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Help for Beginners System Integration

There’s a vast array of business software solutions to choose from - accounting, payroll, asset management, resource planning, customer relations, communications and so on; but unless you’re very lucky no single system will satisfy all your business requirements. You select different systems for different purposes. Then, the ability to share information across the business is of paramount importance. For example, having to enter contact details in two different places is both inefficient and prone to error. Having to enter purchase orders on one system and then copy the details for invoicing on another system would be a massive drawback.

Systems integration is about handling data across different software, different operating systems and different locations effectively and without duplication. It’s also about exchanging data efficiently with the real world. Most software is designed to use a computer keyboard and screen to interact with the outside world; yet people average one error every three hundred keystrokes, and can manage typically twenty words per minute. Synergix’s speciality is integrating business software to the real world in a more creative way, using technology to automate and speed up data acquisition, and taking the information exchange mechanism to the person rather than the other way round.

A number of key ingredients are required for effective systems integration:

For two systems to be integrated they must be able to communicate. They must be networked. For successful system integration you must determine communications infrastructure that best suits your business. Key factors include the area of coverage, the communication medium and the protocol:

  • Coverage - Wide area networks will link buildings, towns, countries and continents. Local area networks will cover buildings. Personal area networks will cover an individual.
  • Medium - Ethernet is common, but not exclusive in wired networks. Fibre optics may be better for high data capacity or noisy environments. Wireless may offer flexibility of movement or lower infrastructure costs.
  • Protocol - TCP/IP has powered the internet and is at the heart of modern networking. It’s a fundamental tool of system integration; but it’s not the only protocol around and you may still need to bridge to other systems.

Do all your systems share a common data format? Probably not. Even if you adopt industry standard database and data sharing tools such as Oracle and SQL you may not be able to exchange data efficiently with the real world. The answer may be to use ‘middleware’ – a combination of computer hardware and software such as Synergix’s Transaction Manager that will join two incompatible systems together. This can enhance an overall resilience by segregating more vulnerable or less critical functions away from critical business systems. It can also act as a back up and reporting utility for all data transactions. Middleware such as Synergix’s Transaction Manager will create the required compatibility between central business systems and data exchange devices such as mobile computers used at the point of activity.

For two systems to be truly integrated, the data exchange mechanisms should be fully automated, maximising user convenience. The transaction mechanism should be maintenance free. This concept of ‘seamless integration’ is of paramount importance.