A custom-made software solution might be the answer to all those problems with fragmented systems. Don’t believe it? We’ll try to convince you in this article that dealing with dozens of separate programs is, in most cases, a waste of time, energy, and money. We’ll also tell you when getting a custom-made integrated solution might be better than just going with an off-the-shelf solution.
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Where does the problem with fragmented systems really lie?
No matter what industry you are in, there are most likely hundreds of dedicated automated tools and platforms you could use to make your work faster, more efficient, and maybe even a bit more enjoyable. Project management, accounting and payrolls, analytics, inventory management, email marketing – whatever you need, there’s an app for that.
The problem starts when you have dozens or hundreds of platforms installed, each for a specific task. While they may work well individually, getting those apps to function together is a much bigger problem.
In the end, you may find yourself in a business tools maze that only leads to frequent headaches such as data silos, process inconsistencies, poor data quality, and frustration among your workers.
Statistics only confirm this:
- HBR research found that the average employee toggled between different apps and websites nearly 1,200 times each day, wasting about four hours every week.
- 79% of organizations are using more than 100 data sources, with 30% using more than 1,000.
- The average employee spends 3.6 hours daily searching for information (in IT, the number is as high as 4.2 hours). In the same survey, 31% of those questioned said the frustration of being unable to find information made them feel burned out.
- Poor data quality costs organizations, on average, $13 million a year.
The various apps and tools that were supposed to make your and your employees’ jobs easier and faster suddenly become the biggest obstacles to doing so. An integrated platform might be a solution to this problem.
What are integrated solutions?
Integrated platforms combine different functions into a single system so that managing various business processes or functionalities becomes easier. A good example of such a tool is an enterprise resource management platform (ERP), which is a software system that helps organizations automate and manage their core business processes from a single app.
Below are some standard features you’ll often find in an ERP system.
- Financial management: This functionality includes accounting features like general ledger, accounts payable and receivable, and automated financial reporting to help financial departments manage their budgets and spot places where they are losing money.
- Human resources: An ERP with dedicated HR features can handle tasks like payrolls, automated reports, employee absences, and PTO management.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): This functionality helps companies gather and store data about their customers in one easily accessible place for all employees. CRMs also typically come with many useful features for sales teams, such as automatic lead scoring.
- Business Intelligence (BI): Analytics and reporting tools inside a BI module help businesses gather and understand their key performance metrics and make data-driven decisions based on automated reports or graphs.
- Workflow automation: ERP systems often include tools for automating repetitive tasks, like approvals or data entry, increasing efficiency.
Of course, an ERP is just one example of such a tool. There are many others, such as business management or sales and marketing management software. The key point here is that instead of using different software for each task, integrated platforms combine them all into one system.
How can an integrated system help overcome the most common challenges of fragmented systems?
Now that we covered why fragmented tools and apps can become such a serious problem for business users, it’s time to look at a few examples of how integrated systems can help business owners overcome those issues. We have decided to concentrate on four cases where integrated systems can be most useful.
Problem: Scattered data
It was already quite difficult for businesses to keep track of the data in paper files and binders, and modern technology just made the problem several times worse. Business tools and apps create a massive volume of data daily, most of which ends up dispersed across multiple systems. This makes it quite a struggle for both regular employees and managers to find the data they need at the moment. First, they need to find out on which of 100 business systems or so the files might be.
Worse yet, even if they do find the files they need, it might turn out that they are either not in a usable format or that the information is different to what is in the system. That often means that employees or managers must first confirm, clean, or convert the data before they can use it, wasting even more time.
➡️ Solution: A holistic view of data
Getting an integrated platform can solve this one problem almost immediately (“almost” because the data still needs to be verified and cleaned before it can be added to the platform). With such a solution, the data from customer information to sales figures and inventory levels can be stored in a single, unified database, giving all employees access to accurate and consistent data whenever needed.
Moreover, thanks to analytics tools integrated into the same platform, managers can easily mine this data to identify growth opportunities, performance trends, and even potential issues before they get out of control.
