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Software integration can increase efficiency and productivity. In this article, we explain everything you need to know to choose the best tools for your business.


Software Integration: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Angela Davis on August 29, 2023
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Software integration enables businesses to synchronize the abundance of apps and software solutions available today. With an app for seemingly every task, from time management and eCommerce to specialized apps to interact with customers, they can be used to simplify remote work, automate mundane activities, streamline processes, and decrease expenses for businesses. 

However, despite these benefits, data synchronization across programs is now notoriously difficult because of the number of tools and applications that businesses use. This can be especially problematic if your company relies on numerous software applications or other digital tools to complete basic operations. 

The efficiency and productivity promised by apps often go to waste if data is not correctly synchronized. Instead, programs end up operating as stand-alone units, and information is left in isolated silos.

Read on to understand why software integration is the answer to this problem.

What is software integration—and why is it important?

The term "software integration" describes the process of connecting individual software components so that they can operate as a larger whole. 

If different platforms in your business are unable to exchange data with one another, you may need to maintain several separate systems instead, which can reduce productivity. The result of integration is that applications are able to share a single database, and while careful coordination is necessary, the enhanced efficiency that follows proper implementation can be a huge boost to businesses. 

Several factors affect how easy an integration will be, including disparities in language or other technical aspects (such as architecture). Because of this, integration can sometimes be a challenging and expensive process, and it normally requires the dedicated efforts of IT specialists. 


The estimated IT time spent on designing, building, and testing integrations was 40.31% in 2023, compared to 38.46% in 2022

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However, there’s also plenty of software, both custom and off-the-shelf, that’s developed to simplify the integration process. These often include programming and components to facilitate direct integration.

Software integration may be necessary for a business in the following situations:

  • During a switch to a new database from a legacy system.
  • For a data warehouse that requires an ETL (extract, transform, load) procedure for transferring data from the production system to the data storage system.
  • To connect different databases or file-based systems.
  • When process replication needs to occur across different systems to provide consistent business outcomes.

Businesses that rely on a number of different systems for basic tasks will likely benefit from software integration. Recording sales, tracking supplier data, and customer records are examples of such tasks, which often require specialized functionalities to be integrated into a unified system for efficient data gathering and analysis.

Software integration process considerations

Despite its importance, the software integration process can be a minefield. Make sure to evaluate the following considerations to ensure a successful integration of your software.

Applications to integrate

Although large enterprises often develop software in-house, many are increasingly switching to SaaS (software as a service) models, as this approach allows them to easily manage specific operational processes. Thanks to the scalability of cloud-based services, most small businesses are now starting out with SaaS solutions too.

Despite the rise of SaaS, in-house software is more often in need of integration. Engineers may be required to assist with the architecture for in-house software integration, however, there are also plenty of pre-built alternatives available to accommodate your enterprise integration requirements.

Identifying which applications you plan to integrate will help you choose the best solution for your business. 

Connectors to use

An application programming interface (API) provides a set of instructions for accessing applications. Engineers can build integrations directly into an app's ecosystem, meaning you can jump right in without switching tabs, with native APIs.

However, this can take a long time, with a lot of work needed to develop a direct route between apps. Furthermore, software suppliers don’t always provide native integrations. 

An alternative to native API integrations is an integration platform as a service (iPaaS). You might be wondering, "What is iPaas?” 

These services streamline the process of integrating different software. They’re the centerpieces of software stacks and are often required when businesses make use of several tools. The point of an iPaaS is to ensure that all users and teams see the same version of available customer data so that they can seamlessly work towards the same goal. 

Make sure not to confuse iPaaS with IaaS, which stands for integration as a service and involves more advanced capabilities.

Another important factor to consider with iPaaS is whether to use one- or two-way integration. Most iPaaS only allow for the former, which involves transferring information from one app to the next.

If you need two-way integration, a built-in solution is a better solution to synchronize separate databases. This way if you make a change in one app, you'll automatically see it reflected in the other.

Type of data to consolidate

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Data comes in many different forms, including, but not limited to, text, figures, graphics, and audio. Before any integration can be set up, the data fields that will be merged or shared between apps must be determined.

However, when different apps classify and label data differently, this aspect of integration can become tricky. To overcome this obstacle, you should create a common data model or map. This explains data labels across systems by specifying how information from one application should be mapped to the corresponding fields in another app. 

For example, if app A labels a customer's address as the "billing address," while app B categorizes it as the "shipping address", the data map will link the "billing address" and "shipping address" fields together. Data can then be accurately and consistently shared across all integrated systems.

How to choose a software integration tool

Know what your business needs

It’s important to determine your business needs before looking at software integration solutions. Every business has different requirements when integrating systems, and the best solutions will marry adaptability and robust functionality to these unique needs.

Integrating systems and data requires identifying the data fields and procedures that need to be involved. This information can be used to compare the various integration techniques and choose the best one for your business.

Decide on an integration method

Integration solutions that are both user-friendly and effective improve your team's efficiency and your organization’s operations. A tool that has advanced functionality but is difficult and confusing to use, is not a good solution. 

Instead, make sure to choose an integration method that can be easily implemented and is aligned with your overarching business objectives.

