With technology usage shifting, some business owners are struggling to keep up with all the changes. 74% of small to midsize businesses think effective use of technology is vital to growth. However, using technology effectively is not always that simple. IT problems can unexpectedly appear, and it can be challenging to judge the right strategy, prioritization, or solution to fix them.
Some companies still lean on physical documentation to avoid IT issues and trim digital expenses. Yet, this comes with its own cost: time. In an average week, employees in paper-based office settings spend 6 hours weekly searching for documents. They’ll then spend an extra 8 hours compiling reports from them. Hybrid work environments that utilize both digital and physical record-keeping can also be affected.
With time and money being valuable assets to any organization, finding a strategy that caters to both needs can be an ongoing process. As a result, many companies are adopting integrated IT solutions to handle both factors at once. Streamlining a business’s approach to technology can help reduce IT issues and increase productivity through workplace optimization.
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What Are Integrated IT Solutions?
Integrated IT solutions are a combination of software components that integrate with two or more technology functions of an organization. They’re also known as platform, stack, or operational solutions. This type of solution is designed to target multiple needs and processes. By providing an impactful software combination, users can better interact with each element. These also offer more complete datasets since direct interactions are observable, making it easier to analyze and understand data trends.
How Do They Compare to Point Solutions?
Point solutions are often used to fix a single issue or serve one purpose without considering other issues or needs. The advantage of this is a quicker response time because the solution doesn’t have to be integrated elsewhere. That makes it helpful in making focused adjustments. A common example of a point solution is any single-purpose software that doesn’t interact with anything else. While they can be developed in-house, many businesses opt for off-the-shelf solutions to save time and money.
While there are appealing short-term benefits, there are several downsides too. Each point solution must be used and maintained separately. Whether using an in-house team or managed IT services, it can create a greater burden on the IT staff and the users. It can be difficult to make broader changes to workflow or anticipate how new systems may impact the function or necessity of others. Training can also be more expensive. Getting employees caught up on each function takes time and can be hard to communicate in an easy-to-learn manner.
What Are the Main Benefits of Integrated It Solutions?
When developing an organization’s infrastructure, there are a lot of variables to look at. That includes software functions, staff needs, budgetary constraints, data analytics, and overall goals. With integrated IT solutions, benefits come in a variety of forms and can have an impact on multiple areas.
Connectivity between software
One of the primary benefits of integrated IT solutions is the connectivity between software. Microsoft 365 is a common stack solution with tools like Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Microsoft Teams. All of them are cross-compatible and can fully interact with each other. While some standalone software can be effective, cross-compatibility and ease of use have made integration more valuable.
Less software to maintain
Using and maintaining separate software tools can quickly snowball into a time-consuming task. Every program has different requirements, guidelines, changelogs, and functions within a work environment. If a new need comes up, it may require yet another piece of independent software. That can create new issues or redundancies that are difficult to anticipate. Integrated solutions get around this by using a combined technology stack. That ensures cross-compatibility, better efficiency, and easier maintenance.
Managing separate software makes tracking and preventing cybersecurity threats more challenging. With 91% of small to midsize businesses having no cyber liability insurance and 54% having no plan to deal with cyber-attacks, taking a proactive approach is especially important. By using an integrated solution, it narrows down both the strengths and weaknesses into a single technology stack. That makes it easier to watch for, prevent, and counter cyber threats.
Simplified user interface
Standalone software is often designed with only its internal user interface in mind. Even if it’s intuitive for its independent usage, this becomes a problem because every software has a different UI and workflow. This requires staff to understand information and interact with each software differently. Frequently shifting between too many unconnected applications can cause a decrease in productivity. With integrated solutions, everything is built with a single ecosystem in mind. That makes the knowledge from one area helpful for navigating everything else.
Quicker and cheaper training
The speed and cost of staff training often coincide. The longer it takes to train a new employee, the more expensive it becomes and the longer it’ll take them to reach full productivity. In 2021, the average cost to train a new employee was $1,071. For small businesses though, this number is much higher at $1,433. That suggests differences in process and efficiency based on the scale and resources of an organization. Since integrated solutions streamline the workflow, learning is more accessible, even for small businesses.
Lower long-term costs
When considering a larger purchase, not all companies look at the total cost of ownership (TCO), which is the lifetime cost. Overhauling IT infrastructure can be expensive, especially when transitioning from multiple point solutions to a single integrated solution. However, most of the expense is frontloaded. Maintaining these systems can be much cheaper, factoring in the solution’s lifetime. Point solutions can be more affordable upfront but cost a company much more throughout its lifetime due to inefficiency.
Businesses are rarely static in size or function. There can be periods of growth or times when cutbacks are needed. With integrated solutions, scalability is an often-understated strength. Having an all-in-one IT infrastructure allows organizational changes to be handled much easier and faster through less intensive adjustments. That removes the need for major overhauls or shifts in company processes, which may be required when reliant on point solutions.
When Should a Business Use an Integrated IT Solution?
This is best determined by an IT assessment, which can help diagnose the problem and offer input into the options available to solve it. There is a multitude of factors that go into the assessment process. Some of those are:
- The size of the issue.
- Short-term vs. long-term value.
- What the available budget is.
- The speed at which a solution is needed.
- What the company functions are.
- Anticipated future IT needs.
- The staff workflow.
- Training time available.
- Current IT infrastructure.
An IT specialist will analyze the business and IT structure to better understand what will be most effective and affordable. A smaller company with minor IT needs may benefit more from point solutions since the downsides are less impactful when using simpler architecture. On the flip side, organizations with heavier software usage are more likely to benefit from integrated solutions. Assessments can help determine which approach to use.
While point solutions are a solid strategy for smaller businesses with lower technology needs, Integrated IT solutions act as an efficient approach for layering multiple types of software. With 85% of American citizens owning a smartphone, cross-compatibility between hardware and devices has become increasingly important too. The more employees a business has, the more critical it is for connectivity between communication, software, devices, and databases.
Every organization is unique and can benefit from a custom mix of software tools and solution types. That is best done through a multi-step process to analyze your infrastructure, discuss your needs, and develop a catered strategy to ensure you get the right fit. Regardless of the type of solution chosen, service providers like ITonDemand can assist you through every step of the way to ensure everything is set up correctly and runs smoothly.