Enterprise Software Integration: How To Build a Unified IT Environment
Why is software integration a must today? Here are some key improvements you can experience with software integration and five use cases for various industries.
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Siloed enterprise systems have always been a significant obstacle to smooth operation. In practice, software from various suppliers, developed using different technologies, couldn’t ensure this. Instead of operating seamlessly, companies locked access to valuable and relevant data, lost orders, partially completed agreements, and lost revenue opportunities. In 2020, the impact of these issues became far more apparent due to COVID-19 and accelerated Cloud migration.
According to the Cleo report, “A New Perspective. The Timely Arrival of Ecosystem Integration”, 66% of respondents said their companies lost up to $500,000 due to poor integrations. Eight percent lost between $500,000 and $1,000,000, and 10% estimated they lost more than $1,000,000.
Enterprise software integration offers a lifeboat for businesses. It consolidates independently developed applications to ensure their joint operation. The main essence of this approach is two-way real-time data exchange between stand-alone applications, both on-premises and cloud-based. Interconnected processes and data exchange help companies coordinate various functions across the entire IT infrastructures and applications, often using a single user interface or service.
Why Is Software Integration a Must?
Software integration is the key to addressing business issues, offering companies competitive advantages, and driving organizational changes. Some key improvements you can experience with software integration include:
- Performance: According to the Slack and GlobalWebIndex study, “The State of Work”, 64% of employees spend at least 30 minutes every day switching between systems. You can improve employees’ performance by minimizing the time spent transitioning...
- Efficiency: Enterprise software integration ensures simpler communication between departments, advanced functionality, and complete organizational control. Moreover, you can respond faster to market changes, minimizing the impact of unexpected disruptions.
- Process Automation: Software integration can help you streamline processes that include data or operations in multiple applications. For example, data from manufacturing can be integrated with a warehouse management platform to optimize distribution and ensure timely delivery.
- Informed Decisions: Software integration enables continuous data exchange between siloed systems and ensures its consolidation in one place with a single access point for all users. Due to this approach, you can make informed decisions based on relevant data.
- Reduced Costs: Siloed systems create a complex IT infrastructure that significantly increases maintenance costs. Reduce these costs by using a reliable integration platform and avoid replacing siloed systems.
Types of Software Integrations
As a rule, experts identify two key integration types — application integration and data integration.
Application integration involves connecting two or more siloed applications or systems at the functionality level, allowing companies to create a single IT infrastructure. Integrated applications can exchange and process data in real time, automating business processes and improving overall efficiency. This approach helps businesses create real-time connected dynamic services and applications.
There are four application integration types:
- API-based integration is commonly used in microservices architecture and utilizes application programming interfaces (APIs) to connect different applications and systems. APIs deliver a standardized way to communicate and share data between various applications.
- The middleware-based architecture uses middleware software as a communication layer between different applications and systems. Middleware delivers data transformation, message routing, and protocol conversion services to ensure interaction between applications.
- Service-oriented architecture (SOA) splits applications into separate services that can be reused across different applications and systems. These services are typically accessed through a service bus or enterprise service bus (ESB), which acts as a communication layer. One of the essential SOA concepts is Event-Driven Architecture (EDA). Business events, including order delivery, requests for a quote, or hiring employees, cause various responses across an organization. At a more detailed level, every process stage has events that might interest external parties. EDA helps companies transfer such events to a central event-handling backbone, making them available to all parties involved.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) communication architecture involves direct interaction between applications and systems without a central communication layer or middleware. P2P communication can be useful when there is no central authority or where real-time communication is required.
Due to this approach, integration processes triggered by events in one application flow smoothly into the next. These real-time interactions help enterprises maintain agility and respond to new data feeds or performance issues as they arise.
You boost your organization’s efficiency, as the employees don’t spend hours importing and exporting data or switching from one platform to another. Enterprise application integration also improves security because it is easier to manage and maintain an integrated system than the siloed one.
Data integration involves combining data from different sources into a single view or system. As a rule, this integration approach becomes possible when data is already stored in corporate databases or other structures. Please note: This isn’t a real-time process.
Data integration helps create a unified data set that you can optimize and manage according to your business needs. Businesses often consolidate multiple data sources into a larger data warehouse or data lake. This process can involve real-time data exchange or incremental syncing.
Without data integration, business users can only manage multiple data manually. This increases overhead costs and risks loss of critical data.
There are five types of data integration:
Data migration is associated with ETL (extract, transform, load) mechanisms. Data migration processes can be performed only once or repeated according to the schedule. Ensuring data integrity and completeness can be the final step of all migration processes.
Note: You can skip the data migration stage if structural data changes are not required.
Broadcasting is the continuous real-time/near real-time data transmission from a single source to multiple systems. This approach delivers simultaneous real-time replicating of a single data source across various destinations.
Bi-directional synchronization involves merging two data sets from distinct systems while keeping them independent. This approach is dissimilar to data migration or broadcasting, as the data is transferred in multiple directions.
Correlation is used when two systems need to share records that are stored in both data sets.
Aggregation refers to collecting data from multiple systems and consolidating it into a single system.
Software Integrations Use Cases
Let’s consider how software integration can be implemented and how various industries can benefit.
Integrating production line monitoring devices with other systems (ex., inventory, maintenance planning, and alerting) can help companies improve project planning and minimize response time to production issues. Moreover, it helps reduce maintenance costs as errors can be identified at the earliest stages. Data from many sources can be stored in a unified data warehouse to ensure data quality.
New sales channel integration (ex., social media apps, social networks, etc.) can significantly increase product sales since it opens new horizons for solutions already used. Due to the integration with other tools and services, CRM platforms can automate multiple sales, marketing, customer support, and product development functions, thereby enhancing productivity and efficiency.
Banks can integrate their mobile apps with customer accounts, loan application services, and other back-end systems, thus attracting prospects. Machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence applied to the aggregated data can help banking companies prepare specific forecasts and detect anomalies and trends in large data sets.
If hospitals integrate a patient's record with an electronic health record system, all the caregivers treating the patient can easily access all necessary data needed to provide the most effective treatment, including medical history, primary care physician records, insurance, etc.
Integrating learning management systems with other learning technologies, HR systems, talent management systems, and other business applications can help HR specialists automate administrative tasks, manage user data, and provide a seamless learning experience for employees.
What To Consider When Integrating Corporate Software
To ensure the smooth integration of all corporate applications, you should pay attention to the following points:
#1 Align All Departments’ Objectives
Company departments have the same high-level objectives. However, they also have internal ones they must achieve for overall success. Aligning these goals when integrating corporate software can help you break down the silos often found in companies.
#2 Define What Data Types You Need
This data can cover various information, including metrics and product titles. Defining required data types helps you understand precisely what software you should integrate.
#3 Make Sure the Future IT Environment Is Secure
Before the launch of an integration project, you must ensure that there are no integration-related security vulnerabilities.
Nowadays, volatility is a distinctive feature of the global market, and companies must take all necessary measures to ensure their continued excellent performance. Software integration is one of the main tools businesses use to achieve this goal. Enterprise software integration can help companies stay competitive and make rapid decisions, even in unforeseen situations.
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