Technology is supposed to make our lives simpler, but sometimes it does the opposite. In fact, when tech is confusing and complicates our work, it pretty much defeats its purpose.
This is especially true when it comes to things like business technology, HR and compensation. In these areas, simpler is always better and often saves time and money.
Making life simple — or simpler — is the point of software integration. This is what happens when you link separate subroutines or software packages to, in essence, join their capabilities or create new ones. For example, an integration might link several financial systems so that users can take advantage of their tools and data sets all in one place.
How Does it Work?
Integrations are meant to streamline the sharing or collection of data, simplify tasks and save time. Perhaps you want to draw data from different repositories into one workspace. Or, perhaps you want to link complementary applications to make life simpler for users (think Microsoft Office). Or perhaps you want different departments to share data, even when it’s in different formats and used in different ways.
For example, if you integrate an accounting tool with your payroll system, the data will be available from both the employee pay side and the accounting/expenditure side. That means it will save you from entering the same information in two different places. That saves your staff time when they gather data, simplifies the steps they must take to access the information they need and ensures that data is presented in a consistent way.
Bear in mind that third-party integration revolves around tools or applications that are separate from your initial solution or software. Often, they’re created by someone other than your original software vendor. In some cases, you can purchase integration solutions outright. In others, vendors charge a fee based on time period or the number of users.
Ideally, the integration of third-party applications with existing systems always dovetails and has them operate collaboratively. In the real world, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Problems You’re Likely to Face
Convincing others that an integration is necessary is just the first challenge you’ll face. Then, you may confront issues with your original system. Is it current? Is it flexible? Does it work well with others? If the answer’s “no,” some software companies may try to sell you a more extensive program or convince you to use their proprietary add-ons.
Other obstacles include cost, training, software glitches, access issues and the inevitably trying adjustment period. And even above and beyond those business and technical issues, integrating different departments brings its own set of challenges involving mission, procedures and priority.
How to Tackle the Challenges
When it comes to payroll and Human Resources, an integration may mean incorporating other applications that sync with your payroll system, adding additional capabilities and functionality (such as recording employees’ time), tracking vacation and sick time, and managing payroll taxes.
In any case, bear in mind these steps:
- Learn everything you can about your existing software and third-party apps. Understand your company’s dynamics and its needs, and look for add-ons that cater to them.
- Find out if your payroll software vendor offers any affordable integrations or customizations. If not, perhaps they can suggest a solution that will work for you, or offer recommendations on compatible options.
- Make sure existing software and third-party applications are compatible and can talk to each other before attempting to implement an integration.
- Test it out. Take advantage of trial periods if they’re available. Perform test runs so you know whether the program will work as advertised.
- Ensure that you’ll retain the functionality and features you love in your original compensation system after integrating something new.
- Once you’ve landed on the right program, learn how it works and get comfortable using it.
The key to making integrations work is to do your homework. It’s always easier to integrate apps and software that’s compatible out of the gate, instead of finding ways to force discordant technology to work together.
Benefits of Integration
If you think integration isn’t worth the hassle, or that your company won’t use or won’t need third-party applications, think again. Plug-ins can provide anything from built-in social media sharing to single sign-on, photo and document editors, quality control/quality assurance tools and time-tracking apps.
If you can integrate third-party applications successfully, the value they can add to your business is almost limitless. If you can integrate relevant capabilities that improve and simplify tasks for your employees, work will get done more quickly, more accurately and cause less stress.
Integrations also minimize the chance of mistakes, reduce costs, improve compliance, keep your data more current and accurate and eliminate paperwork.
Add-ons are supposed to, well, add functionality. If you take existing software and try to tie in a third-party add-on that isn’t designed to be integrated and doesn’t work with your solutions, you’re setting yourself and your employees up for mistakes, frustration and unnecessarily complicated and redundant tasks.
Remember, the best solution is often the simplest one. Understand the purpose of the integration, the needs of users and the business problems you’re trying to solve. That preparation will set your effort on the right path.
Dan Roche is the Director of Marketing at Decusoft and has spent nearly 25 years marketing SaaS technologies. Decusoft, through their Compose software, is helping firms simplify and manage their complex compensation programs.
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