Application integration – is it worth the effort?

A good recruitment business operation hinges on three keystone applications – CRM, billing and a financial management system

The term that has become the most important thing in the world of IT and business are the two words ‘digital transformation’.

It’s everywhere, but what is digital transformation? Put simply, it’s the use of digital technology to automate or modify processes and drive efficiencies across a business. Digitally mature businesses are more resilient, more adaptable and better placed to survive in a fast-paced challenging economy. A survey of European business leaders by DocuSign in 2023 found that “organisations with ‘very high’ digital maturity are three times more likely to have transformative resilience – that is to say, they are able to not only adapt to disruptions, but also to innovate and thrive in the face of disruptive challenges”.

And one of the low-hanging fruits in the world of digital transformation is the integration of disparate computer systems to remove the tedious task of manually rekeying data. By integrating applications across the business, you are not only creating a more accurate, streamlined and efficient business management solution, you are also creating a better working environment for your staff, which in turn leads to better staff retention.

Nowhere is the integration of ‘best of breed’ business applications more important than in the world of recruitment.

For most recruitment businesses their operation hinges on three keystone applications: a good CRM platform to manage candidates, clients and drive placements; a powerful time and billing platform; and a solid, best of breed, financial management system to provide the necessary insights to drive the business forwards. For many recruitment businesses, providing tight and efficient integration of those three systems has allowed the company to select the best solutions for its specific requirements and by doing so enabled and driven significant growth.

But integration of these systems is not as simple as just finding a platform or a partner to do the job. Integration, like any part of the digital transformation process, is, in reality, a journey. A journey that needs careful planning and consideration from all involved stakeholders. It’s not good enough to say, I’m in London and I want to go to New York. The obvious answer is take a plane. But you need to get to the airport, so where are you in London? Can I take the Tube? Do I need to walk or should I get a cab? Equally important, where exactly do you want to get to in New York? It’s a big city and Times Square isn’t the only available destination. All of these details will determine how and when you will arrive at your desired end point.

Just as thinking that you only need an aeroplane to get you to New York, simply deciding on the platform won’t get your systems integrated. You need to really focus on the detail. If, for example, I’m integrating my CRM system with my finance system to allow me to post customer data between the two, do I have a common identifier for the account and is that data in the same format in both systems? You will find it difficult to post a 12-character alphanumeric value from one system into an eight-character numeric field in another! The devil really does lie in the detail. So to begin with, a significant effort is required in identifying the source data and ensuring that the target system has the relevant fields for that data to be written to.

Finally, always ask two key questions: “Do I need to do this, or am I doing this because I can?” And “is there any value in automating the process?”. All too often we see data being moved between systems unnecessarily, delivering no real benefit to the end user in its final destination. Don’t clog the process with too much chaff when we only need the wheat. And we often see companies automating very simple tasks, at some expense, when the manual process not only offers some benefits but also costs very little.

Where is the value in creating an automated posting of a simple monthly journal when the manual process only takes 15 minutes once a month? Especially when some manual intervention is needed to review the data before its posted!

For many companies an integration project is a daunting prospect that they would rather avoid. But given the benefits that integration can bring to a recruitment agency of any size, it is something all should consider without fear of failure.  Plan carefully, allocate the right resources and above all, take your time. 

The final destination really is worthwhile and will deliver huge gains to your business.

Power points

  1. Digital transformation is key in today’s fast-moving economy. Digitally mature businesses retain staff and are able to adapt to economic forces and change faster and more efficiently. They are robust and resilient. Staff spend less time doing mundane tasks, deliver greater value to the business and enjoy a higher level of job satisfaction. They are consequently less likely to move on
  2. Integration allows you to deploy “best of breed” solutions to drive and grow your business
  3. Properly planned integration will get you where you want to go and deliver great value to the business. The planning needs to be detailed and needs to involve all stakeholders across the business

Image credit | iStock

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