If you've been looking for a way to simplify day-to-day tasks and workflows, you may have run across the phenomenon of software interoperability.
It's a big-sounding phrase with some fairly simple implications for businesses—ones that can have a tremendous impact on productivity and profits.
So what, exactly, is software interoperability?
Let's take a quick look at what it means and why your company needs it.
What is software interoperability?
The term “software interoperability” refers to the capability of different solutions to communicate with one another freely and easily. Systems that are interoperable exchange information in real-time, without the need for specialized IT support or behind-the-scenes coding.
It might be as simple as a customer relationship management (CRM) system that provides deep integrations with automation software to create a flow of information between sales and marketing. Or your team might set up an entire tech stack with interconnected apps that transfer data to streamline workflows.
Either way, the goal of software interoperability is the same: to eliminate data silos. Which, given the sheer volume of applications and platforms being used today, is becoming increasingly important.
Are data silos bringing your team down? It's a common issue across departments.
Many organizations use dozens of different apps, with more than 8,000 software options in the marketing technology sector alone. There are landing-page builders to create campaigns, online forms to capture leads, document generators to create contracts, tools to capture electronic signatures… and the list goes on.
The more these systems can “talk” to one another through interoperability, the more effective the business will be. By creating seamless integrations, you can:
- Speed up the flow of information from one department to another
- Capture critical data faster, from more sources
- Adapt and respond quickly to changing trends and needs
Pro Tip: Minimizing the apps in your tech stack and choosing tools that are more interoperable can help improve your organization's digital agility.
Why is software interoperability so important?
To understand the significance of interoperability, it helps to look at what can happen when systems don’t communicate well with one another.
First, there’s the issue of wasted spend. One recent report found overspending on “orphaned” SaaS apps that are no longer in use has increased 100% in recent years. In some instances, software that serves only one function and hasn’t been integrated with other apps could sit idle for years before anyone notices.
At the same time, the number of different systems and solutions that are being used on a daily basis frequently causes overwhelm. One survey found that six in 10 workers waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between apps, and that 68% toggle between apps as many as 10 times an hour. Other research puts those numbers even higher: In one review of 5 million hours’ worth of live desktop activity, operational support employees were found to switch between 35 job-critical apps more than 1,100 times a day.
Not surprisingly, nearly half of employees surveyed by The Workforce Institute say they wish their workplace technology performed more like their personal technology. More than a third feel their job is harder than it should be because of outdated processes and legacy technology.
It’s not just that tools are difficult to use. Incompatible software can often make it difficult to collaborate, too. Less than half of sales and marketing teams are effective at using customer data to activate initiatives at scale, often because they’re relying on two different sources of data.
To overcome these challenges, many organizations are exploring new ways to consolidate day-to-day software use—either by connecting disparate programs or by streamlining different needs within a central platform.
For example, a training team might replace time-consuming emails and document editing with online forms and automated communications. Or an HR department may pull the various aspects of new employee onboarding into one workflow that seamlessly guides stakeholders through each part of the process.
However you choose to do it, it's important to remember that interoperability doesn’t have to involve coding skills or require a lot of time to be effective. Even one small change can save hours of hassles and headaches.
Related: The Danger of Data Silos, Part 1: Where Do They Come From?
How can you increase software interoperability today?
If you know you need to unify apps but aren’t sure where to start, single-source platforms might be your best bet.
Of course, it is possible to use different apps for different functions and rely on integrations to keep everything interconnected. In many instances, however, it's much faster and easier to fulfill multiple needs within one single solution. Rather than switching back and forth between different software subscriptions, you can combine a variety of critical tasks within one central platform.
In e-commerce, for example, many brands will use an all-in-one platform to manage marketplace listings, create ad campaigns, and track orders side by side—rather than piecing together different software for selling, marketing, and fulfilling. For healthcare interoperability, the goal might be to find a single platform that makes it easy to capture information, secure sensitive data, and communicate with patients.
No matter what path you choose to take, the key is to find the solution that works best for your teams. If employees are happy with the tools they already use, you may just need to make sure they’re all integrated as much as possible. But if you’re starting from scratch or are looking to revamp current processes, it may be time to explore a more comprehensive approach. Either way, make sure any new tools you adopt in the future can be synced easily and quickly with your current processes.
Looking for a robust platform to help with software interoperability? Formstack makes it easy! Our comprehensive platform brings all of your most important workplace productivity tools together in one seamless solution. You can build forms and surveys, capture data, generate customized documents, collect eSignatures, and more.