Interoperability and Integration in Accounting Software

Interoperability and integration for those with on-premise accounting software has been a hot topic for a good few years. The emergence of the cloud accounting, in theory, provides greater opportunities for systems to interoperate.

What is interoperability?
Originally, it was loosely defined as the ability to get software on different hardware in order for different vendors to share data. It is really about getting diverse systems and organisations to communicate. My view is that it’s more than communication; it’s about working together.
Why is interoperability good for accounting & finance systems?
There are many reasons why getting systems to work together is important for the business. For one, it can reduce operational cost and complexity. For example, instead of taking data out of system A and system B and shoving it in system C for reformatting, why not get A and B to work together? If this can be achieved, then we will no longer need to compromise on functionality or usability in order to share information across systems. There’s an increasing demand for easy and straightforward access to information, particularly finance information. If a Finance Director or MD wants to gain instant financial reports, they can do so if all their systems synchronise with each other.

So how do you make different systems work together?
It shouldn’t be complex; it’s about providing open, secure access to the systems that are based around your standards and frameworks. Organisations that offer SaaS or cloud-based software should make efforts to incorporate any sort of data synchronisation services into their products.

The public sector loves this sort of stuff. Did you know that the NHS has its own “Interoperability Toolkit”? It’s not software you can download or a new system that is going to set the taxpayer back millions of pounds. It’s just about connecting what they have in a better way. So each vendor receives a set of rules that everyone adheres to. These are normally based around request/responses being delivered through standardised messages, queries and events.

Where does cloud & online accounting software fit in?
The ‘cloud’ represents a real opportunity to achieve true interoperability with your various systems. Why? Well, because all the systems are there, together, in the ‘cloud’. So with that in mind, you should be asking questions both internally (what are your procedures and requirements?) and externally to your cloud accounting software provider. The ‘cloud’ is about services, not just software. In order to survive, cloud accounting providers need to be concerned not just with their own stuff but also being able to work with competitors. So have a chat with your cloud accounting and software provider before you sign up. Discuss what you want to achieve with integration. If they want to survive in the cloud market place you’ll be surprised at how amicable they can be with regard to the interoperability question!

Remember the cloud is no longer a place to just host websites, it’s a place to do business – and in order to do business, we need to talk.