The key to efficiency: How system integration is transforming the business world

What is system integration?

System integration is a process of linking together various information systems and applications to allow programs to share data and information with each other. This can be achieved by employing a variety of technologies and methods, such as web services built to integrate specific data collections, application programming interfaces (API’s) accessible within the end systems themselves, integration platforms, and more. These technologies make it possible to both interconnect systems and tailor the interconnection features to specific requirements. System integration is often used in enterprise information systems, financial systems as well as automated industrial systems, healthcare and other areas.

Systems can be integrated within enterprise networks, through on-premise solutions or in the cloud. The approach appropriate for a particular infrastructure needs to be chosen according to the specific enterprise architecture and systems to be integrated.

Why integrate systems?

The main and obvious benefits of system integration include a boost to productivity, efficiency and data quality. The integration of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system provides a suitable example. The CRM system is used to manage customer relationships, while the ERP system is designed to manage internal processes and resources. If these systems operate separately, the responsibility for maintaining data and sharing information lies with the employees who work with the two systems. This often leads to situations where employees enter data separately into both systems and must pass information manually, causing, among other things, task duplication, increase in paperwork and a higher error rate. However, if the CRM and ERP systems are interconnected, data management is centralised, eliminating the need for manual intervention as the systems automatically share information with each other based on predefined procedures and criteria. This directly improves the speed of processing and the quality of data as well as the overall functioning of business processes.

Integration may go beyond the flow of information between two systems. The technologies that are available allow building an end-to-end integration structure that interconnects systems across the enterprise. This makes it possible to store and manage all data centrally, keeping it up-to-date and in high quality, while providing access to the data to as many users as possible for different uses within their activities and competences. Integrated and centrally managed data allows for high-efficiency mass editing and facilitates data control, for example through regular audits.

A system integration structure can often be built without any major changes in the IT infrastructure because the technologies behind the integration processes work independently and connect to systems and applications that are already in place, without affecting their operation.

Is system integration secure?

Security plays a crucial role in system integration. Any use of data, whether manual or automated, involves security risks that may lead to the misuse of company data or leakage of sensitive information. When implementing information systems and developing integration processes, it is therefore essential to follow strict security rules, use no technologies other than those from verified vendors, and avoid outdated system versions whose level of security may not cover all existing risks.

The way integration processes are set up is subject to strict standards that ensure data security during data transfer and storage as well as with respect to maintaining data integrity. For cloud solutions, these include, in particular, encryption-based data security mechanisms that prevent data interpretation through unauthorised access during data transmission, and requirements for the authentication of users and accounts allowed to access data, including managing their specific permissions and auditing activities within systems and data stores. In addition, system integrations within enterprise networks are protected by a firewall that separates environments and processes inside and outside the enterprise network. For hybrid structures, i.e. those that allow systems within enterprise networks to be integrated with cloud services, use is made of secure communication gateways that verify individual transmission sessions.

The security standards mentioned above are a common part of technology solutions for system integration.

RSM contributors

Zdeno Dubnička

Head of NetSuite

Kristýna Mácha Svěráková

Senior Integration Consultant