Application Integration: Definition, Benefits, and Challenges

By |2021-06-04T08:26:59+00:00January 9th, 2020|

Application integration is becoming increasingly crucial because no matter how much you want to carry out all your work using a single application, it’s almost impossible. There are several applications, fulfilling dedicated needs and roles within businesses. Thus, instead of depending on one application, you inescapably end up depending on many. Although this helps you accomplish numerous tasks, handling several applications and the data within each can be challenging. This is where application integration middleware steps in. Application integration middleware helps you maintain, manage, and keep all your applications updated while reducing data repetition and redundancy.

When you create an integrated application network, allowing applications within an enterprise to interact with one another, all your business and work procedures can be performed more proficiently thus leveraging the benefits of integration.

Wondering what is enterprise application integration? How does it help simplify and automate business processes? Read on to find out more.

In this blog, we’ll explain what application integration is, application integration definition, and the importance of application integration in business. We’ll also discuss the types of application integration and how enterprise application integration tools can help the process.

What is Enterprise Application Integration?

Application integration is a process that enables the consolidation and sharing of data, resources, and processes among an organization’s different applications.  In other words, the definition of software application integration is the combination and improvement of workflows and data across software applications. The end goal of this process is to enhance business efficiency. However, enterprise application integration particularly focuses on communicating between various systems. This is achieved by enterprise application integration tools.

Generally, the process uses integration middleware to transfer resources from one application to another. Without middleware, it would depend on wearisome amounts of programming and manual efforts.

Using a code-free middleware with visual UI can make your enterprise application integration process more efficient, particularly when you are handling several applications. The benefit of integration is that it eliminates the need to manually enter data into each of your applications, simplifying enterprise data sharing between your most critical applications. An advantage of integration middleware is that it can be on-premise or cloud-based, depending on your business requirements. Now that we have understood what enterprise application integration is, let’s discuss the types of application integration.

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Common Approaches for Integrating Applications

There are two conventional approaches or types of enterprise application integration:

The first approach involves manually coding applications to ensure they can “talk” to one another in a commonly understandable language.

The second method involves using an enterprise-ready application integration solution that transforms and integrates data into the required format in a code-free environment. These solutions require minimal reliance on IT teams.

While both these approaches form the fundamental aspect of any effective application integration network, the second type of application integration is considered better as it is more scalable and can account for growing volumes easily. Manually writing codes to integrate an increasing number of application servers can be time-consuming and error-prone.

Nonetheless, in both cases, data access, analysis, and transformation are imperative for application integration. Because if an application is unable to transfer and comprehend data from another application, inconsistencies can arise and cause delays in business processes, therefore, missing out on the benefits of integration. Hence, whichever type of application integration your organization uses, the end goal is to connect applications for analytical purposes.

Why Enterprises Choose Application Integration?

Most companies use enterprise applications like billing systems, ERPs, CRMs, and several others to streamline their business processes, such as sales and operations planning, inventory management, etc. Today, cloud-based and mobile applications offer an easy way for enterprises to execute jobs. Let’s take a look at an application integration example to understand it better. For instance, an organization stores its customer information on salesforce and accounting data on oracle. Using the integration of applications, the company employees can get both sets of information combined in one place for analytical purposes.

However, these types of applications don’t always offer the most innovative solution to business problems on their own. In a scenario like this, it becomes essential for companies to leverage different system integration points. Enterprise application integration solutions can be used to integrate data between existing and new apps.

Enterprise Application Integration

Source: Medium

Advantages of Enterprise Application Integration

Some of the main benefits of enterprise application integration are stated as follows:

Eliminate Data Silos

Applications designed by different vendors do not have the ability to communicate with each other without using additional technology. Integration middleware acts as a glue between various enterprise applications, whether they are on-premise or cloud. Therefore, the benefit of integration is the elimination of data silos that occur when an information system or subsystem is unable to connect. Data silos slow down business operations and prevent effective sharing of data; as a result, it remains isolated within every system.

Using an enterprise application integration solution eliminates data silos and enables productive use of data.

Faster Time-to-Market

Businesses often fail to generate a higher ROI because of delays in technology deployment. By integrating various applications, companies can fast-track their business processes, reduce time-to-market, and boost their ROI.

Irrespective of the application and data format, by utilizing enterprise application integration tools companies can incorporate and convert data according to the appropriate specifications along with eradicating the tiresome manual procedures that often plague the addition of a new business system or product.

Process Automation

Depending on the industry, business procedures can diverge significantly. Enterprise application integration helps facilitate smooth data transfer among all kinds of systems and workflows to support productivity and automation.

Data Visibility

Enterprise application integration facilitates point-to-point integration and augmented data visibility that empowers businesses to observe, measure, and embrace the data all through the workflow.

Moreover, you can utilize data to effortlessly address customer expectations and acquire a broad view of business activities.

Interoperability

By integrating different applications, users can get a holistic view of enterprise data by providing users an integrated interface to access functionality and data of various platforms. Thus, creating interoperability between complementing systems, both old and new.

Challenges to Application Integration

Application integration is often a challenging process. This is particularly true if you are integrating old applications with new ones.

A frequently ignored aspect of this type of integration is related to applications that are firmly connected with other systems, such as ERP applications. They are not only connected but are reliant on one another to support a particular process. These applications become particularly challenging to integrate, and don’t often respond well to updates and changes, which cause IT integration issues. IT department also uses different types of system integrations. As a result, these integrations are fragile and expensive to maintain. This is where application integration solutions come into play and simplify integration.

How To Integrate Applications

Application integration is not possible without the use of an application programming interface or API. API is the set of rules or protocols for building application software. Its a method of communication that facilitates the interaction between applications and system software. Furthermore, it allows access to data trapped in cloud sources. API allows flexibility and control for end-users whilst ensuring that the original creators maintain their application without any external interference.

API has long been around and used for the integration of on-premise based software systems. Nowadays, APIs are being used for different purposes, such as real-time data retrieval, system integration, system synchronization, and system updates.

Wrap Up

Businesses often find it difficult to integrate several applications into their enterprise data architecture. However, there is modern technology out there that can help with enterprise application integration with minimal effort using integration middleware.

For instance, Astera Centerprise is one such enterprise application integration tool that comes with built-in cloud and on-premise application connectors, simplifying integration challenges. The solution offers out-of-the-box connectivity and scalability your business requires, reducing integration intricacies.