In a recent white paper, we discussed
- The need to integrate multiple third-party systems into a comprehensive software network
- Each system representing a “best-of-breed” tool that has been optimized for managing specific aspects of the Quality information ecosystem
- The success of this ecosystem heavily relies on the seamless sharing of information between those tools
In the light of the above, we’ll explore the three main reasons why you should embrace software that offers system-agnostic integrations. By “system-agnostic integrations”, we literally mean systems that have the capacity to interface with any other system without establishing complex protocols.
Reason #1: accept the limitations of “standard” integrations
Standard integrations only work for very simple tools and basic information. For instance, an app like Zoom can be easily integrated with Outlook to save a meeting reminder. This is because the latter relies on one standardized methodology for appointment creation – which needs only a simple set of key data points.
By contrast, the systems used in a laboratory environment (LEN, LIMS, etc.):
- handle a range of very complex data
- are often highly customized to reflect unique realities in a site, lab or even team level
- therefore use very different data formats
As we are not talking about ‘simple tools’ here, standard integrations are never going to be the answer to realize your stack of ‘best-of-breed’ solutions. Only system-agnostic integration will ensure that:
- inputs can be received from any sending agent in any format
- data can be interpreted in-app and processed with the high level of complexity and quality that is required
- any outputs can be transmitted in the format preferred by the receiving system(s)
Standard interfaces are not the answer – the systems you are using are way too complex and often way too customized for that to work properly.
Reason #2: save time
Current situation: for clients investing in a new software solution, data integration is a no-brainer.
Problem: setting up integrations has historically been a time-consuming process – your IT team has to set-up data lakes, APIs, and establish multidimensional interoperability. Experience tells us that enterprise integration projects are rarely 100% effective on first implementation and inevitably require iterative maintenance and refinement. This puts additional pressure on already scarce resources and eats away at your IT budget.
Ideal world: What you should expect as a buyer is that the system is interoperable out of the box.
Solution: The only way a solution can be ‘interoperable out of the box’ is with system-agnostic integration. This literally means that you need to look for software that can connect to ‘any’ system. With a system-agnostic integration all you need is for the IT team to set up the channel through which you can send and receive data to/from other systems. Once the phone line is setup, any conversation can happen!
With standard interfaces you risk losing valuable days to tweaking interoperability settings and establishing substandard connections between solutions. System-agnostic is therefore the way to go to save time.
Reason #3: don’t compromise on what makes software “best-of-breed”
What makes a software product “best-of-breed”? Typically, their value proposition is that they offer:
- highly-specialized functionality that is technically adapted to your unique requirements; and
- a user experience (UX) that is optimized to the your way of working.
If you compromise on either of these factors, you risk losing a big part of what makes the software great.
You definitely don’t want to sacrifice one of these for the sake of integrating multiple third party systems. Some companies sell an integration solution based on providing a single interface point for all systems via a portal. They propose that clients who have invested in best-of-breed software make such a sacrifice by handing over control to their portal. Unfortunately, this:
- “flattens” the complexity of highly-specialized systems to accommodate shared data protocols
- re-invents the UX wheel, negating the work that has already been dedicated to refining a high-quality product
By deploying single sign-on via enterprise authentication and less-restrictive interoperability layers such as a service bus, system agnostic solutions effectively circumvent the need for unifying portals.