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Automation & Integration: similar, different and both needed

Let's explore different and similar aspects of automation and integration to better understand where these approaches should be implemented

In our modern workplace, the terms automation and integration are now used very frequently and sometimes even interchangeably. We believe that automation and integration are the way to solve many of our operational problems and to help us achieve our desired productivity, as well as profitability much faster.

Even though we have no doubt that both of these approaches are necessary in the digital era, it is important to understand precisely what are the differences and similarities between them to be able to deploy each one in the correct framework and get the most benefits. So let’s explore!

These are the differences between automation and integration:

Goals The focus lies on reducing manual intervention; standard repetitive processes and tasks are carried out without human input with greater speed and efficiency Integration focuses on connecting different systems and applications together to create a seamless workflow. It involves the exchange of data between different systems, allowing them to work together and share information
Framework It is typically limited to specific parts of processes or tasks that can be automated. Here, we are talking about more specific iterations of a workflow, for example automatic call arrangement or sending of emails while working with clients. Whole processes could be automated too, but they should be uncomplex and standardized. Normally, it is broader in scope than automation, as it involves connecting different systems and applications together. In this case, we refer to the different processes in a more holistic way, which are interwoven with each other.
Complexity Automation can be simple or complex, depending on the task or process being automated. When automating a separate task, it’s rather a quick and straightforward way of reducing manual work, while complex automation may involve multiple tasks and even bigger parts of processes which is a greater challenge. Integration of two systems with similar data structures is relatively uncomplicated, but usually integration becomes really challenging as it requires bringing together different software applications from different departments with various data types.
User Involvement Once it has been set up, automation requires minimal user involvement or practically none as it is designed exactly to reduce the need for manual intervention. For handling exceptions or decision-making, the work of a team or a manager is however a 100% necessity. Although integration also seeks to reduce staff involvement, we can say that integration provides more opportunities for different teams to collaborate if needed. As integration of different data or applications implies that it is easier for employees to use them that also means that teams will be involved later in the process.

As we can see, automation and integration have somewhat distinct objectives, and therefore different engagement levels for employees. Developing an understanding of which processes are best suited to automation and which ones are most likely to be integrated always starts with a thorough analysis.

Despite their contrasts, the two techniques do have some obvious similarities, both in their implementation and in their end results. Here are the most important of these:

  • Efficiency: Both automation and integration aim to improve the efficiency of processes by reducing manual and repetitive tasks. In both cases, elimination of by-hand data entry, minimizing errors, and improvement of companies’ agility frees up employees to focus on more strategic activities.
  • Streamlining: The purpose of both approaches is to streamline processes by connecting different systems and workflows together, resulting in a more efficient management. By boosting the speed and accuracy of interpersonal and inter-technological transactions, businesses can more quickly adapt to changing demands of the market and take advantage of growth opportunities.
  • Scalability: Automation and integration enable businesses to scale their operations by automating specific tasks and integrating software applications as they grow. Both of these techniques allow us to handle larger volumes of work faster without attracting additional employee resources.
  • Cost reduction: By reducing manual tasks and optimizing workflows, automation and integration can help lower down costs associated with labor, errors, and delays as some part of the workload is now outsourced to technologies. That leads to a greater team and business productivity with less operational costs involved.

By carefully evaluating the requirements of a business and considering the benefits and challenges of both automation and integration, businesses can make informed decisions and implement the approach that best suits their specific situation. Whether it's automating repetitive tasks to improve efficiency or integrating systems to ensure seamless data flow, the key is to align the approach with the goals and context of the business to achieve the best possible outcomes.

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