Integration is a synonym for interface.
This is a common myth, but not all that surprising. We’ve already covered the challenges in defining integration, and too many organizations think just having a simple data transfer between two systems means they are integrated. The truth is that when you’re talking “integration” and “interface,” it’s the proverbial apples to oranges. There’s no comparison.
Integration requires a level of exchange and system intelligence that isn’t even a consideration in an interface. When interfacing a product, you map fields from one system to the next. You’re populating fields and it’s essentially a dumb, one-way process. Integration of two systems requires mapping supported by validation and a dynamic two-way exchange. And, in many instances, one or both systems must be able to interpret the exchanged data and respond based on what they have learned.
It’s important to mention here JDF (the Job Definition Format), which is commonly referred to as an integration of processes and applications within the graphic arts industry. It is actually a foundation language for interfacing two or more processes. And, while JDF is designed for two-way communication, the intelligence required to make JDF successful is dependent on the ability of the participating systems to leverage the information exchanged in the performance of their individual tasks. In other words, when it comes to JDF, the higher the level of intelligence and automation, the bigger the return.
Are You Ready for the Challenge?
Now that we’ve debunked the myths, it’s time to stick to the facts. Technology integration is all about optimizing your business to maximize its process and profit potential. Beyond the foundation products that make your business work, there is an important piece that is often missing: a solution that provides intelligent, automated workflow. This type of end-to-end integration can increase the productivity of both your staff and print devices and eliminate manual handling and prep work.
If you’re in the process of selecting software tools, make sure you consider whether the vendors offer true integration, automation, and software intelligence. The market leader is often the leader because it has the resources necessary to develop and support the high levels of integration necessary for long-term success.
Finally, as you move forward, remember there are two statements that can cripple your process improvement efforts: “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” and “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!” Any successful entrepreneur will tell you it’s your job—your responsibility—to constantly evaluate and challenge the status quo. When armed with the right tools, accurate information, and a small band of dedicated experts, the quest for business intelligence is more doable than it is daunting.
Marc Olin is an EFI senior vice president and the general manager of the company’s Advanced Professional Printing Software (APPS) business, “the operating system for print,” which includes MIS/ERP and Web-to-print business automation software. For more information visit www.myprintresource.com/10005156.