What is Application Integration?
Once upon a time, your enterprise ran solely on legacy, on-premise software. Next came the growth of cloud computing. Nowadays, you probably have some combination of both. But your on-premise and cloud applications must work together efficiently, and it does so through application integration.
Application integration is the practice of sharing of processes and business data among various applications in an organization. This means seamlessly connecting all variety of on-premise and cloud apps to transform and orchestrate the data required for business workflows. These applications address a number of business needs and can be anything from CRM and e-commerce platforms to finance and ERP systems.
So, why application integration, exactly? The short answer is that connected systems are critical to delivering a comprehensive view of regular business workflows, the ones that require multiple technology interventions and drive revenue.
Most applications, designed at various times and by all variety of vendors, do not inherently talk to each other and require additional technology to enable that communication. And it’s integration technology that connects SaaS and on-premise apps with your enterprise architecture, opens communication mechanisms, and eliminates the data silos that slow business processes.
Examples of Application Integration
The definition of application integration can vary by company, depending on the use case, data pattern, and the integration tools you have on hand, which plays a big role in how these applications get integrated. Some businesses might custom-build a point-to-point integration. Others might take an open-source approach and leverage best practices from developer communities. Still others with the internal resources will leverage an application’s APIs or Web Services.
Whether it’s a one-time move of application data, two-way synchronization, or on-demand data processing, an enterprise application integration (EAI) strategy combines technologies and services to move relevant information among the software applications and IT systems powering your enterprise. Here are a few common EAI approaches.
On-premise application integration
An on-premise application can be a homegrown ERP that you own or another proprietary tool you’ve purchased and that’s deployed behind your own firewall or in your own “private cloud.” Traditional approaches to such internal application integration include custom-coding them together but also leveraging an enterprise service bus (ESB), a middleware platform that uses a rules engine to transform and route messages and enable communication between applications.
SaaS application integration
Organizations today often have dozens (even hundreds) of SaaS applications in use across their enterprise. A SaaS CRM like Salesforce or the cloud-based NetSuite ERP are extremely popular data management tools, but they must integrate it into your enterprise architecture to avoid data silos and black boxes. A popular integration method is using a pure-play iPaaS solution. These tools rely on single-use API-based integrations, which are often developer-centric and costly.
Enterprises in pursuit of end-to-end processing and comprehensive visibility into critical business processes strive for application-to-application integration. Let’s say you’re jumping into e-commerce and want to build out a digital store using Magento or Shopify. Integrating those e-commerce data workflows with your ERP fulfillment processes, which trigger other B2B and EDI data exchange workflows, is critical to ensuring your business can deliver what it just sold. It also enables automation and increases efficiency by eliminating manual data intervention. Whether it’s a Magento-NetSuite integration or a Salesforce-SAP integration, an ecosystem integration platform streamlines these A2A workflows.
Application Integration Benefits
Think about all the applications you use in your organization that could use some integration. These include Salesforce, NetSuite, SugarCRM, Magento, and even HR, supply chain management (SCM), and warehouse management (WMS) systems.
Modern application integration connectors take your data and transform it into a format that’s compatible with your IT architecture and streamlining the process. An integrated business network, for example, would take an order from your e-commerce gateway, verify the data, transform it into a format compatible with your back-end ERP for processing, connect to your EDI system for logistics and delivery, move it on to the finance system for payment and invoicing, and then sync all the customer order info seamlessly into your CRM.
Pretty cool, huh? It’s a process that is intuitive and tailored to your specific business needs, and it’s why there’s high demand for application integration today. The benefits of application integration run deep, and include:
Faster GTM: Delays in technology deployment often hinder businesses from gaining a faster ROI. Application connectors enable businesses to go to market quickly with a new system and expedite the return on their investment. Regardless of the application and data format, businesses can integrate and transform data to the proper specifications while eliminating the tedious manual processes that often plague the launch of a new business system.
Process automation: Enterprises’ business processes can vary greatly, and a leading application integration platform will support the seamless handoff of data among all variety of systems and workflows to support efficiency and automation. The ability to re-use map templates saves countless hours on the onboarding and partner configuration processes. A leading integration platform also triggers application events and alerts for proactive troubleshooting and integrated communications.
Concurrent processing: Concurrent processing means multiple processes doing similar work are designed to happen at the same time. For example, the ability to process the same or different order processes at the same time, including order-to-cash transactions, performing product price and quantity lookups, and reconciling front and back-end systems can happen simultaneously. This helps businesses handle multiple orders in real time, while also still facilitating batch processing where it makes sense.
Visibility: Application integration enables complete end-to-end integration and increased visibility that enables organizations to view, track, and report on the data throughout the workflow. Effective application integration helps companies easily respond to customer expectations and requirements and gain a comprehensive view into end-to-end business processes.
Scalability: A scalable integration platform supports all variety of applications required to grow your business in new ways and leverage the technology required to get there. Application connectors and map reusability mean businesses don’t have to start from scratch on every new integration and can rapidly scale and connect to a new source of business revenue.
The Best Application Integration Software
Application connectors provide a full view and enablement of the internal and external B2B processes from start to finish. Businesses that don’t leverage application connectors to onboard and integrate new partners quickly and create end-to-end integration between mission-critical systems are at a serious disadvantage and must consider an application integration strategy to compete today.
The best application integration solutions provide the capabilities above and are designed to be easily customizable and automatically update directly to the appropriate data model across your technologies. Traditional (EDI and AS2), modern (APIs and JSON), and specialized (AS4) integration patterns must be supported, but cloud storage connectors, for rapid and secure data lake ingestion, also are becoming more common in the enterprise.
Rather than having to limit your business to a set of applications that can work within the current infrastructure, organizations can have the option to use whatever works best for the organization and just knowing that their integration technology can support it.
If you’re worried about whether an application one of your business departments decided to randomly deploy will integrate into your network, check out how the leading B2B and application integration platform supports such integration with a robust portfolio of application connectors.
You’ll put your worries aside as your business leverages the gold standard in integration and begins reaping the benefits of application integration for the modern enterprise.