By Nicole Laurier on Mar 26, 2020 2:15:00 PM
Continuing our #FisherDifference educational series, this week we are going to explore Middleware. We will review the following topics: What is Middleware? Why does your company need middleware? What is the difference between middleware and connectors? and How middleware can take you from operating on one channel to omnichannel and make the customer experience seamless!
What is Middleware?
Middleware is a software application that provides capabilities to applications outside of what is offered by the core system. A core system is typically an ERP or a CRM but could be any database application. The reason it’s called middleware is that when the software interacts with two applications, its role is to be in the middle and seamlessly connect both systems!
Why does your company need middleware?
There are many reasons that companies look for middleware. Many systems don’t have all the functionality that a business needs to be able to automate notifications, create complex workflows or to integrate two systems. Automating and improving business process enable businesses to be more efficient and agile.
Let’s break down some of the benefits for these types of middleware applications and the functionality they offer -
Automated notifications - The alerts deliver essential information to the right people at the right time. For example; these notifications let you know when stock is running low, when an invoice is due for payment, when back orders are in stock.
Automated reports - Having middleware automate the creation and distribution of reports or other business documents can save huge amounts of time. Examples include; sales reports, credit control, welcome packs.
Integration and Workflow - Making applications work together leveraging automation and predefined business rules (workflow) saves an enormous amount of time and improves efficiency. Rekeying data is time consuming, costly, and subject to human error! Reducing errors with automation will free up your team members time enabling them to focus on more important aspects of their job.
What is the difference between middleware and connectors?
When looking at software that is described as a connector, you discover that the connector is utilized to synchronize data between two systems. Often the synchronization is bi-directional. With a connector these synchronizations are very prescriptive, in what functionality you can connect to, and what information is passed between the systems. Connectors can work extremely well for very simple integration. What connectors are not good at is adding additional business logic and workflows to enhance an integration.
Connectors are not a good solution or resilient for a business that has complex systems and workflow rules. For companies with more complex needs, they should be looking to invest in middleware.
How Middleware can take you from selling on One channel to Omnichannel seamlessly.
Over the past few years businesses have had to adapt how they work. Changes in technology have upended normal business practices. Businesses that have been around for decades are having to rethink and embrace new technologies in order to survive and grow, as their younger competitors are starting with these technologies in place. As well these technological changes, many more millennials have joined the workforce, and this generation have brought their online buying habits into the workplace.
With the current Covid19 pandemic, in a matter of days, once again, the business world has been turned on its head. Traditional retail outlets, restaurants, clothing stores, bars, breweries are having to quickly become omnichannel and adapt the way they do business in order to somehow stay open and survive this crisis.
These types of businesses need to ensure that their core software systems such as; Accounting, ERP, CRM, Third Party logistics, Warehousing or eCommerce, will easily work with the new channels they are introducing, so they can maintain efficiency, and give their customers a seamless shopping experience. It is important for a business to ensure that if a customer typically visits a retail store, that they will get the same experience with their online purchases, a good example is access to loyalty points wherever they shop.
For very small businesses that are seeing a handful of orders a day through the new channels, as they startup, they can manually keep their systems in sync but there will be a point where these manual processes can no longer be sustained. Then they will need to investigate middleware.
For larger businesses with more complex systems, they will quickly be overwhelmed with the challenges of managing all the additional work from these new channels. When they are at that point, they will also need to look at middleware to seamlessly integrate their systems.
Whatever stage your business is in, it is good to understand the benefits of middleware,
The question is: What do you want to automate?