How to Virtualize Your Back-End-Operations
I am willing to bet you wish you had one piece of software that does everything you need for your business all in one place and dashboard. Odds are, you have already embarked on a mission to find this unicorn piece of software. It is safe to say, it does not exist.
So what should you do?
The truth is that while this unicorn doesn’t exist wholecloth (yet), you can definitely create a highly personalized and virtual version for your company. Let’s talk about how to do that!
What exists in today’s software marketplace? For starters, way too many applications and “solutions.” However, there are some diamonds in the rough, and with a little due diligence, you can find the right puzzle pieces to build your dream system(s). In the market today, there are many specialty apps and multitaskers. Be wary of software that attempts to do too much. It takes a long time to build a quality software to do just one thing. If it were so easy to do everything, then everyone would be doing it and you would have found your unicorn software by now.
By selecting a software that focuses on a few relatable things, you can be more confident in that part of your system working the way it is intended. Of course, using highly specialized systems does leave you with one problem:
How do all my specialized systems connect together?
That is a great question, and one that cannot be answered the same way for every software. The classic way multiple systems connect is through manual labor. For instance, many businesses utilizing both sales and accounting software have a bookkeeper that is creating journal entries to keep up with the revenues and expenses to keep the business on track – at an unfortunately high-level. (Here is a great post on Transactional vs. Journal based accounting.)
However, in the past decade or so, most newer systems are designed with other related systems in mind, leading to what is called “native-built integrations”
Without getting overly technical, integrations in the software world are simply communicative connections between two independent pieces of software. A native-built integration, in particular, is an integration that comes pre-built by the two companies offering you solutions and allows you to use the systems seamlessly with minimal effort on your part.
Generally speaking, most software that has an established integration with another software advertises it in some way (usually in a section of their site that says “integrations” or “partners”). So, when shopping for new software you are going to include in your “tech-stack,” it would be smart to ensure it either has an integration with a software you want it to communicate with, or can.
What if there is no native integration?
There are a couple things you can do here:
- Get in touch with the two software companies you would like to be integrated and see if this is something they are working on or willing to build out. I list this first because if this is already being worked on natively then it will be the most cost effective and time-saving.
- Consider finding a piece of “middleware” that can sit between your two pieces of technology and help them communicate in the way you need. If there is no native integration, this is probably the way to go.
Middleware is a software or platform that sits in the middle of two or more pieces of independent software that allows data to be translated and transcribed from one software to another. Middleware can be highly specific and designed to match to your businesses exact requirements. To the point of this article, middleware is the glue that allows you to virtualize the back-office.
Middleware can be purchased with a wide spectrum of pricing, and it is widely recommended you invest in the work of a high-end, highly specialized developer – this is your business we are talking about after all. A great example of highly specific and customizable middleware is Harmony.
The value in buying from highly specialized developers
There are companies that build out endless integrations in an effort to cast a wide net, and there are companies that focus on one or two integrations to guarantee the best experience possible with their software.
It can be a good and bad thing for a software to offer many integrations. At the end of the day, those integrations will be fully managed by the original developers who wrote them. This makes it all the more important to buy from highly specialized developers. They are the ones who know the code inside and out and they are the ones who will manage the integration on the backend.
As an example, we here at ShopPad developed Harmony as middleware exclusively for Shopify & Shopify Plus. By focusing on the one eCommerce shopping-cart platform, we can guarantee a seamless experience because we deeply understand the technicalities of Shopify. This also means Harmony is managed by a highly specialized set of developers, if we do say so ourselves. (For the record, if you’d like to find out more about how Harmony can work for your business, click here.)
So can you live in one piece of software?
Well, the truth is probably not. Overall, today’s integrated software landscape does not really have a good all-encompassing software that can do everything from one place. If you ask me, that all-in-one software is the holy grail of solutions and it remains to be seen when this will be capable.
But a multi-app system doesn’t mean we can’t create an ideal system. At the moment, building your ultimate system is completely possible – you know, like putting together the perfect lego pieces. With some of today’s integrations, you can manage your tech stack from fewer places and automate a ton of manual work, allowing you to live in fewer systems from day to day.
Post written by: Dustin D. Thede
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