Since the introduction of auto-complete forms, there has been a steady progression in the way business data and information is handled.
If you visit a web page where you have to fill out a long list of details that you may have already entered before, it is convenient to be able just to type in the first line of information and let the form complete the rest automatically. I’m not saying that this is the mechanics of integrated business software, but it shares a similar ethos: information is consolidated, automated and integrated to benefit the user. Most importantly, it saves time, cuts down on data re-entry and reduces the opportunity for error.
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We all know the importance of saving time – time that could be contributing to providing or developing services. It is therefore important to understand and acknowledge where you could be saving time and effort that could otherwise be spent on development.
For many this may come down to eliminating manual administration. One of the most effective ways to save time with any business process is to integrate, sharing information from one consolidated database system to another. This could be highlighted with the ability to integrate accounts and project systems to ensure the on-time delivery of an important project or milestone is met.
This enables projects to be updated in real-time. A data update in a project system can automatically generate an invoice in the finance software. Billing, invoices and reports are all based on updated and accurate data.
The ability to share key information at crucial times helps streamline operations through projects and general business processes.
Reduction in data re-entry
Eliminating the need to re-enter information that has already been input is typically high up on the list of requirements for organisations looking to make efficiencies. Data re-entry is typically removed with the introduction of integrated business software. Once information is entered into a database it is then accessible throughout the organisation. This can help save a significant amount of time, aid the search for information and generally provide a greater area for collaboration.
As information is shared and passed around in a continual cycle, it is essentially held on a massive whiteboard that everyone in one room has access to
For project-based organisations, the ability to work collectively from one database saves time, reduces data-entry and gives greater visibility of both project details and status.
This may be handy for those looking to hand over ownership or take responsibility for a new project. For example, sales to accounts will generally swap hands at a certain milestone. These milestones can be tracked through integrated project systems, while staying up to date and accurate with both finance systems so that invoices are delivered at key stages, and the CRM kept up to date on contact information.
Reduction in human error
The avoidance of human error isn’t something a lot of organisations can honestly say they have mastered. Realistically there is always a human element to a process, whether it’s automated or not. However, perfect information and data within integrated business software is something of a speciality for these solutions. Users are able to collaborate, share and review in real-time, with visibility and access company-wide; once information has been entered, it can be reviewed and maintained by anyone throughout an organisation, with permission.
Systems can integrate data between systems, either directly or through a third party in a preferred format. This all contributes to reducing human error. As information is shared and passed around in a continual cycle, it is essentially held on a massive whiteboard that everyone in one room has access to – you can take notes, but you can also make changes without the rest of the room noticing. But if you do make a mistake on the whiteboard, or there is an error in the detail, it is highly likely to be noticed and corrected by someone who also has visibility. This may be updating contact details, project status, as well as other general business/project processes.
A wide range of benefits flow from integrated, consolidated and automated data. The ability to access, review and amend any information from one centralised database ensures that everyone has accurate up-to-date information.
For example, having visibility over a project's progress allows the project manager to gain access as and when appropriate to last-minute reports, or for shareholders to gain access to important information that may otherwise only be accessible by speaking to someone working on the project.
All of the above go hand-in-hand with the ability to collaborate. This extends beyond the sales and projects teams. For example, the ability for finance to have an input, or for anyone in the company to have access to information – if permission is granted, of course – can contribute to project development and streamlining.
Not only does collaboration keep teams proactive and productive, it also allows them to be assembled to react to a situation, wherever they are working.
More information can be found in the whitepaper 5 project lessons for 2014.
Steve Sawyer is the divisional director for professional services solutions at integrated software developer Access Group, and is responsible for driving the business strategy for this sector