What is enterprise integration?
Enterprise integration is the task of bringing together all the disparate applications, devices, data, and business processes at the core of an organization’s operations to take advantage of the efficiencies that can be achieved via data and business logic sharing.
Although it’s a simple concept in theory, putting it into practice poses several integration challenges. For one thing, most business ecosystems are complex.
In any given organization, the varying business needs of different departments tend to mean that their digital assets have developed in different ways.
The resulting mess of dissimilar applications, operating systems, and data formats makes achieving data exchange between them difficult.
The question is, how to update old systems without costly downtime? Fortunately, there are options. New business integration tools, such as legacy modernization platforms, allow you to take advantage of the best of old and new, enabling you to realize the benefits of the most efficient enterprise integration architecture operating the entire ecosystem harmoniously.
5 Ways a good enterprise integration strategy can help your business
As a business strategy, implementing an enterprise integration system offers a number of key benefits. The ability to connect apps, devices, data, processes, employees, partners, and clients let you optimize your workflows and operations. Here are five specific advantages you’ll notice when you put your system in place.
1. Bridge the gap between your operating systems and applications
The best integration solutions make it possible to get the most out of your existing enterprise systems while adding APIs and microservices to facilitate deployments of new business services. Within complex information ecosystems, data exchange can be difficult to achieve.
Enterprise integration software generates a layer through which disparate applications and services can share data. Preferably choose one that will not operate as middleware. This allows developers to work on individual apps and systems without fully grasping how the system functions as a whole.
2. Transition smoothly from legacy systems to modern software
There are a number of issues with legacy systems that pose integration challenges. First, they often need a lot of patching, which requires technical expertise that may not be readily available.
Legacy systems are also often based on a monolithic architecture that prevents the separation of functional capacities such as error handling and data processing. Additionally, they may have security vulnerabilities that need to be taken into consideration.
Modern enterprise integration platforms follow a methodology that can tackle all these problems. Enterprise integration initiatives begin with an audit of existing data and business logic architecture carried out in conjunction with the client’s CIO and their team.
This establishes a framework for determining which aspects of the old system must be retained because they service critical business needs. Then the enterprise integration software is added to address the coordination of the applications and any security issues and bring together existing applications and processes within a cloud or hybrid integration environment.
3. Promote smoother workflows with automation
Automating the integration of applications empowers teams to work in more efficient ways, increasing overall business value.
Rather than relying solely on point-to-point data exchange, enterprise information integration uses a variety of approaches to optimize communication pipelines and allow teams to control multiple data access points.
This helps encourage collaboration initiatives because it allows workflows to become more streamlined.
4. Prevent expensive mishaps and make smarter investments
According to Cleo, 54% of companies surveyed said they had lost at least $100,000 due to poor integration practices in 2020. So it’s crucial to select an integration platform that aligns with your business needs and works well with existing systems.
A good choice will save you money because the business efficiencies gained via optimized workflows will pay dividends in the long run.
5. Get clearer customer insight to get a competitive advantage
In the era of big data and the internet of things, organizations that don’t leverage all the data available to them effectively will inevitably fall behind the competition.
That means using not only internal, but also external data to generate actionable customer insights is what will help you get ahead. Enterprise integration applications allow you to aggregate third-party data in combination with your own to learn as much as possible about your customers and what they expect.
4 Crucial elements of enterprise integration
1. Application integration
Enterprise application integration describes the practice of getting different applications to work well together, sharing their data and processes regardless of their individual functionalities.
The goal is to achieve increased efficiency while retaining existing applications without having to remodel them extensively. API management constitutes one of the important elements of the application integration process.
Messaging is one of several enterprise integration patterns used to develop systems to integrate new and existing software. It allows various components in a distributed application architecture to communicate and, in so doing, makes IT ecosystems that include both on-premises and cloud environments more resilient.
Messaging protocols have to meet the challenge of providing reliable delivery over network boundaries while maintaining the integrity of the system as a whole with respect to issues such as security and compliance.
Data is the lifeblood of any enterprise integration system. Analysis of system data helps establish the most appropriate target integration patterns, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), event-driven, or message-driven.
It also allows continuous assessment of the integration process throughout its lifecycle, enabling ongoing improvements resulting in smoother workflows.
An event is a record of an action or change made by an application or service. Each time an application does something or changes relative to another application, it publishes an event that’s detected by the others. Depending on the situation, the event will either be processed or ignored by other applications in the system.
6 Enterprise integration alternatives and how companies can benefit from them
There are a number of possible approaches to enterprise integration architecture. Each organization is different, using its own unique mixture of proprietary, open-source, and third-party applications and operating across other on-premises and cloud-based environments.
That means the right choice for one business may not work for another, depending on their respective business needs. Here are a few of the most common options.
1. Integration as a Service (IaaS)
Integration as a Service is one step up from managing everything yourself on-site. With IaaS, you remain responsible for your own operating systems, applications, runtime, data, and middleware, while a third-party provider manages additional services for you, such as storage or virtualization tools over the internet. Well-known examples of IaaS include AWS and Microsoft Azure.
There are a couple of advantages of using IaaS. Firstly, it’s a relatively low-cost option because you’re still doing a lot of the work yourself. You enjoy the flexibility of only selecting the components you need and the convenience of managing the infrastructure through an API or dashboard.
