What Is Enterprise Integration and Why Is It Important?
Enterprise integration uses technologies and methodologies to integrate business applications, data, processes, and devices across the entire IT landscape. Enterprise integration is important because it connects functionality and communication across systems, allowing organizations to react quickly to the needs of the business and become a more responsive, agile enterprise.
A holistic approach to integration helps to resolve the complexity of most enterprise environments where an ever-growing sprawl of applications and data has made it difficult to manage the business. Enterprise integration takes a holistic approach to solving integration challenges by bringing together the separate data and application integration disciplines into one combined effort with one governance model.
With enterprise integration, organizations can connect customers, employees, and partners to all applications, processes, systems, and other technologies that drive the business.
The evolution of enterprise integration
Interest in enterprise integration solutions started in the early days of application management. Integration was an aspirational goal and focused primarily on data integration, especially within the manufacturing sector where computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) was taking off.
By the 1990s, enterprise integration became a focal point as businesses grappled with a multitude of applications, all working in isolation from each other. The value of integrating these disparate systems to create unity across the enterprise was clear. However, initial efforts to integrate systems involved point-to-point integrations from one business application to another, using data integration software. This linear approach did not address the objective of building and maintaining a consistent and secure integration framework for the entire enterprise.
Today, enterprise integration has become a strategic imperative, especially given the exponential growth of disparate applications and data as companies adopt more cloud solutions. Many CIOs view enterprise integration as the cornerstone to unlocking greater responsiveness and agility.
of customers surveyed think integration is of moderately high value or extremely high value. – ASUG report
The quality of integration tools is viewed as top factor in achieving integration benefits. – ASUG report
Enterprise integration is quickly gaining ground, with organizations around the world incorporating the strategy to optimize efficiencies and transform their businesses. For example, Zuellig Pharma Holdings Pte. Ltd., one of the largest healthcare services groups in Asia, uses cloud-based integration to make healthcare more accessible in 13 Asian markets.
Problems solved by enterprise integration
As illustrated above, enterprise integration can help to resolve long-standing inefficiencies across a business, including:
- Manual, time-consuming processes that distract from higher value, strategic work
- Lack of responsiveness to the needs of customers, trading partners, and the business overall
- Complicated and impersonal experiences that stifle customer, partner, and employee engagement
- Unconnected processes, non-intuitive workflows, and limited visibility across critical value chains such as lead-to-cash
- Limited success entering new digital marketplaces and ecosystems, such as the inability to monetize APIs
By implementing enterprise integration, organizations can support real-time, digital interactions. The result is greater business velocity and collaboration within a broader ecosystem of customers, co-creators, suppliers, and partners.
Types of integration
There are a number of types of enterprise integration that connect critical systems and applications across all lines of business within an organization and drive benefits.
- Application integration: With application integration, processes and data can be optimized, integrated, and shared between separate software applications in real-time to deliver improved insights, visibility, and productivity across the organization.
- Data integration: With data integration, information – or data – is discovered, retrieved, and compiled from disparate sources into a structured and unified view.
- Process integration: With process integration, workflows and processes that span multiple applications and systems can be optimized and orchestrated to transform operations and drive efficiency.
- Device integration: With device integration, different devices are connected so they can communicate, interact, and interoperate to support business needs and drive productivity.
In summary, by integrating applications, data, processes, and devices, business leaders can leverage real-time data and processes from across the organization to make informed decisions. With no need to aggregate and update systems manually, people will be more productive, using real-time data on demand to work more efficiently. Customer experiences are also enriched with faster, more satisfying interactions.
Best practices in enterprise integration
- Establish an integration center of excellence (ICoE). Assign a C-suite sponsor and build a cross-department team dedicated to applying best practices and standards. This will optimize scarce IT resources by combining integration skills, resources, and processes into one dedicated team of subject matter experts. These experts should be drawn from various disciplines including compliance and security – as well as lines of business – that oversee applications and data directly impacted by the integration.
By disseminating knowledge and standardized processes across the enterprise, an ICoE can mitigate unnecessary duplication of projects, boosting speed, efficiency, and effectiveness. This allows companies to more easily integrate processes, data, and applications in a coherent, scalable, and cost-effective manner.
With an ICoE, organizations can expect:
- Accelerated project delivery time
- Operational and IT budget efficiencies by investing in technology solutions that serve multiple projects
- Lower maintenance costs
- Improved ROI through the creation and reuse of enterprise assets such as source definitions, application interfaces, and codified business rules
- Start with a platform approach. A platform-based approach supports the multiple dimensions of enterprise connectivity, catering to a wide range of integration use cases (such as application, process, data, usage, sensors, and others) across on-premise, cloud, and hybrid ecosystems.
- Use APIs as foundational building blocks. APIs serve as interchangeable integration components within a platform framework, supporting the integration of people, processes, and systems. This allows the business to easily transform digital assets into new business models through a variety of monetization plans.
- Make integration accessible to everyone. By democratizing integration, the business can empower all users with intuitive, no-code build experiences. Business users of all backgrounds and technical capabilities can update and build integrations to help maximize business value, lessening the reliance on dedicated developers.
- Implement smart lifecycle management. Create ongoing management plans to support the enterprise integration strategy. Plans must include access control, change management processes, rules for extending integrations, management of system credentials, and data encryption. For hybrid deployments, lifecycle management must be able to push patches and upgrades to runtime engines whether on premise or in the cloud.
- Drive continual improvements with analytics and predictive intelligence. Use integration activity analytics to draw insights from the flow of data across the business, lines of business, and endpoints. With increases in user-led integration, predictive intelligence can recognize integration patterns on usage across the organization.
FAQs about enterprise integration
This strategy will be most helpful to businesses that are grappling with the exponential growth of disparate applications and data. Often, this is due to the adoption of different cloud and on-premise solutions over time. Enterprise integration consolidates these unconnected components, with all applications using a common data model to work together in real time. This model approaches integration holistically and can serve businesses of all sizes.
Enterprise integration supports a range of recipients within the business and beyond:
- Leaders can leverage real-time data from across the organization to make informed business decisions.
- Workers can be more productive using real-time data on demand, replacing manual, time-consuming processes.
- Customer experiences are enriched with faster, more satisfying outcomes.
- Partner and collaborator interactions with the business are seamless.
Integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) supports projects involving any number of cloud and on-premise endpoints, including APIs, mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The model develops, deploys, executes, manages, and monitors integration processes and flows that connect multiple components so they can work together.
Although this model delivers integration within the enterprise, it does not support enterprise-class integration given its narrow scope and focus, which is typically applied to a single line of business.
Enterprise integration platform-as-a-service (EiPaaS) is a collection of iPaaS platforms that expands the overall capabilities of the integration project. To learn more about EiPaaS, read the Gartner report.