Even small and medium-sized companies conduct business on a global level, which requires high levels of communication and visibility between business units. When one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, an small business cannot grow. Therefore, most modern small businesses stand to benefit from minimal CRM, data tracking, communication, and calendar apps working in sync to keep everyone aligned and on task.
Though each program could operate on its own, it’s in their collaboration where true productivity lies. The effort to reconcile information across apps is significant and prone to human error—manual data entry is often required—and cobbled-together or disjointed systems create siloes. Only when solutions are unified, and tools are natively integrated with one another, can businesses benefit from cross-application services like automation, AI/ML, and comprehensive search, all of which serve to save businesses time and energy.
There’s more than one way to unite disparate programs across a business ecosystem, and not all of them are created equal. I believe that the concept of “unification” renders the strongest numbers in internal adoption rate, customer acquisitions, and ROI. Qualifying platforms, including Zoho One, offer dozens of apps from which customers can customize the software suite that works best for their business needs.
Read on to learn more about unification, its benefits, and how to unlock its potential:
The Problem With Integration
Enterprise software is meant to solve problems, not cause new ones, and companies generally try to get the most out of their technology by assembling a suite of applications ad-hoc, which adds unnecessary implementation challenges, particularly for small businesses that lack IT support.
This practice is actually quite common in tech, where it’s known as integration through APIs, or the ability for systems by different vendors to communicate with one another. Perhaps a calendar app allows users to join video calls on a separate platform, or invoice software captures payments using a secure transaction process developed by a competitor. Customers gravitate to integration because it often allows them to build a more responsive and communicative internal system without changing any vendors.
The main issue with integration is that there are no guarantees that programs will always work so nicely with one another. Often, a large vendor is more incentivized to encourage migration to its own platforms than to continually refresh the ability to include competitors in their ecosystem.
When these different pieces of software do manage to cohere, the experience can be pretty uneven. Issues range from woes as simple as different proprietary file types all the way up to lack of accountability when security breaches occur.
What Unification Looks Like
At first brush, unification resembles integration in what it enables: disparate apps joined in concert to support all business operations. However, in unification, the digital ecosystem is composed of apps that all originate from the same vendor, as they would be on Zoho One. The concept produces an all-in-one platform rather than one that has to put in a bit of effort to get everything in sync.
At its best, unification appears seamless. Imagine scanning an invoice using a mobile phone, sending the file to billing software that pings the client and processes the payment, automatically updating client notes within a CRM and collecting actionable data on each step of the process. While this workflow is possible under a variety of systems, a unified one ensures no information gets lost in translation nor one piece of the puzzle becomes obsolete.
Unified systems are more quickly adopted by employees than integrated ones. For one thing, the UI/UX across all unified apps is mostly the same—both because they are all made by the same vendor and, from a branding perspective, it’s in their best interest to maintain a consistent interface. Elements of a unified system often interact with each other from within the apps themselves, saving employees’ time from searching for what they need. For example, Zoho Workspace, a core component of Zoho One, operates as a custom dashboard and provides visibility into the workings of its peers.
Plus, unified systems boast security measures far higher than could be assembled between competitors—and software updates can be pushed to every app at once.
What Unification Enables
Besides the more general benefits of unification, such as peace of mind and employee empowerment, the composition of unified platforms immediately enables teams to reduce redundant work processes and increase communication organization-wide.
In particular, here are a few noticeable benefits:
Automatic Data Collection and Analysis: Integrated systems are composed of individual elements that are constantly fed data, but often that data remains in silos and is only usable by the one vendor. Unification corrects this undercommunication by offering full visibility across apps; data can then be collected and analyzed by any employee at the organization. In fact, some platforms, like Zoho One, utilize AI to sort process automatically, and present data as shareable visualizations.
Custom Bundling: Customers aren’t required to sign up for every single app within a unified system—growing businesses can’t anticipate their every future initiative. Often, vendors will construct custom pricing models that include the functionality a business needs and the flexibility to add or subtract as needed over time. This process feels relatively painless compared to the hassle of tracking down an entirely new vendor to enhance an integrated system.
Swift Error Correction: Users can expect fewer errors to persist with unification, as well. When vendors have visibility into every facet of their customers’ CX/UX experiences, they can quickly troubleshoot issues and deploy bug fixes across the entire ecosystem. In some cases, companies who practice unification can anticipate problems before they arise—they know every idiosyncrasy of their apps.
A Unified Future of Work
Tech vendors have been practicing diversification for some time now, which means they are adding to their product line and expanding current offerings to proof their business against a recession or seismic shift in the industry. Soon, these companies will be able to let their customer relationships evolve naturally while guaranteeing full, frictionless functionality throughout. Competitors won’t be jumping to increase their products’ level of integration if they are building their own apps, so the time to ditch an integrated system for a unified one is now.
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