For example, real-time reporting functionalities can keep managers updated on key performance indicators (KPIs). If there’s a problem that causes the KPI to go down, managers will see the information on their dashboard, so they can decide on how to address the issue immediately.
Read Orbit Project’s case study to see how we at Inwedo solved their problem with a custom project management system.
Problem: Inconsistent processes
The second problem tightly connected to the first one is inconsistent business processes. When each department uses its own set of tools, they typically also have their own set of guidelines and procedures for each task.
Let’s take creating reports as an example. When the reports from the sales department are processed internally, everything seems to be fine. But now imagine that the financial, sales, and marketing departments need to work together and each has a different style and method for creating the reports. This results in wasted time, frustrated team members, and a poor working atmosphere all around.
➡️ Solution: Standardized workflows
An integrated software solution can solve this problem as well, thanks to letting managers establish one set of procedures and guidelines that every department should follow. Everyone following the same steps will save time, money, and nerves as well because there’s little place for confusion or mistakes. Plus, with clear rules to follow, departments can collaborate more often, as there’s much less room for misunderstandings or arguments.
But there’s one more reason why managers should standardize their business processes. Namely, when processes are standardized it becomes easier to identify which areas need improvement, since consistent data can be gathered from all departments. Wouldn’t it be easier to spot an issue in 10 similar reports than 10 completely different ones coming from each team?
Head of Consulting
Integrated systems with clear processes and easy access to data can also make the onboarding process easier for new employees. Since they have all the data they might need at their disposal, that helps them become more efficient and confident in their skills faster and also reduces the stress they might be feeling as new employees.
Read Decathlon’s case study to see how we at Inwedo solved their problem with a custom store management platform.
Problem: Inefficiency and productivity challenges
Remember the statistic from an earlier paragraph saying that employees waste, on average, four hours each week jumping between applications? Well, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Information Week State found that 45% of IT employees spend more than five hours per week writing scripts for workflow and automation. While 35% spend just as much time filling repetitive requests from stakeholders.
And those statistics don’t even include:
- Manually transferring data from one application to another
- Cleaning errors in the data
- Time wasted on duplicated work (Asana’s survey found that employees waste six working weeks each year on a combination of duplicated work and unnecessary meetings!)
As a result, business processes slow down, deadlines are missed, customers are upset, and workers are frustrated.
➡️ Solution: Automation for boosted efficiency
Rather than handle those tasks manually, why not let integrated platforms take over? Many integrated tools have features through which employees can quickly automate all of their repetitive tasks. For example, automated data transfer can ensure that all employees have access to the latest data while workflow automation can speed up tasks such as generating invoices or lead scoring.
And with easy access to data and enhanced communication between your employees, the amount of time they spend on duplicate work will also be significantly reduced.
Read Green Factory’s case study to see how we at Inwedo solved their problem with a bespoke production management and analytics platform.
Problem: Scaling obstacles
As your business grows and your needs or requirements change, you start thinking about upgrading or replacing some of the tools you are using. And here yet another problem with having dozens of tools becomes visible – it might turn out that some of the tools you are using won’t work with the new platform, and so you might need to replace them as well.
Suddenly, upgrading one platform requires replacing 15 others! That can significantly slow down implementing the new system, not to mention requiring a larger budget as well.
➡️ Solution: Fostering scalability
Modern integrated software solutions are built with scalability in mind. Do you need additional features or capabilities? Add more users to the platform? Or maybe you temporarily need more resources (for example, during peak periods) and then later wish to return to the original settings?
Cloud solutions can give you all of those so your new system can grow together with your company. And if you need to replace one of your other systems, it surely will be much easier to find one that can be integrated with a single business management solution or customer relationship platform than with 20 separate apps.
Head of Consulting
Besides simplifying various tasks, integrated platforms can also enhance business flexibility. Such platforms are scalable, which means that brands can easily add more functionalities or resources to the platform in order to meet growing demands. That makes integrated software a splendid solution for future-proofing your operations.
