Think back to the time before the internet. To move data from one computer to another, a person had to copy data to a floppy disk or CD. Then he had to take that media and walk it down the hall or mail it if the person was not in the office.
Today, technology is connected via the internet, and data moves at the speed of light. Even refrigerators and toasters talk to the internet. The internet of things (IoT) has arrived. How does this apply to corporate systems and data processing? If everything is linked, why do companies still have redundant data processing?
At Hard Working Construction (HWC) Contractors—a fictional company—time and production information is collected in the field in one system, but that system does not communicate with the accounting system (ERP). The data entered in the ERP goes through an export/import routine. Why, in a day of always-connected, instant information, are company systems not communicating?
Linking key systems for companies provides accurate, timely information that drives decision-making. Every hour it takes to move data from entry to reporting reduces the usefulness. If a job is fading, but the operational leaders do not receive feedback for three days, it may already be too late to correct.
The time and expense of linking key systems is crucial. It allows for rapid processing of data to provide reporting to the field. A key system processes information that provides crucial information about the performance of work. Accounting systems, time reporting systems and estimating systems all hold information about the cost and performance of work performed. Linking these systems for near real time reporting allows companies to make informed decisions.
What is system integration? An export/import routine does not qualify as integration. That process can be automated, but is on a time schedule rather than automatically syncing. When thinking about integration, take the example of text messages on a smartphone. When a new message is sent from one person to another, the recipient receives the information in near real time. There is no process of exporting the text message and then the recipient importing that text message to read it. A true integration is of two databases or APIs that move data between systems in near real time without the need for interaction from end users.
Back at HWC Contractors, instead of having to separate systems that do not connect, HWC now has worked with a developer to integrate the two systems. Now when a new employee is added in the ERP it automatically pushes to the time and production system. Also, once the employee time is entered in the field, it becomes available for the payroll staff to process in the ERP.
Integrating the two systems allows the data to be available in near real time and allows HWC Contractors to create reporting that provides quick feedback on performance.
Taking systems from unlinked to connected is worth the upfront time and effort as information availability allows for rapid adaptation.