Behind the Scenes: What Process-Based Integration Can Do for You

by Sam Morris on May 17, 2014

hand-drawing-org-chartWhat does it mean to integrate business processes?

Process-based integration merges applications, services, and user operations such that all can respond to ongoing business needs. Think of it as defining how various tools and business activities interact with one another. The result is an efficient, adaptable workplace dynamic that keeps organizations competitive.

If that’s still too abstract, don’t worry. We’re about to take a closer look at several process-based integration benefits along with real-world examples of the activities it brings together.

More efficient, more responsive

For many organizations, meeting business requirements involves disparate processes implemented inside of various applications. Were these organizations to map the processes performed by users and departments to determine where loose connections generate confusion or delays, they could begin integrating said processes and boost efficiency over time – not to mention be more responsive to changing business needs.

Consider a raw materials producer who uses supply chain management (SCM) software to monitor inventory. Whenever the application indicates an impending shortage, the producer must manually notify buyers so they can revise their orders accordingly. There are two problems with this arrangement:

  1. The producer might not notice a shortage in time to notify buyers, and
  2. The buyers might not receive warning before an impending shortage becomes a current shortage.

What if you could remove the manual aspect of this arrangement and make it so certain kinds of SCM data – in this case, materials shortage data – automatically triggered a purchase requisition on the buyer side? Then buyers could make timely purchase decisions and avoid the potential pitfalls of disparate processes.

It’s a simple instance of process-based integration reminiscent of how Hitachi alerts buyers of an imminent materials shortage. By integrating processes, producers and buyers can respond more quickly to changes and operate with greater efficiency.

Better security

Frequently, business processes that develop over time do so without prioritizing security. Such processes create unwanted vulnerabilities and, for some industries, can increase the risk of noncompliance.

In these cases, integrating business processes can help close those security gaps. And that’s precisely what happened to one human resources software and services provider as it attempted to support a customer’s incompatible IT systems, a complex web of platforms and applications resulting from mergers and acquisitions.

Among other concerns, the company with incompatible systems needed to allow encrypted conversations between a mainframe reporting platform and a web-based application. Solving this crucial problem would merge disparate communication processes as well as ensure the security of company data. As the organization operates in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector, data security is key to maintaining compliance.

Fortunately, process-based integration was able to address both challenges. By making the two applications “talk” to one another via encrypted communications, the company improved data security in addition to adapting IT systems to fundamental shifts in the business landscape.

Short-term problem solving, long-term flexibility

What about the long term? How might process-based integration help you prepare for unexpected IT and business requirements down the line?

A California insurance carrier integrating business processes for a short-term initiative found that performing the integration would also help the company achieve a larger goal: keeping IT systems competitive without having to dismantle and rebuild them.

It all started with applicant data. The carrier wanted to merge the manual procedure of providing the data – information needed to assess risk, provide quotes, and issue policies – with the agent-side process of requesting the data. Upon integrating these activities, the carrier achieved a single, seamless process for accessing applicant data via its website.

That deployment solved an immediate problem, but after seeing how successful it was, the company decided to integrate other business processes involving client/server front ends. They see these integrations as key to enabling their long-term IT infrastructure to evolve alongside enterprise technology trends.

An array of advantages

Process-based integration holds massive potential for a variety of organizations trying to solve systems-related challenges. From achieving long-term efficiency, responsiveness, and security to implementing urgent business initiatives, process-based integration offers broad advantages while also addressing granular, industry-specific problems.

While these organizations’ accomplishments provide an excellent frame of reference, they barely scratch the surface of what process-based integration can help you attain. Just consider what these companies have done; then consider the problems you would like to solve at your own company.

When disparate processes present a hurdle, there’s a good chance integration can help you clear it.

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