Integrating your business operations


Why it really makes the difference

To start with, many schools of thought have attempted to explain business integration in different ways based on their fields of study. Based on my understanding of the fundamentals, I will explain business integration as a digital strategy which enables the integration, automation and optimisation of key business processes by connecting a company with its key stakeholders including customers, suppliers and other third-parties. It is a seamless type of collaboration between a company and its business network of external partners which allows all these stakeholders to exchange and integrate electronic messages, files and transactions through inter-company business processes.

Three key technical words have been used in an attempt to define business integration. That’s integration, automation and optimisation.  Integration in this context “means to coordinate or blend into a functioning or unified whole”. For Automation, the International Society of Automation defines it as “the creation and application of technology to monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services.” It further adds that Automation involves a very broad range of technologies including robotics and expert systems, Cybersecurity, wireless applications and telemetry (which automatically collects, transmits and measures data from remote sources, using sensors and other devices to collect data. It uses communication systems to transmit the data back to a central location). Based on these explanations, Optimisation (business optimisation) can be described as the “practice that improves (integrated and automated) processes to make better use of existing resources” to satisfy the interests of businesses and their customers.

In the past, many businesses had faced challenges regarding the exchange of relevant information with their stakeholders and adopted many ways to overcome them. Even with the advent of technology, many companies still operate in silos with separate systems. This way, they continue to rely on their own digital platforms to exchange files or documents with their business counterparts which is characterised by delays and some amount of (avoidable) manual processes.

It has been established that those separate systems technically don’t communicate with one another. Thus, based on the sheer diversity of communication standards, security frameworks and data formats each business deals with in their operations, it is simply too inefficient and costly to deploy separate systems for each company. As a result of these experiences from hindsight, business integration aims at a technological architecture which enables collaborative relationships and seamless communication between businesses to exchange relevant information through a single platform.


It is instructive to know that business integration is not only about connecting (two or more) businesses’ computer systems to facilitate the exchange of documents between them. It now involves the entire digital ecosystem of a company by allowing other businesses to access their digital networks to streamline data exchange.

To implement a successful business integration project, companies must consider the following essentials:

-Strategic Planning.

Business integration requires strategic planning. Businesses must evaluate their operations to establish the need for an integration exercise. Some critical questions like what does the business need to achieve and how can Information Technology (IT) facilitate those objectives? A company must project with some level of certainty what the end result should look like.

-Infrastructure Requirements.

These will include new hardware, new applications or software and the relevant documentation for the project. The costs and the quality of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure for the integration must be determined from the onset as well as the integrity of the vendors to supply them. The infrastructure needs and specifications must tick the box for the project and satisfy value for money considerations. This way, there is a high level of assurance that the integration process will be successful.


Business integration project must involve decision-makers to agree on the roadmap. These key decision-makers should come from your company and the selected Information Technology (IT) service provider. Both parties must have clear communication lines to guide the integration process. This will help address any challenges that may arise in the course of executing the project. Indeed, both parties need to collaborate to execute the project successfully.

-Phase Implementation

Business integration project must be implemented in a series of phases to avoid business disruption. Thus, undertaking the integration project in phases does not only ensure business continuity but also helps to identify technical hitches and resolve them promptly. Test-runs must be conducted as a proof-of-principle to demonstrate feasibility or value for each phase before starting other phases of the integration process.


A business integration project often follows a developer-style loop which means a sequence of activities in the implementation process. Progress of work must be evaluated to allow any defects to be corrected on the spot. Since technological applications are changing over time, businesses must make provisions to accommodate new changes as they integrate.

Benefits of Business Integration

Integrating the operations of a business helps companies to maximise resources, improve revenue and reduce costs. Other related benefits of business integration include the following:

-Improves Operational Efficiency

Business integration eliminates manual handling of documents, reduces human error and save costs of repeated workflows. Consolidating solutions to a single and easy-to-use platform improves operational efficiency.

Increases visibility & transparency

A centralised business integration platform with an end-to-end visibility allows businesses to view the entire life cycle of any kind of data being transmitted via the platform. The system can track, monitor, and manage data and processes across multiple systems and applications, hence which reduces response time.

-Ensures Agility and Better Communication

Business integration serves as an enabler by making business more responsive and agile, thereby provides a platform for employees and customers to access data, place and track orders. The crux of the matter is that business integration facilitates easy sharing of relevant information between businesses, suppliers and their customers who can have access to relevant data and do not have to request information and wait for a response. They don’t have to check the progress of any order via phone or email because the integrated process enables them to receive such feedback automatically.


-Improves System-security

It is difficult to maintain a similar security level on several and different systems of individual companies. But in an integrated system, security protocols and additional layers of system-wide protection can be installed more easily thereby mitigating the risk of dangerous cyber-attacks.

Streamlined processes

A large number of different integrations can lead to a complex environment is difficult to manage. If processes and automated workflows are similar across the whole digital ecosystem employees can focus on their core business and responsibilities.

Improves collaboration

Business integration also encourages innovation and improves collaboration between stakeholders in an industry and their counterparts in other industries on the (integrated) platform. Trading partners are on-boarded easily, can share business information and collaborate across all operations in the value chain.


To conclude, it is worth reiterating the facts that business integration solutions provide a competitive advantage to companies which embrace it in the digital space based on the inherent benefits. The essence of business integration is to empower companies to leverage on Information Technology (IT) as a business-enabler to reduce costs, streamline business operations yet reduce errors. In the same vein, business integration through the application of modern Information Technology (IT) architecture is meant to enhance transparency and compliance and, therefore, offer new opportunities and capabilities that would otherwise be difficult without it.


Bernard is a Chartered Accountant with over 14 years of professional and industry experience in Financial Services Sector and Management Consultancy. He is the Managing Partner of J.S Morlu (Ghana) an international consulting firm providing Accounting, Tax, Auditing, IT Solutions and Business Advisory Services to both private businesses and government.

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