Interface or integration:
More power in your CRM software?

Or what are interfaces and integrations for?

The increasing use of computers and the Internet is generating many new business ideas that require the exchange of business data. This leads to an increasing demand for connection options (interface or integration) between software products. This is the only way to flow information and processes across (program) boundaries.

Business software solves tasks
for users

Short definition

The term business software or enterprise software has several meanings. This article focuses on computer programs that are used to solve user tasks in organizations. They are therefore tools for individuals or entire teams (see CRM software).

These business applications are either custom-made solutions tailored to a specific use case, or standard software. Often, different standard software packages are combined for use in one operation or adapted as needed (customization).

Why do we need interface or integration?

Because the different types of enterprise software* typically cannot communicate with each other, data cannot be shared or exchanged. This deficiency causes identical data to be stored in multiple locations. Processes cannot be automated either.

Connections such as interface or integration are therefore necessary for effective cooperation.

Interface or integration:
2 solutions for the same goal?

The term interface is simply the transition from one system to another – that is, a bridge, a seam or connection point. These allow two independent software products that manage your data in different places and have been developed in different programming languages to communicate with each other. The information is exchanged via a common language (either via standardfile formats or formats such as XML, CSV or JSON). Interfaces can be their own tools or they are already included in a software.

An integration is the direct connection of different-extensive software products to a complete solution. The individual parts that are closely connected use the same code and database.

Interface oder Integration, Schaubild, GEDYS-IntraWare

Examples from the interfaces and integrations of our CRM software environment include the integration with HCL Notes Domino and our email interface to Outlook.

title image to "In-15-Stages-to-CRM" on tablet, GEDYS intraWare

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Which option is the right one?

Because the software components exchange information unnoticed by users, users will not notice any difference between the two variants. Which one is to be used depends on:

  • What are your company’s goals?
  • What safety regulations need to be observed?
  • What technology do the individual systems use?

For example, a CRM may be operated on local servers, but an e-commerce system may be operated on the Internet.

Important differences that need to be considered when making a decision:

1. Synchronization

Speed & convenience of data exchange

A disadvantage of interfaces is that a comparison of specific mappings or references is necessary between the systems, because the systems work with different databases. As soon as changes are made in a system, the corresponding tables or directories must also be updated via the interface.

This means that not only must a “translation” take place from one programming language to another (via the common file format), but also the indication of where information can be found (i.e. an entry was made at a certain point in a database). Only then can the other system see how information relates to each other.

This additional matching is a source of errors because incorrect information could be retrieved if the mapping is not found.

For example:

For a customer’s project, data is processed in two systems. In a system, in CRM, the customer is stored with all address data. This is also where the project is created, a trade fair event. The other system, the time recording software, records how many hours 5 employees worked for the customer during the trade fair event. If the project is completed in CRM and moved to another location, the time registration link must be retained so that the later billing for the trade fair event can be done correctly. This is done via the appropriate mapping in the databases of both systems.

2. Flexibility

Speed & convenience of replacing individual components

An advantage of interfaces is the easier replacement of individual software products, since only the interface has to be adapted, but not the software component. This allows a company to combine different programs from different manufacturers and thus always use the right solution for a specific task. Integrations are too complex for this because they involve a variety of sub-solutions that are closely linked.

Especially if an already introduced program is to be reused, interfaces for a quick, easy connection of other products can be the solution.

Conclusion

The decision whether interface or integration can only be made if the company clearly defines which requirements the overall solution should meet. Depending on the software components that are already in use, both variants can be an option and may also be combined.

Especially if an already introduced program is to be reused, interfaces for a quick, easy connection of other products can be the solution.

* Types of enterprise software

(an excerpt)

Production planning and control

  • Management of design and production data
  • Needs assessment
  • Production and capacity planning
  • Workshop control
  • Parts of the sales industry, in particular customer order management
  • large parts of materials management (material, forward and capacity planning, capital)

Materials management or merchandise management

  • Purchasing or general procurement, including electronic procurement
  • Inventory management/material inventory management (warehouse receipts and issues, physical inventory, invoice audit)

Human Resource Management (HR)

  • Personnel management, personnel planning and personnel development
  • Personnel time recording and evaluation
  • payroll
  • Processing of tax, social or labour law tasks
  • Travel expense accounting

Finance and Business Management/ Controlling

  • Accounting
  • Balance sheet and profit and loss
  • Vendor, customer, fixed asset accounting
  • Revenue and cost element accounting
  • Overhead cost accounting
  • Cost object and profit statement

Sales industry (sales and marketing)

  • Customer Relationship Management Software
  • many special forms/industry-specific solutions (different distribution channels and products, etc.)

Logistics and Supply Chain Management

  • Logistics: Material flows from raw material suppliers to customers
  • Integration of customers and suppliers into production planning and control