Integrations: All you need to know

What are integrations and how to improve your workflow

Your  eCommerce business is growing. The number of leads and customers is increasing constantly. All that sounds perfect!

It is quite understandable that you use many platforms and applications for the promotion and selling of your products or services. Furthermore, this means that you get a lot of information about your customers and products daily.

At some point, you realize that the scope of your daily tasks are expanding and they are taking more and more time every day. The challenge is how to synchronize all data without wasting hours and days on boring and demanding tasks.

Improve your workflow

Whether you need to improve your data flow or you want to track your product development

you are facing time-consuming tasks like copy-pasting data or writing the same content over and over again. Add to this a possibility of human errors, and there is a mess.

The core question is: is it possible to simplify these tasks and save a lot of time and money? The good news is that: YES, it is. 

The answer is hidden in these two words: integration and automation. So let’s see what that is really about.   

What are integrations? 

To simplify that not easy to answer the question, we can say that integration is a process of putting together different tools to operate as a system. In terms of information technology, it actually means that we bring together different applications and software resources to create one powerful or any other production system.

For example, you want to connect two applications in order to monitor and use all the changes that occur.

Let’s guess that you need to gather data about your leads on Facebook and export them to MailChimp to improve your CRM. Or, you need the information about your clients on Magento intending to keep them informed about the latest news. 

Long story short, you need to have all data changes stored and synchronized at the same time. How to accomplish this? 

The logical answer to this request is to integrate two applications so they can communicate and exchange information in real-time. 

However, everyone who has ever faced this issue knows that it is not as easy as it sounds. 

Integration is a demanding task

First of all, every application is a heterogeneous system with frequent and multiple changes. Secondly, most of them use different data formats. Considering that, we can conclude that integration isn’t easy to perform the task.

On the contrary, it’s a complex building process of linking different functions from changeable systems, unifying disparate tools, combining existing hardware with customized or out-of-box software, and providing communications between different applications.

The main goal of this ambitious process is to increase productivity, to speed up the information flows and improve the quality of operations. And all that in order to build up a relationship with customers, make workflow more efficient and cut down the costs.

According to the mentioned above, and considering the number of applications, it becomes clear that there are so many different possibilities with countless combinations of integration. It looks like a very complicated and extremely challenging task with a lot of coding. You can even ask if it is possible at all.

What are integrations and how to improve your workflow

Integration Types

But, let’s try to make things easier. There are many different kinds of integration. 

They can be part of business-to-business communication or internal cooperation within the enterprise, or business to customer integrations. 

Basically, we divide integrations regarding the method used to perform them. Here, we are talking about more than just vertical and horizontal integrations. Actually, we are talking about four kinds of communication between subsystems, so let’s meet them all.

Vertical integrations

Talking about vertical integrations, we can say that they are the process of connecting separate tools in the form of ‘silos’.  It means that we start with a basic bottom function and go upward. Moreover, we build a new system out of subsystems that function as one. 

In this kind of integration, there is no reciprocal operation. This implies that information isn’t properly shared, and it remains isolated within each system or tool. Because of that, this method can be used for the creation of simple integrations with a limited number of participants.  Furthermore, any new function requires its own ‘silo’. That’s why this method is difficult to manage in the long term, especially with an increasing number of elements and functions.

On the other hand, there are some advantages to vertical integrations like greater control of processes, improved competitiveness, efficient supply chain coordination, streamlined vendor communication, and lower operating costs.



E.G.  

This kind of integration is widely used in healthcare. We can consider one patient and his current situation as one silo. Different specialists can comment on his existing condition within vertical integration. But because of the lack of communication between silos, they have no insight into a patient’s medical history. The consequences can be numerous and grave.

What are integrations and how to improve your workflow

Horizontal integrations

In contrast with vertical integration, horizontal ones allow communication between other tools or applications. This method, also known as ESB (Enterprise Service Bus), is, in reality, a common interface layer between all subsystems. It makes each tool capable of communicating with all others linked to the ESB.

This means that ESB translates one interface into another. Some of the main duties of ESB are: transmitting messages between services, monitoring of message exchange between services, providing commodity services like event handling, data transformation, and mapping.

It is primarily used in EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) of diverse and complex service landscapes. The crucial benefit of this method is the fact that every tool can be modified or replaced without changing the interfaces of any other system.

Bearing this in mind, we can conclude that there are some advantages and disadvantages of this kind of integration.

Talking about benefits, it is obvious that they are numerous. Let’s name just some of them: higher operational efficiency, incremental approach to system integrations, compatibility with dynamic workflows and the possibility of introducing additional technologies. 

Star integrations

Before we explain this type of integrations we need a word or two about point-to-point integrations. Although there is an opinion that point-to-point connection isn’t a real system integration, it still links one system to another and make them function together. 

The truth is that this kind of connection lacks the complexity of other system integrations. There are only two components involved to perform one single function. Nevertheless, they can be very useful and they are the key to understanding the method of star integrations. 

