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What is process integration?

Process integration is a method organizations use to unify their software applications, employees, and data. By connecting disparate elements, process integration (also known as business process integration, or BPI) lets businesses optimize their resources and achieve their overarching goals more effectively.

As a company scales, its business processes become increasingly complex. Process integration helps maintain harmony and efficiency among the company’s moving parts, aligning internal processes and external tools to promote cohesion and adaptability.

Understanding process integration

Like a machine, a business needs its parts to work together to succeed. This is where process integration comes into play. It’s like the oil that keeps the machinery of your organization running smoothly.

By integrating processes, your business can break down silos, foster better communication, and maximize its productivity. To accomplish those goals, you need the right tools and infrastructure.

Technology helps facilitate business process integration by:

  • Enabling the connection of systems and applications
  • Automating repetitive tasks and processes
  • Integrating data from different sources and formats
  • Designing and orchestrating workflows
  • Offering dashboards and reports to analyze and improve process performance

Types of process integration

Process integration helps you connect applications, merge data, and integrate workflows. To accomplish these goals, you may need more than one type of process integration, including:

Native integrations
Some software comes with built-in integration capabilities that allow you to connect it seamlessly with other platforms. Native integrations make it easy for the two platforms to communicate—without you having to ask for special permissions or completing extra steps.

Third-party integrations
Organizations with complex needs may choose to develop an in-house solution to connect their software. But doing so is complicated and expensive. For this reason, they often use a third-party integration, a software product built and owned by another company on an external platform.

Application programming interface (API)
You may need APIs if software doesn’t come with native integrations for platforms in your existing tech stack. For example, you might use an API to connect your client relationship management (CRM) software with your payment processor.

Robotic process automation (RPA) integrations
RPAs can integrate with legacy systems, business apps, cloud services, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies. RPA integrations use APIs to seamlessly connect platforms and perform repetitive tasks like data entry between them.

Implementing process integration

In mid-size to large organizations, process integration can feel overwhelming. A systematic approach works best. For best results, follow these five steps:

  1. Consider your goals
    Clearly identify what you hope to achieve through process integration. For example, you might want to automate manual tasks, improve data accuracy, or enhance communication. Attach numbers to your goals (e.g., improve data accuracy by 25%). Having a clear and concrete vision helps guide your implementation strategy and gives you proof of your results.
  2. Analyze your current processes
    Conduct a thorough analysis of your current workflows and systems. Evaluate their performance against predefined metrics, and identify any bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or gaps you could address through integrations. Pay close attention to process dependencies, interconnections, and handoffs to better understand your integration opportunities.
  3. Choose the right integration tools
    The tools you select will vary widely based on what your organization needs. For instance, you might simply need APIs to connect two specific applications. Or, you might want a process management platform with dozens of native integrations. Either way, look for user-friendly interfaces, robust security measures, and scalability for future growth.
  4. Develop and test the integration
    If necessary, work with your IT team or specialists to develop the integration solution. This involves configuring connectors and building workflows while ensuring data consistency and accuracy.
  5. Deploy and monitor the integration
    Once the integration is ready to go, deploy it in a controlled manner. Monitor its performance and gather feedback from end users to identify potential issues or areas for improvement.

Examples of process integration

Process integration is incredibly versatile, with applications across various industries. Here are a few examples:

Manufacturing
Process integration helps companies optimize outputs by integrating quality control (QC) processes with manufacturing ones and improve supply chain management by coordinating stages like procurement and logistics. Manufacturers can also improve production planning and scheduling by integrating processes like machining and assembly.

Healthcare
With process integration, hospitals and clinics can integrate electronic health records (EHR) with administrative systems and share patient information securely with other healthcare organizations through the Health Information Exchange (HIE). They can also improve patient care coordination among interdisciplinary teams and facilitate telemedicine through the connection of communication platforms.

Finance
Financial institutions use process integration to integrate compliance and risk management systems to ensure adherence to regulations and to connect customer relationship management (CRM) and banking systems to enable personalized customer service. Process integrations also help companies connect fraud detection systems with customer authentication and payment processing systems to detect and prevent theft in real time.

