Linking your back-office and online systems together improves efficiency and could ultimately lead to greater customer satisfaction and cost savings.
What are back-office systems?
Back-office systems run all your business administration processes, such as accounts and customer relationship management. They are typically an automated set of processes run by a piece of software on your computer. A back-office system, using an accounting package or database, will:
- record all sales transactions
- record all purchases
- update inventory records accordingly
- generate all appropriate paperwork - ie invoices and receipts
Many back-office systems can also link into courier systems for printing shipping labels or produce reports that are invaluable in monitoring business performance and predicting future trends.
What is integration in IT?
In practical terms, system integration means connecting different IT systems together. For example, linking your online e-commerce system with your back-office accounts and database systems, so that when a customer places an order online, your web store and back office deal with the sale as one.
The online system accepts the order and then relays all this information back to the customer, while the back office records the transaction, adjusts inventory levels, generates an invoice and fulfils the order. See more on customer relationship management.
Benefits of system integration
Advantages of IT system integration include:
- greatly improved customer service
- faster response times
- enhanced capacity - automation allows you to handle larger volumes of business
- reduced costs in the medium and long term
- improved accuracy - with two systems accessing the same data, there are fewer chances for error
- better use of staff time
The three main options for achieving integration are:
- purchasing off-the-shelf software that includes built-in back-office functionality
- employing a specialist software firm to create an interface between your systems
- using an application or cloud computing service provider
When looking for software solutions, make sure they support open standards such as XML (Extensible Mark-up Language). You may also want to choose a flexible solution. For example, one that supports multi-currencies, as this can help you move into new markets more easily.
It is important to determine your requirements correctly and thoroughly. See how to carry out a technology needs assessment.