With the advent of networked, cloud-based software, it has become easier than ever for information to travel seamlessly and nearly automatically between software platforms that your small business uses. Software integration, in general, is the combination of each of your software products into a system that can “talk” to itself, sharing data and updates across every software product, rather than requiring manual updates and data entry into each product’s interface.
Businesses report many advantages when they prioritize the integrations that each software product can offer them:
- They report greater productivity because their employees spend less time making time-consuming updates to different parts of their enterprise software.
- They report fewer errors, since automatically updated profiles, data, and information keeps a particular part of the software from being left without an update.
- They can notice connections, such as the connections between the marketing and sales team’s CRM use, and foster greater collaboration and information-sharing because it is easier than ever before.
Software integration combines the efforts of your many teams, meaning that each team does less of the rote work of inputting information than ever before. In teams with many integrated applications, it becomes very obvious when one software is not integrated, requiring constant updating and adjustment manually. Your company is likely to see great benefits if you fully integrate your software systems to function as a cooperative whole.
Three Types of Software Integrations
However, when we say “integration,” we aren’t necessarily talking about just one method. In fact, there are a variety of forms that software integration can take, and you should figure out which ones make the most sense for your particular business applications. In many cases, some combination of third-party, built-in, and dashboard integrations will be the best way forward to keep your business on the cutting edge.
Third-Party Software Integrations
Companies like Zapier, Automate.io, and Process Street all offer third-party software integrations. You can create automatic workflows between applications you use frequently, and these third-party integrations connect the dots for you. If, for instance, you want to eliminate the need for an individual to open emails that contain documents for your team and move them to Dropbox, where they will be stored for everyone’s use, you can create a workflow that will not only automatically download the document and put it in Dropbox, but will also inform you via the app of your choice that it has just completed this action. These integrations save time by allowing you to automate routine tasks that would otherwise be performed manually, however, they have usually focused on you designing the specific workflows you want, while broader, built-in software integrations may have more automatic synchronizing from the moment you begin the software install.
Built-In Software Integrations Within Products
Going a step further, many companies want to be able to share information between teams, from HR to payroll, for instance, or from marketing to sales. Modern software packages are all about integrating so that the same overall information, such as employee profiles or your company’s bank information, can be accessed centrally. For instance, if your company is using FreshBooks for accounting, the software integrations involved can create a client profile that will both help with billing but also can be exported into Nimble CRM, saving the marketing and sales teams time as they begin outreach for a subsequent sale. Later, if your customer has questions or needs service, the same profile integrates with FreshDesk, allowing your customer service rep to quickly and easily access all the information you have about this client. These software integrations save phone calls across the office to figure out what is going on, as well as just generally making the customer experience much stronger.
Another great example is the robust payroll platform Gusto, which integrates with time tracking software for scheduling like Ximble and Deputy. Rather than having to generate reports and then re-enter timesheets for payment, the software is pre-designed to send this information automatically. The incidence of payment errors go down, and everyone has a little more time to get their important work done. These days, almost every product designed for business applications is meant to integrate with as many other frontrunner products as possible. Through side-by-side comparisons of products as well as explanations of various types of software integrations, your company can go beyond picking just the single best product for, say, CRM or payroll. You can instead select a variety of products that will work together and compound the savings because they are essentially an interconnected system.
Social Media and Analytics Dashboards
While social media and website traffic are often in some way connected to marketing, their management is often its own fairly large challenge. For one thing, operating in a truly data-driven way can be difficult when you must toggle between Google Analytics for your website and all the different advertisement managers for each social media platform. This is why companies have begun to integrate multiple social media programs into coordinated software integrations called Social Media Dashboards. These products make it possible to add your credentials from many different social media sites and manage ads, posts, and analytics from the centralized screen. They are optimized so that you can toggle between social media statistics and your website’s statistics. This creates at least two beneficial advantages: when a social post goes live, you can instantly check its impact on your analytics for your website, including the conversion figures. On the other hand, however, your website can inform what you post next on social media since you will be able to see what kinds of pages are getting clicked on and have people sticking around to read.
Using a dashboard allows you to perform the kind of data-based testing that tends to help a marketing team truly refine their approach. You are able to keep your team on track by focusing on what kinds of content perform the best and which channels give you the best per-dollar ROI. Every piece of information you gain from a social media dashboard gets you closer to the ideal mix of content to use social media to drive substantial revenue over time.