Originally published on December 17, 2013 on QBSBDC.com as the last of four blog posts in a series designed to help small businesses, and those that serve them, be successful.
At one point or another, most small business owners have had to work with applications that don’t talk to each other. It might be a payroll system that doesn’t integrate with financial accounting or a payments acceptance tool that doesn’t sync with inventory management. The experience leaves beleaguered small business owners thinking, “there has got to be a better way.”
Research from Scribe Software found that although 75% of SMBs say integration is important, integration among business applications has been low. Using disparate applications drains productivity, wastes time and leads to errors and poor decision-making. But what is a small business owner to do?
Fortunately, technology vendors of all stripes are emphasizing the importance of a unified, reliable data store as the foundation for solid analytics and reporting. This includes offering pre-integrated solutions, creating marketplaces to make it easier to find integrated partner apps and opening up their application programming interfaces (APIs).
Intuit is one such vendor. The company recently launched Apps.com, an app store where small businesses can find apps that work with QuickBooks. It made its QuickBooks Online API free to encourage more third-party developers to create applications that integrate with QuickBooks.
Intuit also announced the first of many new partnerships designed to enhance the capabilities of the QuickBooks platform. The first was with mobile payments company Square to feed transaction data into QuickBooks. The second deal was with American Express Open where small businesses using the Open cards can have data from receipts integrated into QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online accounts.
In the coming year, we expect integration will be a higher priority even among small businesses. After all, it doesn’t take too many disconnected applications to feel the pain of productivity drains, errors, and a lack of solid data to support decision-making. Integration still isn’t sexy, but the improved productivity, time savings, error reduction and decision-making benefits that it enables are.
Laurie McCabe brings more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry to her role as co-founder and partner at SMB Group. Laurie has built widespread recognition for her capabilities and insights in the small and medium business (SMB) market in several areas, including cloud computing, mobile solutions, business solutions, social networking and collaboration, and managed services.
Follow Laurie on Twitter at @LaurieMcCabe and @SMBGroup.