Systems integration involves a complete system of business processes, managerial practices, organizational interactions and structural alignments, and knowledge management. It is an all-inclusive process designed to create relatively seamless and highly agile processes and organizational structures that are aligned with the strategic and financial objectives of the enterprise. A clear economic and competitive value proposition is established between the need and objectives for systems integration and the performance of the enterprise. – Myerson, Judith M.. Enterprise Systems Integration (Best Practices) (p. 5). CRC Press. Kindle Edition.
Enterprise application integration has a relatively brief but fascinating history as it’s been through changes from the 90’s, enabling globalization, to the late 2000-teens, supporting a global landscape of e-commerce, omnichannel marketing, and data-driven businesses. Let’s take a look at exactly what enterprise application is, how it has influenced the global marketplace so far, and how it’s advanced today to be more dynamic and accessible than ever, with the rise of iPaaS and enterprise automation.
Enterprise Application Integration
In 2001, Judith Myer writes about the importance of integration for knowledge-sharing between teams and individuals located in different geographic locations and applications. At the time, companies were adopting middleware, e.g. using CORBA or DCOM as their standard object bus, to handle the proliferation of three-tier client/server networks. “The idea behind CORBA is to allow applications to communicate with one another no matter where they are located or who has designed them.” Myer, 143. Boeing has been a pioneer in enterprise application integration for aviation design and engineering, using middleware to integrate applications as early as the 90’s, and more recently, creating a common, global design environment that makes it possible to prototype new airliner designs and do simulated testing, with minimal exchange of information between CAD tools.
“Technology and integrated business practices can neutralize the traditional advantages of size and location. Integrated processing solutions can allow a company to compete anywhere, at any time. Electronic commerce, knowledge-based systems, and the Internet know no size or constraints.” Myer, 4.
When cloud technology rose to prominence, it essentially meant the demise of traditional middleware.
Globalization and Enterprise Application Integration: Advancing Hand in Hand
Several factors contributed to the rise of enterprise application integration. For one thing, the technology was advancing to enable it. Additionally, an increasing supply of technological capability was working in tandem with the demand for global data transmission and more efficient business processes. Industrial design companies needed to work with teams and suppliers from around the globe. Large corporations selling internationally needed more effective systems for inventory and sales. The rise of e-commerce mandated new business processes to keep pace. In essence, the oroboros of globalization was demanding new systems to support it, becoming an increasingly significant force as technology both rose to its demands and further contributed to its growth.
Today, these trends are arguably extending. Transactions occur at increasingly rapid speed, customers expect instant, personalized service, e-commerce is no longer a rising trend but the dominant norm, and omnichannel marketing is omnipresent. A globalized market is a mass-market that necessitates data-driven business decisions and marketing. The size and revenue of large corporations continues to scale up, signifying that corporations with more capital to enable data management and automated marketing will see larger ROIs than companies with fewer resources.
The proliferation of SaaS applications in workflows has further necessitated enterprise application integration. Global collaboration across disparate applications is the workplace norm, and employees bring consumer-informed expectations for IT to the office (that is, employees that are acclimated to having instant access to data and a certain degree of data service in the consumer marketplace expect their company’s IT department to live up to these expectations).
That may sound daunting, but in fact, the enterprise integration and enterprise automation tools today are more dynamic, robust, and accessible than ever, making it increasingly possible for companies to scale their integration infrastructure to stay competitive in a globalized mass market.
The Rise of Cloud Integration Platforms (iPaaS)
Cloud integration technology (iPaaS, or integration Platform as a Service), is now best practice for enterprise application integration, as cloud adoption becomes increasingly widespread across a range of verticals. It’s flexible and scalable in a way that was previously unimaginable for businesses, and is being adopted by companies ranging from mid-market tech companies to global B2B corporations.
Even banks are making the move. As of 2018, Martin Häring, chief marketing officer at Finastra, noted to Information Age that even banks, traditionally conservative in their adoption of new IT, have moved toward the cloud: “With Azure, Microsoft has seen strong cloud adoption in the financial services industry, with more than 80% of the world’s largest banks and more than 85% of the global, systemically important financial institutions now using their solution.”
The Convenience of Cloud
With traditional integration tools, all the maintenance is in your hands, and upkeep takes time and resources away from other operations. The ‘ease-of-use’ and division of labor offered by cloud software and integration services (outsourcing the upkeep of the integration platform to the integration platform, thus dividing the labor of platform maintenance and business operations) has led to the rise of the “-as-a-Service” model for both applications and integration tools.
The Challenges of Traditional Enterprise Application Integration
The diversity of endpoints, technologies, and protocols has historically presented challenges to enterprise application integration. To integrate effectively, an expert needs to know which, of many, enterprise application integration patterns (eg, message routing, message translation, point-to-point channels, etc.) to apply for a range of situations, and be prepared to repair the system when errors arise.
