure out who needs to fix the issue, while you lose productivity.

True integration (While often still limited in what information you can share) is at an Enterprise level of software.  This is because businesses that run Enterprise grade software demand a certain level of integration, and the cost for this is usually viable in the larger scheme of things. The reason this is viable is because Enterprise software developers creat API's (Application Programming Interface).  This usually done so a commmon programming language can (fairly) easily cross the bridge between two bits of software.  Here is where we hit a hurdle.  What we offer is Enterprise grade software.  But in a way that is cost affective for any business.  What most businesses have for us to integrate with, is consumer grade products.

Sure, you can upgrade things like your accounting package to enterprise grade.  But is that viable for your business?  

Lets keep things in focus here.  We are bringing the information back to your office in real time.  You can literally invoice works minutes after it has been completed.  The impact of this on cashflow itself justifies some of the costs associated.  It would be great for that to automatically go into your accounting or quoting package, and for it to spit it out the other end.  But we are overlooking something by looking at the "Big Picture" 

The thing that is being overlooked is accountability.  Lets ignore the costs of integration for now.  Lets pretend integration is a breeze.  You have people on the road doing quotes, or service work, maybe even doing their timesheets on their digital device.  If this information gets fed through the line to an actual quote, service invoice or payroll, without people involved in the middle of these processes, I will guarantee, your quotes will be too low, your time charges will be to low, and your payroll will never change, regardless of full days worked or not.

I know it looks odd.  We provide cloud software, but we advocate people?  You bet we do.  Software can reduce staff dependency.  That is a fact.  When you don't have someone trying to decipher handwriting, or have people come back to the office to fill out paperwork for jobs they completed days ago, you massivly gain productivity.  You haven't replaced anyone, but what you are doing is given your admin staff more time to invoice or chase money, their core roles, and your field staff more time to do extra quotes, or extra jobs, instead of being in the office filling in paperwork.

Can we integrate?  Of course we can.  Everything is possible.  Should you integrate everything?  Maybe not.  Please keep the above in mind when considering that step.