As its name says star integrations are a process of integration where each tool is interconnected with others.  The links look like spaghetti, so this method is also known as the spaghetti method. We can say that this method is the simplest and most complex method of system integration at the same time.

Why is that so? 

Point-to-point integrations themselves are not that complicated and they provide more functionality.  Although, if the number of integrated systems increases that generates an increasing number of integrations, as well. And if the number of integrated systems exceeds ten, the process of integration management becomes very demanding. Especially when we are operating with heterogeneous or proprietary interfaces.

Furthermore, this implies the exponential growth of costs and time needed whenever a new subsystem is added.

Despite that, this method remains preferable due to extraordinary flexibility.

Common data format integration

The simplest explanation is that common data format integration is a method created to avoid having an adapter for every process of converting data to or from other applications’ formats. 

The integration requires the transformation of the data format of one system to be accepted by another system. If every transformation needed its own adapter, it would be impossible to maintain the process with an increasing number of integrated systems.

Because of that EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) systems usually, contain a data transformation service that enables the conversion between specific and common application formats.

First, the adapter converts data from the application’s format to common and applies semantic transformations to this.

Moreover, the common data format method allows only one data conversion from native to/from the common format. 

The greatest advantages of this method are automation and seamless data translation.

Integration Types

So far, we have been talking about system integration methods. It’s time to find out what kinds of system integration exist according to area and type of use.

Enterprise Application Integration – EAI

In a few words, we can say that EAI is a service-based integration framework. It consists of a collection of technologies and services which make a middleware framework. This middleware enables the integration of systems and applications within the enterprise.

Business software such as ERP systems, CRM applications, business intelligence applications, and payroll usually cannot share data with each other. As a consequence of the lack of communication, we are facing the problem of identical data stored in various locations. Another issue is that straightforward processes can’t be automated.

Actually, here is what EAI is really about. This process enables the connection of these applications in order to simplify and automate business processes without making changes to the applications or existing data structures.

The main purposes of EAI are to ensure data integration and keep data consistent in different systems as well as to enable vendor independence by implementing applications and business rules in the EAI system.

But the greatest benefit from EAI are automated processes that make workflow faster, cheaper and more efficient.

Data integration – DI

Whenever you want to have a unified view of data collected from different sources, you need to use data integration. DI is a process of combining and gathering data from various sources and sending them into the same place for interactive reporting. This refers to internal and external users as well.

DI shows considerable results in many situations from commercial and scientific to everyday domains. Either you need to merge your database with other companies or to share your research results with other colleagues, DI is the right solution.

Electronic Data Interchange integration – EDI integration

EDI integrations are nothing more than a real name for tasks we all perform daily. We are talking about the electronic interchange of business information such as orders and invoices. This is one of the most important parts of the business to business oriented process.  

EDI documents go straight through the appropriate application to the receiver’s computer.

There is no need for further explanations of how this makes business communication possible worldwide and how it has changed the business world. 

What are integrations and how to improve your workflow

System integration strategy

Bearing in mind all mentioned above, it should be easier for you to understand the importance of integrations. If you want your business to grow, you must take into consideration the improvement of the workflow. And integrations are the right, if not the only solution. 

Depending on the type and scope of your eCommerce business, integrations can have different meanings. You may need to unify the Application Program Interfaces (APIs) or to create, send and receive files in different formats monitoring the data transmissions across applications. 

Anyhow, before you start applying integrations, you need to create a solid strategy for this process. Start with facing your current needs and technical support and define your future goals. This will help you to choose the integrations that suit you best.

Benefits of system integrations

There is no doubt that the benefits you gain from system integrations are long-lasting and wide-ranging. We would like to underline once again some of the advantages that system integration brings.

Efficiency

The efficiency rapidly increases because there are no more boring and time-consuming tasks like entering data manually or writing the same content over and over again.

You and your employees can now spend your time on more productive projects.

Real-time visibility of changes

There is no more waiting for accounting, finance or any other kind of reports. Integrations allow you to access data and track the changes in real-time. And the best of all you can do it from anywhere. In this way, you can react on time and make your decisions faster.

Lower costs

As we all know, time is money. So, increasing efficiency and less time-consuming tasks naturally result in earnings growth. Managing your business from one platform considerably reduces your costs.

Conclusion

Integrations, like the basis of every automated process, have become a precondition for any successful e-business and its further development. Even though integrations may seem complicated and demanding, nowadays they are not anymore.

SyncSpider has a solution. Our tool is created to make integrations easy to do the task for anyone. You don’t need to know any single line of coding, and you still can perform successful integrations.

In only a few simple steps you can make integrations between applications you need. There are more than 100 applications and their number is growing every day. 

By using the integrations you can synchronize and monitor your dataflow in real-time. You can finally enjoy all the benefits of integration, and SyncSpider makes it possible for you. 

 

  

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