Consider scalability

Scalability is another crucial factor to consider. You should choose an integration solution that can evolve with your business and adapt to changing demands. This will make a huge difference if you need to expand operations, so scalability is especially vital for startups. 

There are plenty of great scalable software integration tools out there; therefore, there’s no reason to settle for one that can't keep up with your business growth.

Factor in security

A golden padlock sitting on top of a keyboard.

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One of your primary concerns when selecting the best integration solution for your company should be its level of security. Products with little thought for security measures can endanger your valuable data. 

Prioritize an integration software tool that meets all relevant security and industry standards. Intruder warnings and real-time reporting are two fundamental data security functions that integration software should provide.

Check peer reviews

One of the most reliable methods for determining the quality of a product or service is to learn what other people think about it. Read customer reviews and take into account what other users think before committing to a system. 

Is the general consensus good? If the answer is “yes”, then you’re probably looking at software that will deliver the promised results.

Compare on-premises, cloud-based, and hybrid integration

You'll need to make a choice between a data integration system hosted in the cloud and one hosted locally. Remember that different integration strategies can work well in different contexts.

As the name implies, cloud-based data integration occurs in a cloud environment. This sort of solution can benefit businesses that already have cloud-based IT infrastructure. 

In contrast, "on-premise data integration" refers to the process of integrating an organization's systems locally. 

Hybrid integration is a middle-ground solution. It balances the challenges of breaking reliance on legacy systems with new integration needs.

Software integration examples and case studies

Some of the more popular software integration examples include:

  • Linking a business website to popular social networks, like Facebook or Twitter, so visitors can easily share content from your website.
  • Connecting your accounting system and eCommerce platforms so customer orders can be processed immediately.
  • Automating the sending of marketing emails to new leads when they sign up for your service by integrating your CRM (customer relationship management) system with email marketing platforms.
  • Linking Google Analytics with WordPress to monitor site traffic without having to leave WordPress.

The Citibanamex case study

Founded in 1884, Citibanamex is a great software integration case study. With 40,000 employees and millions of customers, the bank handles roughly 40% of transactions made in Mexico. 

The dynamic Mexican consumer banking market was the primary driver of Citibanamex's digital transformation. The main goal was to provide a consistent, personalized user experience across all channels, including the branch network.

The bank chose an unusual KPI to study: its app store rating. This was rated two out of five when the bank began its digital transformation project. Citibanamex knew it needed new products to improve the digital user experience.

The challenge

Citibanamex believed they could achieve digital transformation by using their proven technology backbone and adding new services and applications with a flexible, agile approach. 

In-house tools, ESBs, mainframe gateways, middleware, routers, dispatchers, and messaging queues grew in complexity as modernization progressed. Each system handled the backend legacy platform differently, making legacy application integrations harder after each "integration" project.

The solution

Realizing the issues it was facing, Citibanamex asked OpenLegacy to expose its core banking applications, including Checking and Debit Accounts, Account Opening, Payments, Consumer Credit (Personal, Autos, and Mortgage), and Investments. 

OpenLegacy's mainframe connector, COBOL parser, and automated API generator created a working prototype. This resulted in the exposure of six real-world mainframe business flows as APIs. 

This solution directly connected to the mainframe environment, invoking transactions, analyzing back-end code, automatically generating APIs, and processing both input and output. 

OpenLegacy's new APIs were tested and deployed in the bank's environment to ensure they worked and met internal integration standards as well as the bank's requirements.

The result

As Citibanamex made mobile app improvements, including developing a new user interface and digital payment features, the results were clear. The bank's agile digital development increased the mobile app's rating from two to 4.5. 

The bank's OpenLegacy implementation improved speed-to-market, customer experience, cost savings, agility, and innovation far beyond the targeted KPI.

Facilitate scalability with software integration

Software integration allows businesses to integrate new data sources, systems, and processes without affecting existing operations. 

With an integration solution like OpenLegacy, you can unify your business processes and data, improving scalability and resource management. 

In addition to providing extensive capabilities that enable the integration of various systems and data types, OpenLegacy's API integration platform is flexible enough to align with your underlying infrastructure in order to support your growth and legacy modernization efforts.



FAQs about software integration

What are the types of software integration?

Types of software integration include star integration, horizontal integration, vertical integration, and common data format integration. 

Star integration involves linking software subsystems with point-to-point connections to build a unified system.

Horizontal integration usually uses a single data field structure to integrate several similar applications. Although this is the easiest type of integration to deploy, it doesn’t offer much flexibility.

In a vertical integration, the production floor undergoes tight monitoring and coordination with advanced business processes, such as supply, quality control, and procurement.

Common data format integration uses a common data format to integrate data from separate systems. The data format can be shared languages that support communication between systems.

What does “integrated software” mean?

"Integrated software" refers to a software suite designed to work with interconnected programs. These software suites are typically employed to integrate complementary programs that are commonly used together into a single application. 

What are the benefits of software integration?

Software integration can benefit businesses by providing improved data accuracy, security, and analysis. In turn, this can support decision-making processes, which improves productivity, customer satisfaction, and sales revenue.

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