researchHQ’s Key Takeaways:
- Application integration is the process of merging multiple software applications designed for individual specific purposes to work together.
- Major concepts of application integration include Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), event-driven actions and data mapping.
- While data integration focuses on gathering information from multiple sources, application integration is the process of linking applications together at a functional level.
- Application integration is utilized by organizations in numerous industries, including consumer goods, retail and healthcare, to modernize their outdated systems.
- Benefits of application integration include global accessibility of data, increased productivity and greater visibility of all aspects of the business.
Application Integration: A Detailed Primer
Modern application integrations are akin to a successful team. Just as an effective team is greater than the sum of its individual parts, the same could be said when integrating software applications — when done correctly, application integration bolsters an organization’s infrastructure, creating operational efficiencies and providing greater collective value for the business.
In short, when applications and systems that were created separately are integrated to work together, businesses can cut costs and become more efficient internally while also delivering an elevated experience to their customers.
What is Application Integration?
The most basic application integration definition is when multiple software applications designed for individual specific purposes are merged to work together with one another. These software applications could be cloud-based, such as Salesforce CRM, reside on-premises behind a firewall, such as SAP or be deployed in a hybrid environment i.e cloud apps hosted on an organization’s private servers..
The idea behind app integration is to create a more modern and unified infrastructure that streamlines the use of these apps as opposed to a clunky and fragmented experience that would result if they were each utilized in various silos.
Application integration is increasingly vital as businesses and other organizations seek to link their on-premises systems and cloud-based enterprise applications. Successful integration creates data flow and processes that are interconnected, ultimately giving organizations a wider set of tools with which they can work with their applications and correlating data.
That sounds nice, but practically speaking, what is an integration good for? In truth, the possibilities are nearly endless.
Major Concepts of Application Integration
Generally speaking, when discussing Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), there are a handful of concepts or components that need to be in place to link to or more applications harmoniously. These include:
Application Programming Interfaces, known more commonly as APIs, are sets of “rules” or procedures that define how varying pieces of software should interact. APIs are nearly ubiquitous at this stage because they tap into the specified data structure to give developers the ability to quickly access the functionality of other applications.
When an event takes place within a series of connected applications — a piece of data being uploaded, for example — it triggers either an individual action or a set of actions, such as invoicing and billing a customer, or managing an opportunity-to-order workflow from NetSuite ERP to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales.
The process of mapping data is key because it defines how that data or information will be exchanged, making it easier to export, group or analyze later on. A basic example of this is when a customer enters their information in a contact form within one application, and then that same data is mapped to corresponding fields in other applications.
Application Integration Versus Data Integration
The phrases ‘data integration’ and ‘application integration’ are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences to become familiar with. On the most basic level, data integration is when you gather information from various sources in order to create a unified structure viewable across an organization. Application integration differs in that it links applications together at a more functional level so they work together.
Data integration can be conducted in real-time, but it doesn’t need to be. Its main purpose is to help administrators move and analyze data within applications over time to get rid of any redundancies and make for a higher-quality and consistent data set. Meanwhile, application integrations often do link associated data in real-time, which helps organizations create applications and services that are more dynamic.
If we return to the analogy of thinking about your collection of applications as a team, this is where your team is coached to ensure the players are all on the same page. When set up cohesively, enterprise application integration triggers efficient workflows when specific events occur within any of the applications that are integrated. Because this happens essentially in real-time, organizations enhance their agility and ability to make critical business decisions quickly and before it may be too late.