At a glance
By Rosalyn Page
Whether it’s migrating to a cloud-based platform from a legacy system or integrating different programs across the organisation, software integrations can connect and unify different types of business tools.
Software integration links one piece of software to another using an API, an app or a custom solution.
Accounting businesses have an array of available software options they could apply to almost every element of their operations. Although connecting the different applications can appear challenging, there are ways to simplify the process, and many integrations are designed to be easy to install.
The cost of poor software integration
Each year, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Australia and New Zealand invest about A$2.6 billion in digital tools, according to MYOB’s 2022 report, The Digital Disconnection Challenge.
To reap the full benefits of digitisation, these digital tools should be fully integrated with each other.
Yet, the report has found that three in five SMEs are experiencing “bad digitisation”, with two in three wanting better-connected digital tools.
The “digital disconnection” phenomenon causes significant loss of productivity. When vital systems are not linked, valuable time can be wasted on manually checking data, transferring information between systems and fixing data-entry errors.
To address these challenges, SMEs can harness digital tools in the form of integration services, pre-built integrations and even custom solutions. The choice will depend on many factors, such as business complexity, technical expertise and budget. Here are a few options:
An application programming interface (API) is a set of protocols or rules that define how applications can communicate with each other. APIs allow programs to “talk" to each other, and many software programs come with built-in APIs that enable them to integrate with other programs.
For example, Adobe Acrobat Sign integrates with Xero to enable electronic signatures on letters of engagement and tax returns.
A software provider’s technical support team can help identify ways to integrate it with other tools using built-in APIs.
External integration platforms
For applications that do not have in-built APIs, external tools such as integration-platforms-as-a-service (iPaaS) can help connect different tools and systems together without the need for in-house technical expertise.
There are many providers to choose from, including well-established brands such as Oracle and SAP, and newcomers Integrately and SyncApps. Each offers different styles and degrees of integration services to suit different business sizes and needs.
Where the business has specific needs or wants a custom integration, it may be most appropriate to hire a developer to build a custom integration between certain tools and systems to help them work seamlessly. This bespoke option is often the costliest.
Integrations for accounting SMEs
Accounting businesses could use software integrations to consolidate data, streamline processes for both customers and employees, and improve service delivery, among other things.
Below are some examples of useful accounting integrations:
Accounting + payment processing + payroll
Accounting and payroll platforms such as QuickBooks, Xero or FreshBooks can be integrated with payment processing tools such as Square, Stripe or Airwallex to collate transactions, sync with sales data to eliminate manual entry and reconciliation, and speed up monthly bookkeeping and end-of-financial-year tasks.
Payroll tasks, such as paying employees and submitting information to the taxation office, can also be automated.
CRM + marketing automation
Integrating customer relationship management (CRM) tools with marketing automation tools such as HubSpot, Mailchimp, ZenDesk, Sendinblue or Marketo could help manage the customer database, track leads and personalise communications.
This could also help to combine data, improve lead pipeline management and ensure consistent messaging.
Incorporating tools such as DocuSign could also help accountants easily obtain e-signatures.
Project management + collaboration
Project management tools such as Asana, Monday and Basecamp can be integrated with collaboration tools such as Slack and Trello to take the stress out of assigning tasks, tracking progress and communicating in real-time.
When done right, this kind of integration should have the combined effect of improved workflows, greater transparency and fewer emails.
Privacy and security considerations
As with all tech, there are security concerns to consider. Softlist.io CEO Fawaz Naser says businesses need to implement appropriate security measures to minimise risks associated with integrating different digital business tools and systems.
From the cybersecurity perspective, issues to consider include:
Authentication: Integration tools need to be authenticated to prevent unauthorised access to systems and data and prevent injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS) and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
Encryption: When communicating with each other, different integration tools should use encryption (encoding plain text into cyphertext) to prevent data breaches and protect data from being stolen, changed, or compromised.
Access control systems: Integration tools should have access control measures in place, so that only authorised users can access various systems and data.
Data privacy: Data privacy policies should be put in place to protect customers’ personal and sensitive information. They should be compliant with relevant data protection and privacy regulations.
Security: Vulnerability tests should be conducted regularly, with patches implemented as necessary.