Application Integration in a Nutshell – A Guide for Beginners

application integration
Application Integration

In today’s world of digital transformation, enterprises rely on a variety of applications that help them develop faster. However, the constant switching between them can disable communication flow and turn your company into a mess. Here, an application integration comes out as a solution.

Organizations use more and more applications that improve different areas of their functioning. They are also eager to use third-party integrations that make their products more powerful. As reports show, in 2021 there was a huge leap in the amount of software as service (SaaS) applications employed by companies all over the world. The most popular are cloud-based office tools that improve administration tasks. Not to mention other types of on-premise software applications that foster companies’ growth in many areas:

  • marketing apps,
  • CRM systems,
  • analytics-driven tools,
  • live chats, etc.

However, maintaining separate applications involves an extra effort from their users, and more money to invest. That’s why using a huge amount of apps requires one environment that would connect them.

Thankfully, there is a solution…

You can merge all software and tools thanks to application integration!

The question is: how to create an efficient ecosystem that combines all useful apps? And what’s more, how do you get all your data syncing flawlessly between them?

Keep on reading to find out these answers. 

Things You Will Learn

In this article, we’ll cover all you need to know about integrating applications. We will also break down the process of implementing unified app ecosystems into your business. Let’s find out:

  • What does application integration look like in practice
  • The benefits of app integration for your business
  • Best practices for implementing app integration strategy
  • The biggest challenges companies may face while integrating apps

What is Application Integration?

As the phrase suggests, application integration is about combining different apps so that they can work with one another. In this way, you can refresh any platform or system by adding some extra functionalities that come from integrated applications. For example, you can connect older systems with modern cloud-based applications to receive top-notch solutions adjusted to your company’s needs.

What does Enterprise Application Integration Mean?

Application integration creates interoperability between separate tools which allows for data exchange in real-time. It is a resourceful solution that helps companies go digital and fosters employees’ productivity. Hence, we can talk about Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), which has become crucial for companies to improve workflow across many channels. It is the key for every business that wants to stay agile and innovative.

Application Integration vs Data Integration

Although they sound similar, these terms refer to completely different processes. So it’s better not to confuse them. 😉 Data integration focuses only on data operations within a given system, such as data transformation or translation. Application integration aims at transferring the data between different tools and combining them into a single ecosystem. Its goal is to automate business operations, handle updates of different applications and minimize data overflow.

How does Enterprise App Integration Really Work?

It doesn’t matter if you run your own business or belong to an IT team – sometimes it’s easy to get confused about some terms. So, let’s take a closer look at how application integration works at most companies. As a core part of the company’s software development operations, integrating applications will belong to the tasks of IT teams. Usually, DevOps handle these processes in software houses on a daily basis. You can put app integration into practice in two following ways:

  • via already existing integration platform
  • by building a custom integration from scratch. 

Some organizations that prefer in-house integrations have to manage every single operation on their own. At some point, however, many companies feel the need to get rid of the burden and decide to outsource at least a few integration processes. 

Pro tip: 

Team sharing can become extremely useful in application integration management. Well-qualified specialists will provide practical guidance in integrating more advanced software architecture. Find out more on how to choose a trusted IT team and boost your project thanks to proper application integration processes.

When Integrating Applications is a Must

Application integration is a key for accelerating information exchange. Merging apps comes in handy when you need to interact with data that is constantly changing and you need a real-time perspective. Having access to information from different tools stored in one place will help every business to achieve transparency. Whether you focus on communication with customers or gathering inputs between enterprise departments, one application ecosystem is the best way to translate the data to the other channels and speed up daily business operations. 

Application integration comes in handy especially when your company needs to: 

  • Merge a lot of applications 
  • Integrate numerous APIs
  • Publish internal services or APIs to external users
  • Build a flexible and scalable platform
  • Create numerous communication protocols

Main Benefits of Integrating Applications (For Your Company and Customers)

Why is it worth integrating applications at a company? Incorporating app integration processes can serve as a great strategy to scale up your business. Let’s take a look at how integration may benefit both your enterprise and product’s users:

Extra perks

Application integration is the way to create one ecosystem with shared services. Plugging in external tools to your product will trigger some bonuses that the third-party applications carry with them. It could be, e.g.:

  • automated app updates and bug-free modifications,
  • gaining new features with no need to code.

For instance, integration with Google Maps will add to your product geolocation features, and adding Stripe integration to a platform will provide users with a credible payment method.

Saving time and money

Thanks to connected applications, you can improve workflow and save your employees’ time. Combining applications will also help you reduce the costs of maintaining separate tools. Moreover, integration with pre-built automated applications will bring your enterprise to the verge of automation, which is also a cost and time-saving solution.

Automation is cost-cutting by tightening the corners and not cutting them.

– Haresh Sippy

Needless to say, an automated integration is a perfect solution that accounts for scalability.

A way to digital transformation 

Integration solutions enable companies to keep up with the digital transformation and stay innovative. Creating one shared ecosystem for all the enterprise tools will foster data sharing among them. Real-time integrations between components, data sources, and applications – that’s the key to creating a flawlessly operating business.

Better customer experience

Nowadays enterprises strive for connecting their on-premise software with cloud-based applications to improve customer experience. As a result of integration, you can create a fully-fledged modern platform equipped with a set of necessary functionalities. Popular applications loved by the users will add to your platform some desired functionalities that will make your product more attractive. Plus, the app integration will prevent the users from the chaos caused by switching between disjointed tools. What’s more, proper data integration between these third-party apps will help you create personalized offers for your customers. 

