What Is System Integration?

Communication is key to a healthy and successful business. That’s true for your people, and it’s true for your IT systems.

If your organization has multiple IT systems, different kinds of software, and various IT services, there’s a good chance they don’t all communicate. And if they don’t communicate, you lose productivity and incur greater operational costs.

System integration, or combining disparate IT components into a single system, can help solve these problems. It increases the speed of information within your organization and can even have a positive impact on how you work with third parties. Here’s how it all works.

What Are the Common Kinds of System Integration?

Broadly speaking, most system integration projects fall into three buckets. Most likely you’ll want to implement either vertical or horizontal integrations, but some organizations see greater benefits from a star integration approach. Let’s take a closer look at these terms.

  • Vertical System Integration
    Vertical integration uses a bottom-up method that begins by integrating the most basic functions first, then works upward. The advantage of this approach is that it’s relatively easy to do and can quickly incorporate all your subsystems. The disadvantage, however, is that when you add new subsystems down the line, they will be difficult to integrate into your existing system.
  • Horizontal System Integration
    This approach uses a separate subsystem as the common interface layer between the rest of the subsystems being integrated. Unlike vertical integration, a horizontal integration is friendly to change: One subsystem can be swapped out easily without requiring you to adapt any other interfaces.
  • Star System Integration
    This one’s kind of an oddball, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for more functionality. In a star system integration, each subsystem is connected to the others with point-to-point connections. The downside of this, however, is that all those connections require individual integrations. Managing all that can be a job unto itself.

What Are the Obstacles to a Successful System Integration?

There are any number of potential obstacles to implementing a successful integration. One you might face right off the bat is your own legacy IT system. While it might be essential to your core business functions, your system’s age may mean it doesn’t easily integrate with other components. For that reason, you may decide it’s time to modernize your system before you do anything else.

Another pain point is how quickly technology changes. If your effort to complete a system integration gets slowed or bogged down, you may face further complications from new components that won’t properly interface. It’s best to start these projects with a clear plan in mind so that the work gets done swiftly.

The most common obstacle, however, is simply a lack of personnel with the time, capacity, or expertise to complete the system integration. Combined with the complexity of your systems already in place, you might consider bringing in a trusted partner to help you begin your integration.

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