When I think of the word “integrate” there is a clear visual that comes to mind: two things fitting together and becoming something new. Fun fact about me:  I love puzzles. My family and I spend many a weekend hour huddled around our puzzle table (yes, there is an entire table of the house dedicated to puzzles). We even have an upcoming Ask the Expert session on this topic titled “Integration Done Right – Using the Sentinel API’s,” which made me realize just how similar putting a puzzle together is to integrating your ERP and CRM systems.

Recently, my family and I worked  on this doozy of a puzzle. That’s right… 5000 pieces. As any real “puzzler” knows, you always start with the edges. Until you have the shape and structure of your puzzle, you have nothing to work with and finding a solution becomes overwhelming.

The next step for any great puzzle team is to divide and conquer. By taking one area of the puzzle at a time, we aren’t distracted by pieces that don’t apply. If I’m working on the water section, I’m only focused on those blue pieces. By only working on my “core focus,” I can finish my section faster and start solving the next part of the puzzle.

The good news is you already have your edges put together: you have a highly valuable software product or service. But, how many hours have your R&D department already spent conceptualizing, creating and perfecting your software and hardware? Why would you pull them away from their core expertise to work on issues with your ERP and CRM systems? Let them focus on what they are good at.

The most important characteristic of any good puzzle team or back-office integration system is communication.  When you’re working on a 5000 piece puzzle, it’s impossible to look at all of the pieces at once. If I see a piece that solves another part of the puzzle, I’m not going to hide it from my family.   We are working towards the same goal, so it’s critical that we communicate with each other to ensure that pieces end up where they are supposed to be.

The same principle applies to your ERP and CRM systems. Even though these systems may manage different information, there is going to be cross-over. When properly integrated, these systems will communicate with each other, decreasing mistakes and increasing profitability. When your systems are working seamlessly to fill in the missing pieces, you are able to decrease your time to market and achieve competitive advantage in doing so.

My favorite part of any puzzle is the last piece. There is no greater feeling then putting in the final piece of the puzzle and seeing all of our hard work come together and create something beautiful. The same thing happens when your back-office integration becomes a well-oiled machine. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing all of your systems harmonized together working seamlessly.