Integration is an interesting word. We use it often in our business to refer to the process of connecting multiple, previously standalone applications. The result is a fully integrated, holistic ERP system where all your software applications talk to each other, work with each other, and as if they are a single entity.

This gives you infinitely more control over your ERP system, plus greater access and visibility for all users, as well as the elimination of redundancy. If that sounds like heaven, it is!

Integration: The Word

I thought I knew where the concept of computer systems integration evolved from, because:

  1. systems integration is what we at Strategic Systems Group (SSG) do every day, and
  2. in our society, we speak of integration as it relates to racial integration all the time.

That is why I thought of integration as the opposite (what dictionaries call the antonym) of segregation, and thus the synonym of desegregation. But when I opened a dictionary and a thesaurus, I found out how lacking my knowledge is.

Right off the bat, I found out that the first known use of the word integration dates back to 1620, which makes it a 400-year old word! I would have guessed that its appearance in our lexicon was far more recent than the early 17th century.

Then I found out that it has multiple meanings. Yes, it has the societal meaning that we are probably all aware of, as in: The incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups (such as races).

And it has the technical IT meaning that defines SSG’s business:  The state of or the act of combining or being combined into a cohesive whole.

But it also has a medical meaning: The coordination of physical and/or mental processes. Here is the example the dictionary provides: “The brain’s integration of sensory input from both eyes allows for depth perception.”

And, to top it all off, the word integration has a mathematical meaning that I was totally unaware of: The operation of solving a differential equation.

Given all these meanings and usages, it is not surprising that there are dozens of synonyms:
absorption, blending, coalescence, coalition, commingling, commixture, concretion, homogenization, immingling, immixture, merging, mingling, incorporation, interfusion, intermingling, mergence, merger, merging, mingling, coupling, linking, unification, union, accumulation, aggregation, conglomeration, admixture, amalgam, amalgamation, blend, combination, composite, compound, fusion, intermixture, meld, mix, mixture, and synthesis.

Not to mention more than a dozen antonyms:
bifurcation, breakup, cleavage, dissolution, disunion, division, fractionalization, fractionation, partition, schism, scission, split, sundering, decomposition, disassembly, dismemberment, segmentation, subdivision, isolation, seclusion, segregation, sequestration.

In my world, which is the world of ERP/CRM and full systems integration of Microsoft Dynamics business management software, we talk about the linking of disparate applications and systems into a cohesive, unified whole that will best serve the needs of modern, forward-thinking companies seeking a long term competitive edge.

Systems Integration: The Goal

Having delved into the linguistic meanings of integration, it is now time to take a deep dive into the heart of the matter: Microsoft Dynamics systems integration starting with the goals of such an endeavor. What do you want to accomplish by linking disparate systems such as ERP and CRM?

Is it enough to link ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) when there are other outliers in your environment, such as perhaps a standalone EDI (electronic data interchange) or EFT (electronic funds transfer) or SCM (supply chain management) solution? What about your WMS (warehouse management system) solution?

In the long-term, you will likely want, even need, to integrate everything, and it may well be cost-effective to do it all at once as opposed to taking a piecemeal approach. SSG will develop your goals with you. We will provide expert advice and consulting services that are based on our nearly 30 years of experience (SSG was established in 1991), implementing and maintaining and upgrading ERP solutions for manufacturers and distributors.

Systems Integration: The Process

The first piece of the puzzle is to determine which ERP software you are currently running and which version. Are you already running one of the ERP solutions within the Microsoft Dynamics family? If so, is it Microsoft Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV, Dynamics AX, Dynamics 365, Dynamics 365 Business Central? If so, which version? Or, are you running something else altogether? SSG can handle all those scenarios. It is just a question of establishing a baseline of where you are at currently.

There exist established migration paths from older Microsoft Dynamics ERP versions to the newer ones, which all include integrated CRM. So instead of integrating CRM into an older version of Dynamics ERP, it is most often more time and cost-effective to simply migrate to one of the new cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions – mainly Dynamics 365 or Dynamics 365 Business Central.

Remember, if there are other silos of information that have not been integrated, now is the time to do that as well. Otherwise, your satisfaction with the results of the integration may be short-lived.

Systems Integration: The Results

Once the process of integration is complete and your goals have been accomplished, you will enjoy the many benefits that accrue from full systems integration. These include:

  • Elimination of silos of information
  • Elimination of redundancy
  • Automation of manual tasks
  • 360-degree visibility into business processes
  • 360-degree visibility into transactions across the enterprise
  • ERP visibility for CRM users
  • CRM visibility for ERP users
  • Defined user access to relevant areas of the system
  • Heightened security
  • Compatible systems that all talk to each other (so you do not have to be the MC or the go-between anymore!)

If you have chosen to move up to the cloud versions Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Dynamics 365 Business Central, in addition to all the above, you will also enjoy:

  • Automated updates
  • Automated patches
  • Automated upgrades

And you will have eliminated the upfront capital expenditures on the software and hardware, which you have replaced with a single monthly subscription fee and the ability to add and remove users as needed.

Whew. What a relief!

Take the next step…

You will not find many (if any) Microsoft partners with the depth, breadth, and longevity of Strategic Systems Group (SSG). Please call us at (310) 539-4645 or reach out via our contact form today!

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