There’s nothing like drudgery to make your work hard to enjoy.
If you’re spending too much time and energy doing manual calculations or hand keying employee data from one program to another, a data integration application may be what you’re looking for. Data integration can save tens of hours each week, cut wasted costs, and eliminate costly human error.
But not all integration solutions are created equal. The wrong integration system could be just as frustrating as no integration system. Before you make any buying decisions, be sure you know what to look for. Here are the top must-have considerations to look for in a data integration application.
Data integration requires unique expertise that only comes through proven experience with different systems, data, formats, and exchange methods. Find out how many clients the vendor has worked with, how long they have been in the industry, and the breadth of system connections they support. Make sure they know your systems or similar systems.
Many integration tools claim to map “anything to anything,” which effectively means that you’ll need some expertise with the connecting systems in order to use the integration tool. Your staff shouldn’t have to be experts on the different systems AND the integration tool. Make sure the vendor provides system-specific guidance within their product on the applications being connected.
Since you probably need to exchange data between a mix of on-premise and cloud-based systems, make sure the integration app can support different transfer methods, including:
- Text or XML files
- Direct database connections
- Web services
Look for a solution that’s consistent with your architectural strategy, delivered as a vendor- or client-hosted application.
The integration should also support multiple, disparate data flows in a user-initiated or automated manner.
Often, transferring data is only one part of your challenge. You also need to apply complex rules so the integrated systems can play well with others—for example, when you have an incentive policy that can’t be configured into your time or payroll system.
Be sure that the vendor you’re considering has experience and a robust rules engine that can help accommodate and automate your business rules to supplement the connecting systems. The vendor should also consider the flexibility and scalability to adapt to future changes in your business rules—without rewriting the program.
The most overlooked aspect of an integration solution is identifying who will support the product after it’s implemented. Many tools are delivered as a one-time setup, leaving your IT staff to own the ongoing support.
If that’s what you’re looking for, be sure you have a resource plan in place to provide immediate technical support if data connections fail. You will also need to be ready to modify the application the moment any of your integrated systems are upgraded.
If you don’t want to take on this responsibility, be sure the vendor offers ongoing technical support and has a plan to provide updates to their solution when any of your connecting systems change.