What are the top benefits of process integration?

Despite the challenges of process integration, organizations still pursue it because of its clear benefits. Some of the advantages of process integration include:

  • Reduced data silos: Without integrated systems, your company inevitably creates data silos. That means your information is stored in one location and remains inaccessible to the rest of the organization. Process integration eliminates this problem, allowing information to flow throughout your company. This creates a more collaborative culture and improves transparency.
  • Enhanced visibility and control: As your data silos break down, you gain centralized access to key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics across the organization. This gives you a more comprehensive view of operations in real time so you can make informed, data-driven decisions.
  • Improved productivity and efficiency: Employees often waste time bouncing between different apps and copying data from one system to another. Integrating and automating processes saves your team members time, so they can work on value-add tasks like developing business strategies or closing sales deals.
  • Cost savings and resource optimization: Integrating processes eliminates task duplication, data redundancy, and errors—reducing the time and money you spend fixing these issues. Plus, integration allows you to streamline workflows through automation, which enhances team members’ productivity and efficiency and allows you to save on labor costs.

Challenges of implementing process integration

Integrating your processes isn’t always easy. Here are some of the challenges organizations must navigate to implement process integration:

  • Data quality: In a process integration project, you might encounter flawed data, duplications, or inconsistencies across platforms. Ensuring data integrity is crucial because it impacts decision-making and operational efficiency. Solve this problem by standardizing your data formats and protocols to ensure consistency in data processing and using workflow automation and RPA to eliminate manual errors.
  • Compatibility issues: When you use diverse technologies from different vendors, you may experience incompatibilities in data formats, protocols, or APIs. This can create issues in data exchange and process automation. To prevent this, always explore your software’s integrations before purchasing.
  • Employee resistance: Process integration initiatives may result in changes to workflows and responsibilities, resulting in employee frustration. Having a strong change management program in place helps.
  • Data security and privacy: Integrating systems means sharing information from one platform to another. You have to make sure you protect sensitive data throughout the process with methods like data encryption, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and authorization settings. Look for platforms that take security seriously.

How process integration drives results

Let’s take a look at how two real-life companies use process integration to see tangible operational improvements.

Wataniya Mobile
A telecom provider for the Palestinian Territories, Wataniya Mobile found that its process for handling everything from complicated human resources (HR) approvals to marketing requests was time-consuming and cumbersome. Wataniya adopted Nintex to quickly create workflows that integrate and automate processes. With Nintex, the company integrated Oracle ERP, SAP, and SharePoint, creating 80+ workflows that interact with 80 sophisticated forms. The company estimates this has saved them more than $62,000 a year.

Bergland Milch
The largest dairy provider in Austria, Berglandmilch wanted to transform and automate their complex packaging change process to increase transparency for stakeholders. With nearly 6,000 different varieties of packaging and 300 changes each month, this was no easy feat. Nintex software made it easier, allowing the company to create an automated workflow that integrates seamlessly with its existing SAP system and Microsoft applications. This means managers can copy existing designs from SAP to initiate the change process and automatically store process-related documents on the cloud with Microsoft Office 365. The result is more transparency and 7,200 hours saved per year.

Getting started with process integration

Getting powerful results with process integration is within reach, no matter how complex your processes are. Just remember to avoid these pitfalls when you get started:

  • Insufficient planning: When eager for a quick fix, it’s tempting to dive headfirst into process integration. But take the time to consider your organization’s needs and goals. This helps guide your decision-making and leads to long-term success with integrating your processes.
  • Lack of support: Process integration affects the ins and outs of how your team completes tasks. Ensure your team receives adequate training on the platforms and tools you adopt, and appoint mentors or champions to support employees who need additional individualized help.
  • Ignoring security concerns: As your data moves between apps, it faces potential threats from bad actors like hackers. Prioritize security throughout the integration process to protect sensitive data like personal customer details or company accounting information

Nintex helps you avoid common pitfalls with its secure suite of tools and a variety of support resources. Plus, it offers dozens of built-in integrations called Connectors and countless extensions, so you can integrate and automate processes with ease.

Get a demo to see how you can integrate your processes with Nintex.