Increases teams’ productivity

Siloed software used on a daily basis in organizations can turn every simple action into a grueling job. Let’s imagine that you need to convert files’ format every time you send a report to the other team that works in a different system. It’s hard to perform even minor daily tasks without proper app integration. That’s why every company needs a solution that enables effortless data exchange while working on different software and tools. 

A Guide to Implement Enterprise App Integration in 6 Simple Steps

How to develop an enterprise app integration strategy that works for you? Incorporating app integration at your company doesn’t have to be a nuisance. It’s enough to follow these 6 simple steps to set up a proper application integration plan. 

1. Adjust the integration model to your business needs

First, you need to choose the model of integration that matches your business needs. Let’s consider the size of your company. Big enterprises usually go for creating in-house software and startups prefer third-party cloud-based applications. However, it’s not always a rule, and before you make the final decision, it’s good to take into account different factors, such as:

  • budget, 
  • the complexity of the tools,
  • expected functionalities,
  • workflow preferences of your company. 

As we mentioned above you can employ either in-house software or a third-party enterprise application. If you choose the latter one, you can choose among Software as a Service (SaaS) tools that enable handling a lot of business processes in a cloud and make the functioning of companies easier. However, If some integration systems are too complex or far beyond your budget, you can always decide on pre-built solutions, e.g. iPaaS (Enterprise Integration Platform as a Service). This is a kind of hybrid technology that combines integration functionalities and delivers them as cloud services. 

2. Let’s think about APIs

The next step is choosing the right integration software. At this point, you need to consider APIs. First, let’s explain what exactly an API is in simple words. Applications use APIs – Application Programming Interface to access the functionalities of software they connect with. APIs find the connection thanks to precise data structures. In this way, different apps, tools, or software can fully integrate and exchange the data. APIs determine the type of integration software:

  • If applications you want to connect share a common API, you can go for native integrations or an iPaaS solution. 
  • When applications use APIs in two-way syncs, a much better option will be a native integration that will be able to sustain all integrated apps.

3. Identify the type of information to integrate

You don’t have to integrate all elements of different applications. Instead, it’s better to identify what parts of the tools’ database you want to integrate. Here you can follow a simple rule – integrate similar types of data. Look at the example that illustrates this situation. Let’s imagine you integrate your CRM with an accountancy application. Your CRM’s database includes categories such as: “companies”, “clients” etc., but the application is equipped with slightly different information, eg.: “customers”, “invoices”, etc. In this situation, a good practice would be to identify a similar type of data. For instance, a client from your CRM’s database – let’s call him Mr. Smith – can be categorized as a customer in the integrated application. 

Pro tip:

Remember – finding the matching elements in both systems is the key to successful integration, but you can also synchronize different data. Extra information from one application will enrich the database of the other one. In this way, you can create a powerful system full of different functionalities.

4. Take up a real-time approach  

The shift to cloud technologies has triggered the need for real-time data management. Conventional methods, such as point-to-point integration sometimes fail to meet up the expectations of cloud technologies. Thus, the best option is to switch to real-time integration, which is beneficial for small and medium business owners as well as large companies. 

5. Prepare for the biggest integration challenges

As we mentioned at the beginning, data integration and app integration are different terms. Even though they are not synonyms, data integration is still an important part of enterprise application integration. As it turns out, it can also become quite a challenge while integrating your apps. To handle it properly, you need to ensure excellent data flow between applications. 

Real-time data management

The real-time data stream is one of the biggest challenges of proper app integration. In a perfect scenario, all connected apps should swap all the data in real-time, which means – instantly. In order to handle dynamic information overflow, you need to employ extract, transform and load (ELT) technology.

Pro tip: 

Real-time data management streams will work out well when developers can incorporate all data into the newly integrated application. Having a good strategy, such as packaging data sources as APIs within an app network will help you to overcome this challenge. 

Data security

Whenever you integrate a system with a new application, you should ensure data protection. It is critical if you want your customers to trust you. Reducing the risk of data leaks is crucial to making your product totally safe for users.

6. Develop your Integration Strategy

Once you’ve set up a perfect plan, it’s time to take it a step further and think of how you can develop your enterprise application integration strategy. You can take advantage of app integration to bring even more innovation to different areas of your business. Let’s grasp a bunch of practical ideas:

  • Integrating apps with Internet of Things (IoT) devices will bring you to the verge of the real digital revolution. You can take advantage of integrated applications to store data from all IoT devices for analytical purposes.
  • Connecting CRMs to your ERP system is a really good idea that will help your company develop faster. ERP and CRM integration ensures automated information overflow between these two tools.
  • Integration with analytics apps will help you create a great experience while working with data. API analytics is the perfect solution to take your company’s data management to the next level. Data-driven integration will allow users to get valuable insights into data sets. Real-time updates give a chance to quickly respond to all changes while handling data from different sources.
  • Application integration on AWS is a suite of services that enable communication between decoupled components within microservices, distributed systems, and serverless applications. Find out more on how we help our customers develop faster thanks to AWS-based solutions.

Let’s take a look at how we helped our client – a leader in logistics, by developing an integration strategy for them. In our case study, you will find out the results of integrating the client’s platform with an external software provider – CO3.

Integrate all Your Applications at Ease

We hope all the steps will come in handy while implementing app integration at your company. And, if you wonder how to make application integration a center of your IT infrastructure, just contact us! Our teams of specialists will guide you in building a modern integration strategy that will help you innovate. 

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