Business apps—for email marketing, accounting, collaboration and more—are a boon when it comes to streamlining business operations. The next big benefit to take advantage of is integration of those apps—essentially, allowing them to connect and share information automatically.
“Integration of business apps means that you only have to enter data in one place and that information is available in all the other tools you use to run your business,” says Susan Boles, partner at advisory firm Grind/Revive in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “Companies can reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to onboard a new client, get payment from that client, keep accurate and real-time financial records and more.”
Integrating apps can increase productivity by saving employees valuable time. For example, a 2017 report showed that 57% of sales reps spend up to an hour per day solely on data entry—a good example of a task that can be greatly reduced through app integration.
Creating a Plan
Boles emphasizes the need for business owners to have a concrete plan when first starting this process. “Sit down and draw out a map of all the tools you use in your business,” she advises. “Then, draw lines where you need to connect.”
Popular examples of app integration include connecting accounting software, like QuickBooks, with direct payment apps like Square or PayPal. For seamless file sharing and communication between team members, a project management app like Trello can connect to instant messenger Slack, where chats, reminders and files can be sent back and forth. Ease in sales can also be achieved by connecting an email marketing app, like MailChimp, with Shopify, an e-commerce platform.
If your company has a CRM platform, it can function as a good central hub for multiple business app integration. Tools like Zoho CRM or Salesforce offer native integrations customizable to the business’ needs.
When integrating outside of a CRM, consider use of a connector tool such as Zapier, IFTTT or Microsoft Flow. App integrations can become as elaborate as needed. For example, an automated form for new clients can trigger creation of a new project in a project management app; an invoice from an invoice app; and a let’s-set-up-a-call email. Each of the tools mentioned above offers a cost-free option, although Zapier and Microsoft Flow limit the number of connections in their free versions. Paid plans can cost anywhere from $5 to $250 per month.
No matter what route you take, having a clear view of your company’s needs is essential. Because each business is unique, the apps that provide value for one business may not work for another. If you’re unsure of the next steps, hiring an IT professional to help in the integration process may be an additional cost that ultimately pays for itself.
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