You can easily scale up or down the services you use as your business needs develop. This makes it ideal for development and testing environments since you can just pay for the services you need for the duration of the development lifecycle.
2. Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)
What is iPaaS? Essentially, it’s a cloud-based, low-code to no-code enterprise integration platform that allows you to create and manage all of your integrations from a single dashboard. It's a multi-tenant platform suitable for use across various cloud or on-premises environments.
Unlike integrations that are performed using custom code, iPaaS requires no coding expertise on the part of the user. It also means your systems aren’t dependent on any particular third-party provider.
Any number of disparate applications like ERP, CRM, e-commerce, or marketing tools can be integrated smoothly, enabling you to streamline workflows and generate important customer insights.
The beauty of iPaaS is that it’s so flexible, so the possible use cases are very diverse. In the financial industry, companies often use iPaaS to implement open banking services or integrate FinTech and blockchain technologies.
Meanwhile, manufacturing businesses that are often quite dependent on monolithic legacy systems can take advantage of iPaaS to update their architecture without any interruption to production.
3. Enterprise integration Platform as a Service (EiPaaS)
EiPaaS is similar to iPaaS in that it’s a cloud-based integration platform that acts as a conduit for communication between disparate systems. The main difference with EiPaaS is that it’s specifically designed for enterprise-level processes and applications.
Unlike iPaaS, EiPaaS platforms have a particular focus on delivering business-critical capabilities, such as disaster recovery protocols, security, data protection, and service-level agreements.
Typical use cases for EiPaaS include business-to-business integration, cloud service integration, and application-to-application integration within an enterprise architecture context.
4. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
APIs are sets of protocols and definitions for developing and integrating application software. They allow different applications to communicate with one another without needing detailed information about how each has been implemented.
The principal benefit of using APIs is that they simplify integrating diverse systems. They allow for real-time data integration and sharing with customers and other stakeholders.
Take the example of e-commerce. Rather than gatekeeping stock information so that customers have to interact with staff to find out what they want to know, e-commerce companies can use APIs to provide real-time stock information via their websites.
Suppose a company needs to make some changes to its internal systems. In that case, it can do so without interrupting customers' access to the information they need as long as the relevant API continues to function independently.
5. Enterprise Integration Patterns (EIPs)
An EIP is a technology-independent solution to design problems that crop up repeatedly in an integration context. The term was popularized in the 2003 book Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions by Gregor Hohpe and Bobby Woolf.
And to this day, the pattern language icons used by many developers when working with EIPs are sometimes called “Gregorgrams.”
Developers and application architects use EIPs in a number of situations, e.g., when working on message-based systems using an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) or deploying an Axway solution. They help standardize processes and simplify the job of creating seamless integrations.
6. Hybrid Service Integration
Most established businesses start from a position of operating on legacy systems that they’re looking to update with more modern architecture.
As business needs and models change, many organizations find that adopting new ways of working means that enterprise application integration becomes imperative so they can remain competitive.
Hybrid service integration can connect cloud-based and on-premises services in a straightforward manner without requiring legacy systems to be completely remodeled. There’s less of a need for API/point-to-point integrations because tools are integrated in a centralized way for easy data sharing.
Be future-ready with a custom-tailored enterprise integration plan
To be the best in the business takes foresight. You may not know exactly what tomorrow’s business needs will be, but you can still be prepared for whatever challenges the future will bring.
Selecting the right enterprise integration plan for your business is one of the most important decisions you’ll make to get your organization ready. For that reason, it’s vital to get it right. At OpenLegacy, we work with our clients to develop the ideal solution for them that’s tailor-made for their specific requirements.
Our enterprise integration solutions can be deployed to any cloud, on-prem, or hybrid environment with our Cloud-native integration platform, there’s no need for expensive or time-consuming upgrades to your legacy systems.
A hybrid or cloud integration solution offers you flexibility, scalability, and convenience you’ll need to continue delivering high-quality services for your clients now and in the future.
FAQs about enterprise integration for businesses
What is an example of enterprise application integration
There are numerous types of enterprise integration applications that can be deployed across all kinds of business operations. Typical examples include content management systems, automated billing systems, payment processing, service desk applications, CRM tools, business continuity planning, and business analytics and intelligence platforms.
What are the 4 major enterprise applications?
The four major enterprise applications are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, Knowledge Management Systems (KMS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, and Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems.
These business-critical systems can all be streamlined and made more efficient with the right approach to enterprise integration. That way, you can realize the benefits and efficiencies of sharing data and processes across your organization.
What does “enterprise application” mean?
Enterprise applications are large software platforms that businesses can use to boost productivity and efficiency. Enterprise application software comprises programs with shared business applications and organizational modeling tools.
These applications are developed using enterprise architecture and are a crucial part of computer-based information systems. They’re complex yet scalable while being component-based, distributed, and mission-critical.
What are the major challenges of enterprise integration?
One of the most obvious challenges of enterprise integration is complexity. Integrating many and varied applications gives rise to issues around technology interoperability.
There can also be problems around the standardization of data in different formats as used by separate applications. The fact that developers may also only have limited control over legacy applications can further exacerbate these difficulties.