In 2019, many applications are cloud-based SaaS applications, and cloud data warehousing, though not yet fully adopted, is becoming increasingly commonplace. Today, enterprise application integration involves utilizing pre-coded API connectors for SaaS applications to connect with on-prem applications, databases, and cloud databases, while meeting contemporary standards for security and governance, such as remaining GDPR or HIPAA compliant.
Enterprise Application Integration Best Practices Today
New technology has made enterprise application integration easier than ever before. Today, the average enterprise uses 1,935 apps (a 15% increase from 2018) and each of these apps is accessible with dozens of APIs.The rise of this so-called “API economy” has developed due to the ways they are transforming how companies are built and operated, and how employees are getting work done. Utilizing a platform to harness all of these APIs is the best way forward. But not just any platform will meet the needs of a high-growth business; there are certain best practices you must follow as your business scales.
Workato’s iPaaS and Enterprise Automation Platform
Workato is a cloud-native integration and enterprise automation platform. Our platform reimagines enterprise application integration to suit contemporary business needs, and empowers business users with an easy-to-use interface for creating new integrations and automations. More than an iPaaS, Workato is the only enterprise automation platform on the market. Here’s how the platform meets today’s enterprise application integration best practices.
Cloud-based API Connectors for SaaS and on-prem applications and databases
Workato has hundreds of pre-built connectors for today’s most popular cloud apps. Even if there isn’t a pre-built connector, the HTTP connector allows users to more quickly and easily automate with any open API. There are also universal connectors to work with both cloud and on-prem databases, files and data parsing.
The ability to develop enterprise automation with integrations
Integration is just the first step of enterprise automation. Integrations can connect point-to-point, enabling a data corridor between applications. Automation builds further on this connectivity. On the Workato platform, you can create “business logic” between application icons. Business logic is a set of metrics, like Boolean logic or numerical qualifiers, that determine when, or what type of, step comes next in the series of events. This series of events is called a recipe. Recipes can be triggered by events like calendar dates, hourly timelines, or even events like a user reaching a certain use-level or stage in the marketing funnel that places them in a different segment.
The end result is an automated workflow between disparate applications. Integration is just the first step of enterprise automation. Integrations can connect point-to-point, enabling a data corridor between applications. Automation builds further on this connectivity. Click To Tweet
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities
Workato uses Machine Learning to analyze recipes and a special feature called RecipeIQ to suggest next steps. This helps users to build new recipes more easily, because within the Workato platform, they can see recommendations based on what thousands of other users often do at the next stage of the workflow automation. For example, if you are creating an automation between Salesforce and Zendesk, it might suggest that your first action be: ‘Create a new ticket.’ Users can also incorporate artificial intelligence tools into automated workflows.
There’s often no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to business processes. In Workato’s online recipe library, users can access hundreds of integrations and automations built by other leading companies or vetted by the Workato team. Using a previously built recipe can speed up time to value significantly and Workato’s unique recipe-cloning process immediately points out the custom areas of the recipe that need to be remapped to your company’s instance of the app. This recipe-cloning process is actually patented, as it addresses a problem that traditional tools have long been unable to solve. The model is similar to open source software development.
Graphical user interface easy enough for lines of business to use
The easy-to-use GUI makes recipe-building feel more like popping together a few pieces of PVC pipe with connectors than “coding”. If a savvy business user like a business analyst, ops, or app admin is tasked with creating integrations and automations for their department, they can easily do so using the drag-and-drop interface, without writing any code.
Flexibility and agility of both integrations and automations
Flexibility is a defining quality of contemporary cloud-based intelligent automation. iPaaS should be flexible, scalable, and easy to implement. Workato’s iPaaS platform makes it possible to modify a recipe without creating an entirely new one, or even write any code. Since you’re not coding or maintaining code, you don’t need software engineers or technical experts to get integrations and automations up and running. The drag-and-drop interface is very easy to use.
How to Implement Enterprise Application Integration
If your company is new to integration, you may be looking for point-to-point solutions to alleviate some of the pain points and bottlenecks your company is seeing with data movement. These can emerge and become more severe as a company scales up and starts to deal with larger quantities of transactions and data loads than they had previously. These are a good starting-point for enterprise application integration, and may be the launching point for your digital transformation strategy.
Other companies may be dealing with legacy systems or integration methods that require engineering expertise in order to operate and maintain. The overhead may be draining, taking away time from the engineering team, and causing inefficiencies in routine business processes. Implementing cloud-based integration and enterprise automation can be transformative for streamlining business processes and implementing an efficient infrastructure for digital transformation.
To learn more, request a demo from our team.