When searching for a software solution, you have probably come across the words “integration” and “interface”. You might be asking yourself, “What do they mean? Are they interchangeable?”
Both terms describe how a software solution will share data with other software. There are big differences between the two and that distinction introduces different risks and benefits for an implementation project.
On one hand, picking “best-of-breed” software for different departments can yield depth of functionality, but on the other hand integrated systems such as ERPs can share information in real time. Which solution is best for your business depends on the complexity of requirements driving the software purchase, the range of systems that need updating, and the tools provided to share data between systems.
A software interface is a bridge that allows two programs to share information with each other, even though they may have been developed by different sources or use different programming languages. An interface will often use a standard file format such as XML to move information from one system to another. Some interfaces are separate programs that can be configured and deployed with a range of systems, like Microsoft’s BizTalk, whereas some are built into a product itself.
For example, the StaffRight Omni scheduling solution has two built-in modules to interface with other HR software solutions, so it can be used with your existing HRIS and payroll software.
StaffRefresh is the bridge that connects your HR system to StaffRight Omni so that employee demographic, job and contact information can be passed between the two systems. StaffPay is the bridge between StaffRight Omni and your payroll solution, which prepares time records for export to payroll.
Software integration means that the products work as one solution. Instead of passing information between the two systems over a bridge, the systems share the same code and database. They’re like a puzzle where each piece interlocks tightly with the others and together, all the pieces become one. If you have a wide range of systems that need to be updated, or complex real-time reporting requirements, then an integrated system like an ERP may be the best choice.
Advanced Payroll AX is integrated into the Microsoft Dynamics AX platform, which means that it is not usually deployed without Dynamics. It uses information from human resources and financials in AX, because it’s an integrated system instead of using a bridge to gather that information.
What are the pros and cons of both?
Speed of data transfer
A downside of using an interface is that it doesn’t allow you to sync data between the systems in real-time. For some companies, this may not be an issue as they only need time record data to sync with payroll twice a month, right before payroll is due for example. For others, this may be an issue. In some solutions, you can choose how often information is synchronized between systems (once a week, twice a month, once a month, etc.).
If not syncing data automatically in real-time is an issue for your company, you can set the sync to happen close to real-time, such as every 5 minutes. However, you need to make sure that your system network is strong enough to handle running a data sync every 5 minutes. With StaffRefresh, you can also manually run a data sync if you need something to sync right away.
With integrated software, there is no synchronization process since the solutions all share the same database. This feature is one of the biggest benefits of having an integrated software solution.
Ease of data transfer
Interfaced systems don’t share the same database, so an interface often requires maintaining “mappings” between systems. This is the process of matching codes from one system with codes from the other system, like job codes in HR with job codes in your scheduling solution. “Mappings” act as the directory for where information from one system goes into the other. For example in the interface table, you would write which time code in StaffRight Omni maps onto a specific pay code in your payroll system so that people are paid correctly.
With an interface, if any changes are made in either system, the mappings table may have to be updated as well. Otherwise, the software might be pulling information from the wrong places. Using the same example, if you added a new pay code in your payroll system, you need to make sure that you also change the mappings in your interface if you want this code to be used by other systems.
Since integrated solutions share the same database, there is no process of mapping codes between systems, which can reduce errors. All of the changes apply automatically in each part of the system. For example, with Advanced Payroll AX, if you make a changed in the AX General Ledger, that change is automatically accessible by Advanced Payroll AX – there is no need to make a change in both systems.
Working with other systems
One key benefit of using an interface is the flexibility that it gives you to pick “best-of-breed” solutions. Sometimes, these specialized solutions fit your business process or requirements better than a single-vendor solution. It also means one part of the system can be changed without prompting change in other departments.
StaffRight Omni has the ability to extract and share data with numerous different HRIS and payroll software solutions such as bringing in time bank balances from an HRIS System, because of its StaffRefresh and StaffPay interfaces. Replacing your scheduling system doesn’t mean you have to replace your existing software for HRIS or payroll too when using interfaces.
Which one is best for me?
When choosing between an integration vs interface, the option that is best for your business depends on your existing software environment, the range and depth of the requirements driving the purchase, and what kind of tools are available to share information.
If you are moving to or have a singular solution like an ERP, and you want information to be centralized in one solution, then an integrated solution may be best for your company. If you have highly specialized requirements specific to your industry, then “best-of-breed” software with strong interface capabilities may be a better choice.
An interfaced solution is a good choice for organizations that want to keep their existing software while using different pieces for different tasks such as payroll and HRIS.
Looking for an integrated payroll solution for Microsoft Dynamics AX or an interfaced scheduling solution? Contact us to learn more about Advanced Payroll AX, StaffRight Omni or any of our other products here. We look forward to hearing from you!
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