What is integration?
At the simplest level, integration is the process of combining two or more things to create a whole. For businesses, the term integration often refers to software or system integration, which means bringing together multiple business systems to operate as a collaborative unit.
Integration allows information to be shared between the connected systems. These integration solutions can come in many forms, whether it be requesting information from a website, internal employee systems sending and receiving information, or connecting customer data from a point of sale system to CRM to automate recommendations.
Regardless of industry, software integration can be applied to several use cases for nearly every aspect or department of the business, so long as there are multiple systems, applications, devices, or datasets that need to be connected.
Types of integration patterns
There are a few integration patterns that allow systems to communicate. An integration pattern is the method of communication the systems use to send data and/or receive data.
- Migration: Data migration is moving a data set from one system to another. Think of this as a data transfer for a certain point in time, meaning that this exact data set will only be moved once. This occurs commonly when businesses switch from one system to another and the data in the old system needs to moved over.
- Broadcast: A broadcast pattern is often referred to as one-to-many communication when one system sends data across many systems. Broadcast integration involves real-time updates or updates that occur on a regular cadence. This pattern is used to keep information across systems as up-to-date as possible.
- Aggregation: An aggregation integration pattern can be thought of as many-to-one communication between systems. It keeps data from multiple systems in sync and up-to-date within a single system, allowing businesses to merge data and have a singular view of the data from multiple systems on demand.
- Bidirectional sync: Bidirectional sync is when two or more integrated systems communicate back and forth and behave as one system with multiple data sets. This is used for systems that serve their own business purpose but can accomplish even more when connected to related real-time data sets.
- Correlation: A correlation integration pattern is similar to bi-direction sync in that it is placing real-time data in multiple systems, however, it does not replicate data only associates it to similar data. If data exists in two systems, this type of pattern will indicate that, but if the record only exists in one system it will not be created.
How does integration benefit the enterprise?
In this digital era, it’s important that businesses be properly connected; both from an internal and external standpoint.
From the internal enterprise system integration perspective, business leaders need access to data from across the organization to make informed business decisions. Employees have access to the latest data on-demand and because employees aren’t wasting time aggregating and updating systems manually, they are more productive and perform their tasks more efficiently.
It’s also important that customers can access and request the information they need when they need it. If they do not have a fast, positive experience with a website or integrated service offered by a business, it is unlikely they will be returning customers.
Integration best practices
Many businesses choose to integrate their systems in a point-to-point fashion, however, this method causes more harm than good. Point-to-point integration is when each system is connected individually to other systems. This works when there are only a few systems; however, once there are more than three integrated systems, dozens of individual integrations are needed.
With this many single connections, it becomes messy and complicated for IT teams to add, remove, or maintain the web of integrated systems. This slows down the pace of innovation within an enterprise and wastes the IT team's time.
The solution is to integrate these systems by attaching APIs to each application. This allows the applications to send and receive the right set of information needed to take action. These APIs can then talk to one another, thus creating a network of information. This application network allows businesses to unlock data from each of their applications, data, devices, and assets.
Through an application network, these APIs can be reused; speeding up the process of connecting systems and preventing IT teams from creating the same custom connections over and over again. Because an application network is a collection of APIs, they can be grouped by process or experience, so a set of APIs can easily be reused.
To learn more about integration and application networks, download our Value of Integration whitepaper.