The holy grail of system integration

26 March 2018 by Naresh Raj

One of the most popular buzzwords of the modern digital world is ‘integration’, particularly relating to business systems. But what does this mean in practical terms and why should we all be focusing on doing this?


Wikipedia describes system integration as ‘the process of linking together different computing systems and software applications, physically or functionally, to act as a coordinated whole.

Put simply your systems can all be used separately (as you do at the moment) but talk to each other and share data for the overall benefit of your organisation and members. Integrated systems are flexible systems and can be expanded as your organisation’s needs change.

The risks of not integrating at all

If you need more convincing that this is a worthwhile activity, here are a few issues you might experience without integration:

Data confusion

Data often ends up stored in multiple places, which leads to inaccuracies and duplication of data & effort, not to mention a lack of insight within the organisation into member behaviour preventing you from improving services and offerings to better meet their needs.

Member disengagement

If your organisation is too difficult to deal with (too many silos) members will get frustrated and potentially leave. If a member doesn’t feel valued by your organisation (you don’t recognise them when they contact you) they are more likely to leave. If they don’t feel they are getting any real benefit from being a member (un-valued member benefits) they will probably leave.

Staff disengagement

Too much time and effort spent on repetitive and time-wasting administration, reducing the time available to really benefit members.

The holy grail of Membership systems integration

The vision we should all be aiming for is to have all data stored in one central place, a CRM system, with all other systems used to gather & store data and communicate with members connected to it. But more than that… Below are some features the holy grail should feature:

Open source or written in common coding language

This sounds a bit techy but is very important! Some CRM systems are written in quite complicated and proprietary language, effectively tying you into the partner who set it up and making you reliant on them.

Go for the tried & tested solution

Now is not the time to be an early adopter of new technology. Look at what’s tried, tested and trusted amongst other professional bodies. Look at what platforms are established yet future-proofed and always leading the way.

You must be able to integrate your most frequently used applications

Of course, whatever CRM you use needs to integrate with your other commonly used data platforms, such as finance systems, email automation platforms and website CMS’. But go beyond that, look for a CRM that integrates with ALL the applications you use daily - that will make it much easier for staff to adopt. Let’s face it, most of us use Microsoft Office applications such as Outlook, Excel and Word. Make sure your CRM can work with these seamlessly.

Extendable and adaptable

You may not want to connect your HR or project management platforms to CRM right now, but what’s to say you won’t want to in three years? Can your CRM do it, if you choose to do it?

Connected platform – online and on-the-go (offline)

As we all become more and more digital-savvy and are used to managing many of our lives online and through mobile apps, we expect that everything is joined up with multiple ‘entry’ points and multi-direction data flows? What does this mean? Well take Netflix for example. Not only can I watch programmes through a smart TV or media service, but I can access the services on my laptop and mobile device. Any preferences or changes to my account that I make online, will take effect everywhere else. The same is true for your CRM and website. Your members expect to be able to manage their account on any of their devices wherever they may be. Integrating (or connecting) your website with your CRM has never been more important.

It is for the above reasons, smartimpact uses Microsoft Dynamics for all our membership CRM solutions coupled with the leading web content management solutions to create a fully connected platform for your members. We believe the platform is the best choice for membership bodies and professional associations, regardless of your specialism.