Read Plichta’s case study to see how we at Inwedo solved their problem with a comprehensive accounting and documentation software.
Benefits of turning scattered systems into one integrated platform
How many times has it happened that you couldn’t find the file you needed at a given moment or you only learned about an issue when it was already too late? If you’re thinking “far too often” then you should definitely consider getting an integrated solution for your business.
Instead of shuffling through multiple sources of data (each in a different format), you will be able to access all the information you need from a single dashboard. Consolidating all business data and metrics in one place makes it easier to interpret trends, compare metrics, and make predictions for the future. That leads to better, data-based decision-making instead of relying on guesses or estimations.
Bonus: thanks to real-time data, you can swiftly respond to any issues or changes and instantly adjust your strategy accordingly.
Empowered and happier employees
One report found that sales teams using CRMs had 17% higher job satisfaction compared to when they had to handle most tasks manually. Another one noticed that businesses with ERP systems have, on average, 23% higher employee satisfaction and engagement rates.
Of course, staff might be initially a bit wary of the new platform, especially if it comes with new business procedures and guidelines to learn. But with proper training, they should notice the benefits of the new, integrated system in no time.
Time and cost savings
This one should be obvious, considering how much we have talked about the time wasted by using detached apps and tools. With integrated systems, employees can be more productive and concentrate on critical business tasks rather than spend hours on cumbersome administrative duties or repetitive activities.
But freeing your staff from handling those tasks can also produce noticeable budget savings – on average, CRM software can save 20% of companies’ current labor costs just by taking over various mundane tasks that can be easily automated. Over time, these savings will add up so that they can be allocated to R&D, customer service or other essential areas for your business.
Identifying and taking advantage of growth opportunities
Inside a wealth of business data you can also find plenty of ideas on how to grow your business further. However, with data coming from dozens of disjointed systems, combining might be too time-consuming let alone analyzing it for insights or trends. If you have all data in one place and format, though, running an automated, comprehensive data analysis is not the slightest problem.
After the analysis has finished, you’ll get plenty of insights about which products are performing well (and which are not), which markets have untapped potential, and what your customers are expecting from you. With this data in hand, you can then confidently plan new products or start working on entering new markets.
Why custom-made integration solutions might be a better choice?
No matter what kind of software you need, you can find dozens of off-the-shelf integrated platforms on the net. The issue is, most are designed to work for a wide array of industries and, as such, they only have the features that most businesses would need.
What if you have unique processes or need particular integrations and features inside the platform? Then custom-made software might be a better fit for your business needs. Such solutions are tailored to each company’s processes, technology, goals, and challenges, so they can provide a level of customization that standard platforms won’t be able to match.
For example, if your business has unique workflow requirements or specialized data analysis needs, developers can create custom integrations that will smoothly handle these tasks.
Although planning and developing these integrations will take a bit of time and may require a larger investment as well, if you want a platform that will be perfectly aligned with your business objectives and issues then going the bespoke route might still be the best option.
We mentioned a few factors that might help you decide whether you should go for an off-the-shelf or custom-made product in another article, “Custom made or off-the-shelf solution. Fashion dilemma in the world of business“.
Having dozens of disjointed tools and applications responsible for different tasks is neither efficient nor convenient. Your staff wastes far too much time searching for the information they need or handling repetitive tasks while you can’t take full advantage of the vast amounts of data you have stored.
What you need is one, centralized solution that will make it easier to gather, store, process, and understand your data, so you won’t have to waste any more time on mundane tasks.
Why spend hours juggling several apps and trying to make sense out of 12 reports when you could have everything inside one app? You surely have better tasks to spend the time on. And integrated systems are here exactly to give you the time back so that you can focus on what really matters for your business.
How can you get such tailor-made integrated software? That’s simple – at Inwedo, we can craft it for you.
Contact us with your product development needs or ideas and we’ll schedule a meeting to learn more about your project and goals.