Indispensable integrations: 6 ways to transform productivity

31 July 2023
When one software tool is connected with another, there’s a sudden, dramatic boost to productivity and ease of working. Our clients with integrated software systems often tell us they’ve been surprised by just how big a difference it’s made. But some software integrations are more significant than others – usually because they involve tools that are critical to how a business works. Here are our top six indispensable integrations, based on years of using Claris FileMaker to help our clients join up their separate software systems.


1. Accounting systems – Sage, Xero, QuickBooks, Netsuite...

Your accounting system contains critical information on goods and services, costs and customers – but this same information is also held elsewhere in your business. All that data has to be entered twice (or more), and this disconnect repeatedly causes problems. When your production team decides to alter a detail of a product, which they record on spreadsheets, the accounts team may never find out about it. Or if the accounts system records that a customer hasn’t paid for the last four months, the person receiving new orders from the same customer won’t know anything about it. 

Whether through forgetting to communicate a change, simple data entry errors, or losing track of what’s been billed, this is a recipe for waste and inefficiency. It’s also holding you back from scaling up. The greater the volume of work, the bigger the inefficiencies become. And no one is paying you for the time you spend on this. 

Joining up your accounting system with the rest of your business eliminates these problems at a stroke, as well as giving you greater visibility of how your business is working. What’s more, this is a bidirectional solution: data entered elsewhere automatically arrives in your accounting system, but your accounting system also sends data elsewhere in your business system, for example issuing an alert for a customer who has failed to pay. 

2. Ecommerce – Shopify, Magento...

Selling products from your website doesn’t seem too difficult. Once you’ve entered your product details, images and costs and arranged a delivery system, you might think it would largely take care of itself. Except it doesn’t. If you don’t update stock levels you’ll find yourself selling products you don’t have. If you don’t update prices when your costs go up you’ll be losing money. Details like the weight of different products becomes important for delivery costs, adding to the complexity of your ecommerce data. And if with thousands, hundreds or even just tens of products, this process rapidly becomes completely unmanageable. 

Yet all this data already exists elsewhere in your business – from stock levels to product weight to current prices. If your ecommerce system is instantly and automatically updated whenever anything changes, all these problems go away. At the same time, new opportunities open up – despatch becomes quicker, for example, and now it’s easier to start building relationships with your online customers via email. 

Again, this offers a bidirectional benefit. Changes elsewhere in the business impact your ecommerce system, while your ecommerce system is brimming with valuable intelligence for your sales and production teams, if only they can get their hands on it. 

3. Delivery – TNT, DPD, DHL, Whistl, FedEx… 

It’s easy to book your deliveries online with names like DHL and DPD, print out a label, and send it off. But as you grow, you’ll end up with a team member constantly entering data manually, copying it from one system to another just to print a label. When you need proof of delivery, your team member will need to log back into the carrier’s system to retrieve the photo or signature as proof of delivery. 

However, all these carriers provide an API, which makes it possible to integrate delivery with the rest of your systems. When you want to arrange a delivery, your chosen carrier will instantly know the delivery details, package sizes and weights, and the label prints out immediately. When the delivery is complete, your business system is automatically updated with the photo or signature, and your customer can be emailed confirmation in your branding. This is the bidirectional benefit – the system works both ways. 

As you get busier, you’ll probably want the best prices to keep costs down. Without integrating delivery, your team member will have to quickly enter details into two or three websites before choosing the best option. But we can create a system that automatically finds the best price for your delivery. In other words, you’ll not only save time but money too – and as you grow the benefits will only multiply. 

4. Email marketing – MailChimp, MailerLite, Constant Contact…

It’s essential to stay in touch with customers and potential customers to build stronger, longer lasting relationships. Email marketing systems like MailChimp are great tools for doing this, not only composing beautiful branded messages but reporting back on things like who clicked on what in an email, enabling you to follow up. 

This is important information about customers but it’s far more powerful if it’s integrated with everything else you know about each business or individual. Any contacts in your system can be automatically synced to your MailChimp list, without having to do data exports or keep things in sync. In return, your contacts' engagement with your email campaigns become visible to your sales team alongside their order history – painting a richer, more valuable portrait. This certainly saves time, but more importantly it gives you a more powerful marketing tool. Again, each system enriches the usefulness of the other. 

5. Calendars – Outlook, Google…

Trying to coordinate isolated individual calendars is a clunky way to organise a client meeting. But when meetings are integrated with your wider business system, everything becomes seamless. After agreeing an appointment (sales meeting, vehicle service, consultancy call, whatever), you simply add the appointment to your system instead of sending a manual calendar invitation. The system then sends an invitation to your client and your own team, and can automatically email the client a couple of days before the appointment, with a questionnaire to complete, an invoice to pay, or a simple reminder. Everyone in your team can see when the appointment is scheduled and whether anyone has declined. A repeat appointment can automatically be set up – for example, a year later when the next service is needed.  

We can also create an appointment booking system, so people outside your organisation can search for and book appointment time slots with your sales team. The calendar invitations are completely standard so work with every user’s device and sit alongside the rest of their calendar events. 

6. Email – Gmail, Outlook… 

Typically, when you use email to communicate with clients, you can never be quite sure whether anyone else in your organisation has been in touch with them. With an integrated email system, you can access a complete record of all emails to that client, filterable by type and date and who sent it. 

This can also work for inbound emails. Whenever you receive an email from a client, you can simply drag it into a folder and it will be automatically assigned to the relevant project and any attachments filed in the appropriate place. You can then see all the versions of a particular file received by anyone in the business – ensuring you’re never looking at an old version. Many emails are effectively contracts, and an integrated email system ensures these can be filed safely where they can be seen by anyone with the necessary permissions.

An integrated email system also makes it possible to do things like schedule outgoing emails in advance, or at key stages in a process – for example when an order is despatched, the day before an appointment, or feedback and follow-up after a sale. This tool lets you give your clients the best service, automatically.

These are our top 6 software integrations but they are not the last word on powerful integrations. They may not include the one integration that would make the biggest difference to your business. If you use specialist software developed for a particular type of work, then integrating that with your other business tools could be the key to transforming your business. 
The critical idea here is that everything is connected. The accounts team is part of the wider business – they shouldn’t work in isolation. Nor should sales. Nor should production. Each team has to communicate with other teams, and the more transparent and frictionless those interfaces are, the more intelligent and effective your entire business becomes.

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