Integrated system or integrated systems? – Tomasz WochProject manager
When deciding to implement an IT system, we must choose the most appropriate solution in terms of our needs and capabilities. But what if none of available solution doesn’t fully meet our expectations or doesn’t fit assumed budget? Implementation of few smaller tools instead one integrated system can be a good way out.
Where did the belief that one system is the best solution come from?
Over the last few decades, widely integrated enterprise management systems have appeared on the market, replacing a number of separate solutions dedicated to specific areas, including: invoicing, accounting, human resources and payroll, controlling or production management, resources, business relations.
Previously companies were forced to implement separate different software for each area. This was associated with both with the then prevailing philosophy of computer software development and with the restrictions existing at that time. The quality and speed of network connections and Internet connectivity were definitely worse than today. Therefore, the possibilities of networking or work in distributed systems were smaller. Data between software was often transferred in files saved on external devices. Due to these limitations, work on many systems was therefore less ergonomic and efficient.
In the 1990s, the integrated system reigned supreme
Since the 1990s, there has been a widespread belief that the best solution is one system in which you can carry out maximum number of tasks. Working in one integrated system is faster and more ergonomic, there is no need to move data manually, and the operation of one coherent system turns out to be easier for users. You also need to spend less time training, configuring individual modules, and managing data.
One integrated system in comparison with model based on few separate modules seems to be much better solution, having only advantages. But is the implementation of a large integrated system in each situation the best proposal for the company? Can the implementation of several separate solutions for different areas of the enterprise can turn out a better alternative?
Is one system always a good choice?
Attention should be paid to several important problems related to the implementation of one integrated system. One of the most obvious is the issue of costs. The purchase and implementation of a large system also means the high cost of such an investment. Many companies cannot afford such a large financial burden in a short time. The purchase of a smaller system with only the necessary functionalities may be cheaper, and the purchase of other modules / systems may be possible later, as far as the financial possibilities of the company are concerned.
Next issue is the tedious and time-stretched process of implementing such complex software. Therefore, there is a risk that the assumptions and expectations adopted at the beginning of implementation will become outdated in the meantime. 0
Before the implementation will be finished company needs can change, its market situation or development plans. Successive implementation of different systems in given areas of the company can turn out more accurate to current company needs.
Matching the system
What is more, while choosing one integrated system in some areas we are forced to implement functionalities that are not the best fit for our expectations and needs. In case there is no system matching our needs on the market companies are forced to match to the system or adapt it to its needs. Adapting the system to the company is associated with customizations which causes additional costs and extension of the project implementation in time. While choosing several systems instead of one we have the possibility to choose for each area the best solution in this scope (best of breed) or the solution best suited to our needs. When choosing few systems, it is good to pay attention to possibility of integrating them and sending data between them.
You should be careful because a wrongly chosen basket of systems can check that you will have to do some things several times.
One system means one big data base, to which numbers of particular modules users can have access. There are situations in which implementation of few smaller modules instead of one system is safer. An example can be a company running on-line sales. Divided on-line store and managing company is a safer solution. It provides separate data bases for both platforms. In case of any attack on an on-line store the danger of stealing, modification or deleting data is limited only to data base of on-line store.
However, data security in integrated ERP system is constantly improving. Systems based on cloud solutions are becoming more common and available. In case of choosing this kind of system its supplier is responsible for data security that’s why the quality of security is very high. Data security in on-premise solution (installed on company’s infrastructure) must be provided by solution owners.
Work ergonomics and digitization
With the concept of implementing in different company areas separate software the problem of work ergonomics and the need to integrate and ensure data exchange between this software returns. Today, with the development of networking opportunities and internet connections, problems with working in distributed systems are virtually non-existent. Modern software for business by definition is adapted to work in the network or operating via mobile devices. What is more the possibilities of integrating various solutions, ensuring smooth cooperation and exchanging data between them are not difficult today. Although few users are aware of this, some integrated systems actually consist of interconnected modules with a separate database. The connection between them, however, is so well implemented that users are not aware of it, and everything works as well as one big system.
To meet such considerations and perceive the advantages of modular solutions, Microsoft offers new solutions for enterprise management systems as part of Microsoft’s Azure and Power Platform. Power Apps allows companies to create dedicated aplications. Service enables using data from company’s network. What is more it allows to download and integrate data from Microsoft systems and tools such as: ERP system Dynamics 356 Business Central, Office 365 and from external solutions e. g. ERP systems from various providers or local SharePoint.
In the age of progressive digitization, more and more processes are supported digitally, and IT solution providers offer almost every functionality via internet. In a world where internet access has become widespread not only from the office, but from anywhere and at any time, system integration, also via the internet, is easier than ever.
What solution to choose?
Is it possible today to clearly decide which approach is better? The choice of one or several integrated systems should be considered individually, taking into account the costs and opportunities that individual solutions give us. In each case, the answer to the question which solution is better can be different.
Tomasz Woch – chief consultant at IT Vision. IT project manager, business consultant and analyst. He has been associated with IT Vision since 2011.