Websites and Systems Integration
In this day and age, it’s exciting to see different systems and devices all connected to each other. Your phone, tablet and desktop devices can all be connected through iCloud, Google Drive or OneDrive and people widely accept the benefits, it’s become mainstream. Now that it’s mainstream, businesses expect their communication channels to tie in with their systems – and rightly so.
More and more, our clients are coming to us with different systems that they would like to be integrated into their site. Some are easier than others, but generally modern systems have some form of integration method in place. This post gives an outline of the sort of things that you need to be thinking about when integrating a system into your website.
Systems are separate to a website
It’s important to remember that your system of choice is nearly always a separate thing to your website. It might sit on your website, but it’s not the same. This means that in your mind, you need to understand the boundaries between where each of them start and finish – your web developer might not necessarily be able to support you with the system after the integration and visa versa.
This is the key point to consider. It also buts the remaining points into context, but especially in terms of who is responsible and who is accountable.
What bit is the A-side?
Essentially, find out what is doing all of the clever stuff, the heavy lifting. If the system is the brains of the job, then the website will almost certainly be acting as a frame to showcase the system. The website is there to make things look pretty. This means that the system side has to take the lead and set out the requirements and the criteria. The website side will then follow the instructions and hey presto, everything falls into place.
If the website side is doing the heavy lifting, you need to ensure that your developer has the knowledge and understanding to take the system forward. You can’t assume that your web gimp will have even come across your system before, so you have to expect some time and cost for familiarisation.
Where is the support coming from? Does the system developer offer support or are you on your own? This part is key. Normally, if it is a paid or subscription system, the support will come from the system developer. This can be at a very simple level. Do you pay for Office 365? Then your support will come from Microsoft or their agents. Have you bought in an order system? Again, support is likely to come from them.
Support needs to be discussed at the front end, but when you are dealing with web developers and third party system developers, you need to be clear on who is giving support. Again as a rule, whoever you are paying beyond the point of installation is the one who should be offering support.
Training can often be overlooked when looking at systems. Often there are instructions, videos and resources to follow, but if training is available then take it. It will show you functions and features that allow you to get the most out of things.
Systems and websites update all of the time. This is to ensure that things are running smoothly, security is in place and things are working as they should be. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for updates to be done with every single system, web builder, browser and device in mind. This means that over time, things can get out of sync. It is important that everything is maintained to keep things working.
You need to have an idea of what the update schedule looks like. Again, an understanding of your support levels is an important factor here. If things go up the creek three years down the line, after things have been left to their own devices then who is responsible? Accept that things are constantly evolving, so you need to make provision for keeping things up to date.
Like with your site itself, your system will be hosted somewhere. It could be local based on a machine or device, cloud based or sat on the same hosting as your site. You need to know where your system lives and who is responsible for it.
What is the process for integrating the system to the website? Is there a step by step guide on what to do? A website plugin to seamlessly make things happen? or is there a need for some website development work to be done to accommodate the system.
Once the system is integrated into the site, is there any configuration needed? Is this done at the website side or within the system itself? Remember, if the system is new to your web developer, they might have to go through some testing or a process of trial and error to get things set up properly, which will almost certainly have a time and cost element.
Generally, modern systems are cloud based and are offered on a monthly subscription model. This often means that they are hosted, supported, maintained and managed by the systems developer. It’s a perfect scenario. When things go wrong, they are on hand to support and generally they keep the system compatible with all of the latest platforms.
In terms of websites and systems integration, your web developer normally has the skills to assist with integration, configuration, setup and support. However, it would be wrong to assume that they are the person responsible for offering this. At the beginning of the project, identify the boundaries and identify any costs. Also, make sure that you are clear on support and who is going to provide it.