Having multiple software solutions is great, as they each offer a unique set of skills and functions to the company. However, just like a team, these solutions can only reach their top performance if they work together. Therefore, organizations should consider how application integration can enhance their operational efficiency, business intelligence, and overall productivity.
What is Application Integration?
Application integration is the process of connecting individual applications so they can share functions and data in real-time. Businesses that use multiple applications can create data silos if they don't integrate their systems.
With application integration, companies can save employees the time and energy it takes to navigate through several systems. Manual navigation and data transfers inflate the risk of human error and inconsistencies. Instead, workers can use a universal interface that consolidates the information from all software throughout the company. This improves interdepartmental communication and collaboration so employees can create holistic projects.
Businesses can undergo a significant digital transformation with application integration, increasing their flexibility, agility, and responsiveness. It helps bridge the gaps that lie between front-end, back-end, on-site, and cloud-based software. With application integration, organizations can establish a robust infrastructure of intermingled systems.
What is Data Integration?
Although these terms are often used synonymously, application integration and data integration are two different concepts. While application integration focuses on connecting systems, data integration is the process of consolidating information from various sources. By identifying, retrieving, and aggregating information, data integration is able to create a comprehensive structure of data. This saves users the time it takes to search for specific datasets throughout various software tools.
Although data integration connects systems in a similar way that application integration does, it doesn't happen in real-time. Instead, this process focuses on gathering large volumes of data and reformatting it into one structure for easier digestion. This extensive process takes time and isn't available in real-time in the way that application integration is. Typically, data integration begins once the systems' operations finish incorporating all relevant information. This way, the processor can eliminate duplicate datasets, inaccuracies, and conflicting information.
3 Concepts of Application Integration
Businesses considering application integration should keep in mind that there are various components necessary to link multiple applications successfully.
Application Programming Interface
An application programming interface (API) outlines a specific set of required functions that enables separate software to integrate. With API, developers gain quick access to the functions and features of multiple systems through a sole interface. This integration technique provides a robust network that facilitates and shares each application's unique tools with the others.
Events and Actions
In regard to application integration, an event refers to an occurrence within the network of linked systems. This could include anything from receiving payment to generating a data analysis. Whatever the event may be, it triggers an action or series of actions, which responds to the initial happening. For example, if a user submits a payment, the action will retrieve processing tools to complete the transaction.
Data mapping refers to the outline that routes similar data from multiple sources into one interface to improve consistency. For example, a retailer can link their point-of-sale (POS) and customer relationship management software to consolidate client information. Whenever a customer creates a loyalty program, the integrator shares the information with similar systems. This ensures customers' data remains consistent and up to date throughout all software.
The Benefits of Application Integration
Companies that integrate their applications unlock several benefits that help improve operational efficiency.
Eliminate Data Silos
Application integration eliminates data silos, which inhibit interdepartmental communication and hide data errors. This enhances not only collaboration but also data sharing efficiency and connectivity. Without data silos, businesses ensure employees have access to all critical data.
Increase Return on Investment
With responsive technology, companies can increase their software's overall return on investment (ROI). Integration speeds up business processes that rely on several systems, reducing time-to-market and increasing profitability. Organizations can capitalize on time saved to generate additional products and services.
Leverage Process Automation
Integration not only shares data and functions across a network of solutions but can also automate repetitive tasks. For example, companies can automate bookkeeping practices, eliminating the need for human intervention. This minimizes human error and allows workers to dedicate their time and skills elsewhere.
Improve Data Visibility
By utilizing point-to-point integration, businesses can actively monitor data and activities throughout all systems. This enables developers to measure performance, detect emerging risks, and make adjustments in real-time. With this increased data visibility, companies can continuously improve their operational efficiency and output.
Gain a Holistic Point of View
Alongside visibility, businesses can reach a holistic point of view of data and their internal operations. Whether companies use legacy or cloud-based software, supervisors can determine top-performing and lagging solutions. Managers can also generate scenarios from both the customer's and employee's perspectives.
Businesses adopt various technologies because they each offer unique tools and features to enhance functionality. Without integration, systems remain disjointed, significantly restricting employee productivity. By connecting solutions, workers can utilize each function via one interface rather than having to bounce between multiple systems.
Advanced system integrators use cloud technology to increase accessibility. This means that the company's walls no longer confine the internal applications. Instead, employees can access applications from anywhere, at any time with an internet connection. This enables remote work and collaboration with third-party partners.