Running a modern business of any size is a complicated matter. Even small companies often use tens or even hundreds of business, marketing, and operational applications just to function. But while each application has a specific purpose, the organisation must operate as a whole – meaning, all those applications and the teams that use them must work together to enable the organisation to operate effectively. Those applications, however, rarely are able to make an easy and seamless integration.
Are business services becoming a more frequent topic of conversation at your organisation? This may be due to company growth while the customer base is evolving and the industry landscape is getting more competitive. Therefore, bringing together core services in the business - both internally and externally facing - in order to collaborate better and meet new customer expectations is a necessary and achievable way of maturing the business.
However, as you begin thinking more strategically about how your business becomes more service-centric, the ways in which you’ll form more reliable and effective ways of integrating your teams, tools and processes may not seem so obvious. So; let’s look at the what, why and how of Business Service Integration and find out what value it will create for your business and customers.
Why integrating business services really makes the difference?
Business integration is a go-to solution for every business and industry at some point. When services and ways of working become too spread out, disconnected and difficult to manage, a need often emerges to bring those teams and their technologies closer together. From a business perspective that has traditionally led to cumbersome projects, where by lots of people get forced into using a newly implemented and single system for a whole host of specialist tasks.
In the past decade, individual departments who have experienced this same pattern of having too much going on and needing to consolidate somehow have found a new way of solving the problem; service integration.
Business integration is very popular within teams and across similar business departments, because it means they can achieve a joined-up way of working without having to replace software or force new ways of working upon people in the teams. This works because where you might have traditionally taken a birds-eye-view of a department and think:
“Oh, they have 7 bits of software, and three different ways of managing similar sets of data… let’s try and rationalise that to one platform and one process for everyone”.
…only to later down the line realise that most of the tools were specialist for the people using them and the data and processes people used allowed them to perform functions you weren’t aware of. Business service integration allows you to look at the people, tools and process parts of that scenario as one thing, then design an approach that provide seamless exchanges of data at a technical level, familiarity at a software level and more appreciation and awareness at a people and teams level.
Modern services achieve this by place integration hubs or integration automation platforms at the heart of it all, which manage the exchange of data and process and ensure each piece of software can easily transact with other software in real-time.
What makes it different than IT and Software Integration?
Traditional IT integrations focus on connecting technology together with APIs and scraps of code. There is no appreciation for people or process. These are useful if your business need is simply update one database with another once a week or something similar to that.
However, for anything that people rely one and/or supports a working relationship between teams, you need something more intelligent and automated.
Another issue we commonly find with tech-led integrations is that they break a lot. From and IT perspective, this rarely carries much weight as an issue as they tend to know how to fix them! You fiddle with some code, restart a service on a server or quickly email the sys-admin to ‘do that thing he did the other day, that fixed the problem.’
But this is fast becoming an ineffective way of working, especially for integrations which affect entire business-wide services, supposed to just small non-critical services within IT.
Read more: The now and future of service integration
Why does this work at a business service level?
In the same vain as wanting to bring a team together within one platform, businesses often try to use enterprise level applications to achieve a one-tool-to-rule-them-all approach. Top level management particularly like this as it gives them better visibility and reporting at that top level. However, this often comes with a lot of previously unseen consequences in department performance and also employee happiness/experience.
So, business service integration is used to place a central hub at the heart of the business, which oversees and manages the communication and connectivity between all the business functions, both technically and practically.
In real terms, this means instead of forcing all teams to use an application like Salesforce across sales, marketing, support, HR, and IT for all business interactions and data collection, each department can keep their specialist tool, work within their own data and their own nuances. Then a centralised integration hub looks after managing each tool and each person having everything they need at their fingertips in real-time.
Customer data in one application get updated in all the other platforms automatically without any request or intervention from staff, service requests that require multiple teams and tools to complete all get connected and managed as one request behind the scenes, but each team gets to keep their own tool, process and data in their own way.
When this is scaled across a whole business, enabling each and every team to collaborate seamlessly, leveraging the best-in-class software for their needs without having to compromise on automation, data exchange or customer experience, this is really powerful.
How can you get started?
1. Map your services.
Take a good look around your business and get an honest view of which teams are using what tools. Ask questions around which other departments they depend upon and what do they need good visibility of around the business to deliver their particular service well. From there, you can create an easy to use map of your services and the teams who deliver them. This can then go on to inform both the overall design of your integration strategy and the further research you need to do around the needs of each team.
2. Talk to your teams.
One of the BIGGEST reasons service management integration (and software implementation) projects fail is because people resist and reject their new ways of working. Any change you make to the technology or processes people used, has to have an equal effort made to the human requirements. This can only be achieved by talking to people about what they do and how they do it. Learning this stuff is super useful, but doing this also makes people feel listened to, which is often the missing link in enabling someone to get on board with a new project or change.
3. Understand the ROI.
This is the MOST important part. Integration projects at a team or department level can create downturns in value creation, but that can sometimes be supplemented by faster delivery times or better customer service in other areas which can lessen the impact. However, at a business service integration level, understanding and managing the ROI of your integrations is paramount, as you are effectively looking to increase the overall profitability and efficiency of the organisation.
4. Select the right business service integration tool for your service desk / incident management process integrations.