There is a big trend in software integration these days which involves automation – turning connected systems into free-flowing conduits for data to move intelligently into and out of with ease. Well, maybe not quite that, but the key is the unattended and intelligent movement of data from one system to another. People don’t have to get involved in order for the information to flow from one system to another… it just goes by itself. Like a robot.
Having software and systems connect to one another isn’t new at all, and businesses have for many years recognized the value of being able to have information entered in one system available in another. Entire ERP frameworks have been created based on this concept of entering data once and using it in many ways. The trick is when there is more than one system or software product involved.
A simple example might be someone who owns a web store and does their bookkeeping with QuickBooks Premier. The webstore isn’t running QuickBooks; it is running an e-commerce solution or shopping cart system that allows customers to buy things online. However, the webstore does create sales orders and charge transactions, and may even have to manage an inventory of saleable items.
Getting the information from the webstore to QuickBooks and vice versa is often a task business owners take on, either by entering the information manually themselves or hiring and employee to do it. This manual re-entry of information introduces a large potential for errors in the data entered and is time-consuming and costly.
“It was just awful,” said David Clothier, treasurer of the Knoxville, Tenn., company, which operates more than 500 Pilot Flying J truck stops nationwide. “There were humans everywhere.”
Rather than having a person re-type the information from one system into another, software-based integration programs may be available to help users map the data and move it from one solution to the other. Using a software program to transfer the information is much faster and reduces the error rate, increasing the overall value and usefulness of the information.
Automation isn’t the only requirement that makes this all robot-like. The additional requirement is the intelligence. If people still have to get directly involved in order for something to happen, then all the happening is still based on human performance. No robots here.
Intelligent integration of information occurs when the systems on both ends are capable of making decisions and acting on them. For example, a business might use a solution that allows vendors to submit their invoices electronically. Through a base of rules that match invoices to requests and approvals, the system is able to issue payment and record the transactions automatically and without human intervention, saving hugely on personnel and processing costs. Robots (the automation solution) wouldn’t make up all the rules, but could follow them repetitively and without question once established.
…software can help businesses operate more effectively. “If you think like a human, there are only certain things you can do. When you think like a robot, many things are possible.”
It isn’t a new paradigm for building businesses – this doing of things a bit smarter than before and leveraging technology to get more done in less time. The difference is that the pace of change is increasing, giving businesses less time to stand by and rub the chin and consider whether or not this new fangled technology makes sense. Robots, you say? Meet your new part-time bookkeeper.