Automation and Integration
There are many technology 'tools', 'systems' and 'platforms' within the events industry, used are various times during the events lifecycle - according to Corbin Ball, over 400. However, the sheer breadth of activities that make up the lifecycle makes it near on impossible to have a single system that can automate the end to end events lifecycle. Plus there is the inherent risk of 'putting all your eggs in one basket', even if there was such a system.
Fortunately, most modern systems are built on 'open standards' that allow them to talk to other systems via an 'API' - this is a technical term that allows different systems to exchange data between them. This means that rather than having to re-enter data from one system into another, data can pass 'seamlessly' through the API between the two systems. This integration between systems brings automation to the events lifecycle leading to several benefits.
Integration example - SSO
Single Sign-On (SSO) - this is one of the most common forms of integration that many users may not be familiar with. By signing into their office networks, they are also automatically signed into several different business applications (i.e., Event Management, CRM, HR, Back Office, etc.) via an SSO integration. A distinct advantage of this is to reduce the number of passwords users need to remember to log in to different systems. A less distinct advantage is revoking access to all applications can be done very quickly when the user leaves.
SSO is an example is an excellent example of 'centralisation' - the concept that it is easier to manage activities and actions if they are centralized, rather than dispersed amongst different offices, teams, groups, etc.
Integration example - CRM and EM
Integrated CRM with event management system. Although most event management systems allow you to manage event attendees within the system, they also allow you to manage attendee information through an existing or external CRM system which may already have the attendee's information. This avoids having to have the information in 2 places, reducing duplication of data.
Along with attendee data, the integration may also allow tasks to be managed from within either system or campaigns managed from both systems, etc.
Integration example - EM and mid office system
Event management and mid-office system. One the most significant gaps in event management systems is a way of tracking all revenues (e.g., ticket sales and client payments) and expenses (e.g. event operating costs and supplier payments), to judge the overall financial health of the event. Integration with a mid-office system can provide a graphical view of the profitability of the event, with associated P&L account and cash flow analysis.
There are many different strategies to achieve the benefits of integration, each depending on the starting position of the organisation and its long term business objectives. Some strategies include:
- Export/import - a manual way of exchange data between systems. One data protection consideration is that each time you export data, you have a copy of the data, often with personal information. You must be aware of what you do with this data after its original use.
- Batch update - data is exchanged between systems periodically, using a 'batch process.'
- Real-time integration - this can be one way but is often a two-way exchange of data between the systems. However, not all systems will allow another one to modify its data.
- Data lake - where multiple systems integrate with each other, it becomes difficult to trace the flow of data, particularly personal data. In this case, a 'data lake' may be the optimum solution, where data from all sources is stored in a central repository, from where it is processed.
Benefits of integration
The benefits of automation through integration are manyfold. Some benefits include:
- Achieve compliance with regulations by reducing the need to download data and upload it into another system. For example, the GDPR has some strict requirements on the secure exchange of data from one party to another - if this can be achieved via data integration, it reduces the risk of breaching data protection rules.
- Reduced double entry - considerable time can be saved by reducing the need to export / import data between different systems or to have to double enter the data. Plus accuracy is also improved.
- Standardisation and Centralisation - integration means data between two systems must be exchanged using standard fields, mapped to each other. This also enforces the standardisation of data, which will have benefits where different groups of users use the same data in different ways. And centralisation of data drives reduced costs of multiple processing methods.
Smartec can work with the clients' existing development and technology partners, or introduce new development teams to carry out integrations between systems to drive efficiency.